It is the time of year we feel a sense of joy and optimism. We are preparing for the holidays and looking to spend time with our families and friends. This year, as we look back, we see several developments that leave us feeling optimistic.
A U.S. attack on Syria was averted to a large degree because the American people did not want another Mideast war. Public pressure was so strong that President Barack Obama was forced to back down from his threats to launch missiles at Syria over an alleged Syrian government chemical attack. We have just recently discovered that U.S. claims at the time were based on highly manipulated “intelligence.” The President narrowly avoided another Iraq debacle, where the U.S. went to war based on lies and fabrications. This time, the American people were much more skeptical. That is good news!
A U.S. attack on Syria would have brought us one step closer to the neocons’ ultimate goal of an attack on Iran. The Administration’s decision to step back from the brink with Syria has consequently opened the door to an historic U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran.
Yes, the neocons have suffered a number of defeats this year, for which we have great reason to be thankful and optimistic. However, it would be foolish to believe that a couple of defeats will end their obsession with American exceptionalism, war and the U.S. global empire. Though the neocons have had several setbacks, they will continue their efforts. And there are some dark clouds on the horizon that we should closely watch.
The Senate, for example, seems intent on ruining the Christmas spirit — a time when Christians celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace — with new threats against Iran, even as diplomacy has achieved what decades of sanctions could not.
While U.S. Senate efforts to include new Iran sanctions language in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 (NDAA) were unsuccessful, those pushing for more sanctions on Iran even in the midst of a diplomatic thaw have not given up. Last week, 26 Senators — drawn equally from each party — introduced the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, which would impose severe new sanctions on Iran and on countries who do business with Iran.
Perhaps worse, the Act states that it is the sense of the Congress that if Israel attacks Iran, the US Congress should:
[A]uthorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.
Even though a “sense of Congress” has no force of law, these are the kinds of blank checks that lead to world wars. Though not binding, language like this is meant to establish U.S. policy over time, so that if Israel does attack Iran, enough Senators will be on record supporting U.S. involvement that they feel compelled to vote for war. This is the game they played for more than a decade with Iraq legislation.
The Senate bill is unlikely to ever become law. But even if it did, it would not succeed. Its demand that the rest of the world stop doing business with Iran just as Iran has shown such diplomatic flexibility would likely be ignored.
Congress — under the influence of the Israeli and Saudi lobbies — is seeking to derail the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts with Iran. We can be optimistic over the steps toward peace this past year, but we should remain vigilant. The war lobby will not give up so easily.