No War on Iran—Promote a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone

Image credit: Jaako Laajava, Finish facilitator of the upcoming Helsinki conference on a Middle East weapons of Mass Destruction Free zone. (December) picture taken in Vienna April 2012

By the Middle East Issue Committee, Odile Hugonot Haber and Barbara Taft, Co-Chairs

Share the following letter with your contacts and use in writing your own letters to the President, Congress and the press. Call the White House today 202-456-1111, TTY/TTD 202-456-6213 to urge restraint and diplomacy instead of threatening to bomb Iran. Middle East Committee co-chair Odile Hugonot Haber traveled to Vienna to distribute and speak about the WILPF US statement supporting a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone with participating Middle East ambassadors and NGOs at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Prep-Conference. Our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advancing the MEWMDFZ follows below.

 

Letter to President:

We urge restraint and diplomacy when responding to calls for attacking Iran from the Israeli government and United States Congress. It is clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing the U.S. presidential candidates against each other, to see who can promise Israel more in blind allegiance and tax-payer financed military aid. Netanyahu’s claims that Iran is “trying to destroy us!” are too reminiscent of claims a decade ago about Iraq. Encouraging such talk is more than fanning the flames of war, it is diverting the money that could support our education, infrastructure and community services and pouring them on certain conflagration of the Middle East.

We are sure you are concerned about US influence in the region. It is definitely waning. A team of senior military officers arrived at the Pentagon for a briefing on January 16, 2010. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the US was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing US standing in the region.

An attack on Iran can unleash devastation in the area. The US must not be part of it and you must tell Israel in no uncertain terms that we will not support such an attack. The US must support ongoing discussion and negotiation to solve this potential danger which increases tension among all parties and exacerbates the situation.

 

Letter to Secretary of State:

We, members of the Middle East Issues Committee of the United States Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), write you with the goal of totally eliminating nuclear weapons and specifically advancing a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (MEWMDFZ). We request that you do your utmost to advance the upcoming Helsinki conference on this topic and to insist on the participation of Israel particularly.

We realize that your job is not easy and that you do the best you can in the situation that is given to you. It is hard to know where is the best place to invest energies as so many situations cry out for attention, whether it is the predicament of poor women in Congo or the life of the Syrian people at this time, and the many more such situations. We appreciate the attention that you have drawn to the needs of the Congo women through your recent presence in that country.

One situation that looms over all of us is the danger that nuclear weapons bring to humanity. Not only the hair-trigger alert of the very few minutes in which our President has to decide to respond or not to a nuclear threat but also the fact that so many nations have nuclear weapons and that they are proliferating.

Most developed nations that have nuclear weapons, including the United States, have decided to make their weapons “leaner and meaner” and are modernizing them instead of tearing them down as Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Article 6 prescribes. Reducing, with the goal of totally eliminating, nuclear weapons would be the only wise way to proceed; unfortunately the way our country has chosen to proceed will only bring more and more proliferation of weapons and that is a tragedy for humanity.

Madam Secretary, we appeal to you to work towards creating a MEWMDFZ, specifically as contemplated in the treaty negotiations moving forward toward the Helsinki conference. Please show us the steps that you think would advance working toward such an undertaking, to apply pressure to Israel to negotiate in good faith  to advance participation of this conference and the development of treaties that would further this goal.

The United States of America can and should lead the way to forward agreements such as the MEWMDFZ and as well as to advance peace in this region of the world. What a wonderful legacy to leave to the next generation around the world. We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

 

US WILPF Statement:

We in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section (WILPF US) are dismayed by current drumbeats for war and calls for increased sanctions on Iran. This is reminiscent of build up to the Shock and Awe invasion of Iraq in 2003. Fear of nuclear weapons development is again given as the rationale. This time there are major differences and alternatives that could move us toward the global abolition of nuclear weapons. The way will not be easy but is infinitely preferable to the dangerous war that will inevitably be the result of current policies. It is time to lift the sanctionsi,ii and to stop the war talk.iii We need to open the way to future peace and stability in the Middle East. We urge women and men committed to a world of peace, human rights and security for all to participate significantly in coming negotiations.

The Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMD FZ)iv, v is a positive alternative to war and military actions for which United Nations (UN) member states have been working through the UN since 1980. At the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference all 187 nations party to that treaty, including the United States, agreed unanimously to hold a high-level conference among the Middle Eastern states to establish a WMD Free Zone. This year, for the first time, it is possible to begin the negotiations on the proposed WMD Free Zone treaty. Helsinki was chosen as the site for this high-level conference (the “2012 Helsinki Conference”) in which all Middle Eastern States are invited to participate. The goal is to ban nuclear, chemical and biological weapons use, production, stationing, stockpiling or transport in the Middle East.

The United States (US) approved the 2012 Helsinki Conference; however, there is little discussion of a diplomatic alternative to military aggression. Almost half the world is already united in nuclear weapons free zones and movements are underway in most of the remaining regions to universalize this approach.

Few realize that Iran, with Egypt’s support, first introduced the Middle East Nuclear Free Zone Resolution to the United Nations in 1974. In 1990 Egypt introduced an expansion of the Resolution to the current Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone, an approach which Iran has continued to support. Many US citizens however do not yet know about nor understand the long history and significance of the proposed WMD Free Zone.vi

While 64% of the Israeli public believe a WMD-Free Zone should exist in the Middle East, the Israeli government disagrees. vii, viii Israel instigated the current furor over development of a nuclear capability by Iran. The only nation in the region possessing nuclear weapons, conservatively estimated at over 200 nuclear warheads, Israel is also the only nation in the region refusing to sign the NPT.

The US government recently allocated $3.075 billion to Israel for military usage,ix up over $75 million from fiscal year 2011. It is purportedly for defensive use, but other nations in the region—both Arab states and non-Arab states such as Iran—perceive it as offensive in nature. Unless there are signs of peace between Israel and the neighboring countries there is little chance that an agenda promoting peace and security in the region will move forward.

Iran regularly submits to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and other inspections of its nuclear facilities yet receives a steady barrage of threats from Israel. Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program, authorized under the NPT as are those of dozens of other countries, thus far does not appear to IAEA inspectors to have a weapons component. Along with Israel’s refusal to be inspected, the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran is very real. The US government, disregarding reports by nuclear inspectors and relying on accusations made by Israel, has ramped up its verbal attacks, specifically against Iran’s nuclear site at Natanz which Iran has agreed to allow to be inspected.x

The aggressive Israeli and US stance is counter-productive and does not constitute diplomacy. The U.S. should, instead, encourage Israel to cease its threatening language, to make peace with its neighbors and to join other nations in the region to create a zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. Both sides—Israel and Iran—have taken rigid positions, but could benefit from sitting together at the peace table, lowering the level of verbal assaults and reassuring one another of their intentions to maintain peace in the region.

The United States has a responsibility to make the 2012 Helsinki Conference happen and to contribute to a positive outcome. Most of us can recognize as recipes for disaster shortsighted goals of war to secure resources and profits. It is recognized that oil has as much or more to do with the long-escalating enmityxi between Iran and the United States than the threat of currently non-existent nuclear weapons or hyperbolic verbal threats against Israel.

The US, Britain and Russia will be expected to join the conference as depositories of the NPT which has called for this meeting. The US should be able to work closely with all the participants in the 2012 Helsinki Conference.

The way to peace is difficult. We believe it demands more courage and wisdom than the ways of war, death and destruction. We call on everyone to work in the direction of a just peace. Civilians, particularly older people, women and children, are casualties of economic sanctions and military interventions. War brings intolerable suffering on everyone, threatens global ecosystems, and the survival of future generations. WILPF US strongly urges the equal participation of women in the Helsinki Conference and in all decision-making processes related to Middle East peace agreements as mandated in Security Council Resolution 1325.xii


i Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (H.R. 2194) at http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2194/show

ii See the Iran Toolkit of WILPF’s Reaching Critical Will project on possible unintended consequences within Iran of US sanctions and aggressive posturing toward Iran over its nuclear program (http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Resources/toolkits/...)

iii WILPF US is an endorser of the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) “No War on Iran” Statement, 3/15/12. See http://www.unitedforpeace.org/2012/03/15/ufpjs-statement-no-war-on-iran/

iv Originally envisioned as the Middle East Nuclear Free Zone (emphasis added). See material at footnotes 5 and 6

v http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/mewmdfz

vihttp://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/mewmdfz

vii In an article by Richard Falk, Al Jazeera, of February 2, 2012, “A Nuclear-Free Middle East” published on www.readersupportednews.org, Falk reiterates the results of this poll by Shirley Telhami of Israeli citizens and talks further about the possibility of not just a WMD Free Zone but a Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East. See http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/289-134/9750-a-nuclear-free-midd.... The New York Times article by Telhami and Kull (January 15, 2012) is here: http://www.unitedforpeace.org/2012/03/15/ufpjs-statement-no-war-on-iran/

viii See Telhami 2011 Public Opinion Poll at http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2011/12/01-israel-poll-telhami  reported out by the Brookings Institute; the poll results themselves are here: http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/dec11/IsraeliMENFZ_Dec11_quai...

ix Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2012, p. 31 http://www.wrmea.com/component/content/article/380-2012-march-april/1110...

x WILPF US is an endorser of the Iran Pledge of Resistance campaign. See http://www.iranpledge.org/ for more information and text of the pledge and what situations that would trigger implementation of the promise to take action

xi A succinct but not particularly deep description of this history is offered in a 2009 student newspaper article from the University of Georgia on the topic, here: http://www.redandblack.com/opinion/relationship-between-u-s-and-iran-too.... Independent research can provide many detailed histories of these events with analyses

xii United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (see text at http://www.un.org/events/res_1325e.pdf) (see analysis and history by WILPF’s PeaceWomen project at http://www.peacewomen.org/themes_theme.php?id=15&subtheme=true)