A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
What's New in the Middle East
Apr 25, 2013
U.S. intelligence officials announced today that they suspect the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the people of Syria. Last August, President Obama said Syria’s use or transfer of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that would change the administration’s calculus on its approach to the conflict. The White House has continued to echo this sentiment—just today in a press conference with reporters, a White House official reiterated: "It is absolutely the case that the president's red line is the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups,” but said more investigation is needed.
Amid all the uncertainty and political posturing, one thing is still clear: U.S. military intervention in Syria is not the answer to saving lives and ending this conflict. Rather, U.S. military intervention would only exacerbate the conflict and lead to even larger-scale bloodshed. There is no place for “red lines” in effective diplomacy—at least not when what lies on the other side of the line is another U.S. war.
Apr 19, 2013
The Administration released its 2014 budget request last week. This budget request is used as a resource by Congress as the House and Senate draft their appropriation bills for 2014. The numbers are useful as a predictor for what will happen with the final 2014 appropriations bills, and they show what the Administration's priorities are.
The President’s request for international affairs--and atrocity prevention programs in particular--was pretty hopeful this year. All of our priority peacebuilding accounts were included by name. There was a risk that the Administration wouldn't request any money for the Complex Crises Fund, for example, but it was included. Unfortunately it was requested at the lowest level yet: $40 million. Last year the President requested it at $50 million, and it ultimately was funded at $40 million. A request of $40 million means the CCF could be funded at an even lower amount. We'll be lobbying over the next few months to ensure the CCF is funded at the full requested level.
Apr 2, 2013
According to a recent Harvard report, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing U.S. taxpayers up to $6 trillion in the long term.
Reps. Walter Jones (NC) and Bruce Braley (IA) introduced H.R. 1238, the True Cost of War Act to require the Obama administration to present official government cost projections for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—something that has not yet been done.
Mar 20, 2013
Anniversaries are often a time to look back and reflect. It was ten years ago today that the United States brought “shock and awe” to Iraq under the false pretenses of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 and possession of weapons of mass destruction.
We in the U.S. have all but forgotten those days, even after nearly 2,500 U.S. service members died in Iraq and over $800 billion were spent. The Iraq War was once the focus of a plethora of media coverage, congressional debate—it was even a campaign issue as late as the 2008 presidential election. The Iraq War, its false justification and the crimes committed to cover up the truth are now distant memories for most of America, only 53% of whom think the Iraq War was a mistake.
This is a sobering realization on a day when car bombs killed fifty people in Baghdad. Ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is a dangerous, violent and unstable place—but not because Iraqis are violent or “have been fighting for thousands of years and always will” as many have remarked over the years. Iraq is unstable today because of U.S. action there—beginning in the 1970s.
Mar 15, 2013
This coming Wednesday, President Obama will travel to the Middle East, marking his first visit to Israel as president. Along with Israel, he will make a five-hour stop in the West Bank and end the trip with a visit to King Abdullah in Jordan.
In advance of this trip, FCNL's Diane Randall sent a letter to the White House urging the President to visit people and places working nonviolently for peace in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
In the letter, Diane asked President Obama to consider visiting a variety of people and places:
In Israel, we hope that you would meet with one of the many former Israeli security officials who have staunchly opposed a military attack on Iran. Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, called an attack on Iran “the stupidest thing I ever heard” and warned against the indefinite continuation of the Israeli military occupation, which emboldens extremists on all sides of the conflict.
In the West Bank, we hope that you will witness the Palestinian nonviolent movement. If you venture beyond the Palestinian Authority’s compound, you will see Palestinians and Israelis working for nonviolent solutions at homes and hospitals under demolition orders, accompanying children facing down the threat of militant settlers, and protesting against the separation barrier, and even planting olive trees where they have been torched.
As the Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouthi noted, “U.S. recognition of the Palestinian nonviolence movement against the occupation would send a powerful signal that nonviolence will succeed in ending the occupation and securing a just future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Mar 13, 2013
FCNL's Diane Randall sent the following letter to the White House in anticipation of President Obama's upcoming trip to the Middle East, urging him to visit people and places working nonviolently for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Mar 7, 2013
As of this writing, more than a quarter of the Senate has signed on to what has been called the "Back door to War" resolution, since it calls for the U.S. to pledge military support for a potential Israeli attack on Iran. This bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 65) introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Robert Menendez (NJ) signals a green light for a U.S.-aided Israeli war that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned could “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.”
On Tuesday, thousands of activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) ramped up the pressure for this legislation by lobbying every single senator’s office in support of the Back Door to War with Iran Resolution. AIPAC’s activists also lobbied every representative’s office to support a new round of aggressive, indiscriminate sanctions, and called on the House and Senate to shield U.S. military aid to Israel from the sequester’s prescribed cuts.
Feb 25, 2013
After watching Argo win the Best Picture Oscar last night, I'm especially excited to be headed to the Hill right now. Two former hostages in the 1979 crisis will be calling for diplomacy with Iran at an FCNL-sponsored press conference this morning.
Jan 7, 2013
FCNL's Diane Randall joined a large number of faith leaders in urging President Obama to work for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Dec 17, 2012
FCNL and other pro-diplomacy groups and their allies in Congress successfully included a proviso in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that "nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.”
Dec 12, 2012
Syria has now been at war for twenty months. By some counts, over 40,000 people have died, hundreds of thousands have sought refuge in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, and about 1.5 million people have been displaced within Syria.
Today it was reported that the Syrian government has fired Scud missiles at rebels, representing a significant escalation in the fighting. Following reports of Syrian government activity at chemical weapons sites earlier this month, President Obama and Secretary Clinton each publicly warned Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons, implying that the U.S. may respond with military force. Secretary Clinton said “This is a red line for the United States…suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”
In the face of recent developments and some indications that a U.S. military response may be on the table, we at FCNL reaffirm our conviction that U.S. military intervention would further exacerbate the conflict.
Nov 30, 2012
FCNL, AFSC and QUNO-NY sent a joint letter to the Senate urging them to vote against three possible amendments to the Senate's defense authorization bill that sought to punish Palestinians and the United Nations on the eve of the vote at the United Nations for Palestine's formal observer status.
Nov 26, 2012
U.S. and Israeli officials have reportedly called Israel's military offensive in Gaza a 'practice run' for an Israeli attack on Iran. Civilians bore the overwhelming brunt of the violence during the latest assault, and it would also be civilians who would pay the highest price for a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran.
Nov 20, 2012
UPDATE: On November 21, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire to halt Israeli land, air, and sea attacks and targeted assassinations in Gaza and stop Palestinian rocket attacks and other violence against Israel. Significantly, the terms of the ceasefire require Israel to begin to ease the blockade on Gaza by "opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods." The ceasefire has, for the most part, halted firepower on all sides, and Israel has eased some restrictions on Palestinian fishermen.
However, the ceasefire is still very fragile, and its collapse would likely lead to a major escalation of deadly violence. The U.S. government can help the tenuous Israel/Gaza ceasefire hold by pressing both parties to adhere to the ceasefire's requirements to end the violence and fully lift the blockade.
Nov 19, 2012
FCNL released the following statement on violence in Gaza and Israel.
Nov 7, 2012
Last night’s Presidential Election was historic no matter where you sit in the political spectrum. Perhaps it wasn't that surprising, especially if you follow Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog. Some House and Senate elections also left many on the edges of their seats. It is going to take some time to predict and know what this 113th Congress will hold for U.S. policy domestic and abroad.
For me, there was one major take away from last night: it is time to get to work.
Sep 18, 2012
As deadly violence continues to rock the Middle East, former U.S. military officials and national security experts warn that attacking Iran could engulf the region in a multi-year conflict and encourage Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.
That is why FCNL is helping to lead a national call-in campaign, to set senate offices a-buzz with calls in support of this report’s warnings of the costs of attacking Iran. While this report does not provide policy recommendations, it’s a vital resource for influencing policymakers who aren’t yet convinced that an attack on Iran would be disastrous for U.S. national security.
Sep 5, 2012
The IAEA’s findings underscore yet again that diplomacy remains the single most effective way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The IAEA report highlights troubling developments about Iran’s nuclear program, but it also confirms what every other Iran report from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog has verified: Iran is still using its enriched uranium strictly for peaceful purposes.
Aug 14, 2012
Israeli newspapers this week are again featuring front page reports about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran and the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suggested Sunday that the world powers should declare that diplomacy has failed to resolve suspicions that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons.
But as Israeli newspapers and this Associated Press report notes, "all of Israel's recently retired security chiefs oppose an attack." Threats of attack and angry rhetoric from Israel, the U.S. or Iran are only going to increase the chance of war, not help to craft a solution. Congress recently passed additional sanctions on Iran while we at FCNL have worked to continue to promote diplomacy as the most effective way to resolve the crisis and persuade Iran to keep its nuclear program focused on energy production.
Jun 28, 2012
On July 13, I step down from my position leading FCNL's foreign policy team and go back to school. Instead of farewell, I'd like to say thank you.
May 22, 2012
All 535 members of Congress are now on the record declaring that they have not authorized the use of military force against Iran in the latest round of legislation passed in the House and the Senate. This unanimous 'un-declaration' of war from Congress is a crucial victory, with particular significance given its passage on the eve of the U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad.
May 16, 2012
When Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Secretary Colin Powell, and I were visiting with members of Congress and their staff to jointly oppose a resolution that would lower the threshold for war with Iran (H.Res. 568), he warned that “this resolution reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war”.
May 10, 2012
The military authorization bill includes billions for weapon systems designed for saber-rattling toward Iran, and possibly for use in an attack on Iran. The bill would also require the administration to prepare for war by dramatically escalating the U.S. military presence in the Mideast.
While the bill does not explicitly state that the new weapons systems it includes would be used for a war with Iran, a staffer from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has reportedly explained that the additional funding for weapon systems 'could be used in a war with Iran'. This detailed weapons and policy outline pushing for a war with Iran is adapted from legislation (H.R. 4485) introduced last month by Rep. Mike Conaway (TX), and has been supported by only 13 Republican co-sponsors.
May 8, 2012
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a bill that has been passed by Congress every year for over 50 years. Most authorization bills are taken up once every two-five years, but Congress has a special affinity for the military authorization bill—often calling it a “must-pass” bill. This year will be no different.
Last year, the fiscal year (FY) 2012 NDAA became synonymous with indefinite detention due to provisions included that allow for detention of U.S. citizens by the U.S. military. President Obama signed the NDAA on December 31, 2012, after it was passed by both chambers. Often forgotten, however, are some of the other momentum-building votes that happened on amendments to the FY2012 NDAA.
Apr 16, 2012
After ten hours of talks with Iran, opportunities for a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program have dramatically improved, and Congress gears up to vote on yet another attempt to kill diplomacy.