Remarks presented at No War with Iran rally, August 3, Cambridge. See video of this talk at https://www.facebook.com/masspeaceaction/videos/10155424695685723/.
We’re here to say no to the reckless rhetoric emanating from the White House that threatens war with Iran, and to call for a return to diplomacy and talks. We also call for President Trump to rescind his decision to withdraw from the international nuclear agreement, which the brilliant former Secretary of State John Kerry helped broker, and which the Iranian government signed despite its very strict inspections procedures. We need to normalize relations with Iran, not threaten war and make attempts at regime change.
The American people have had enough of destructive conflicts and wars, which have cost taxpayers so much over the decades. In recent years, conflicts and wars have been concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa. Apart from the overlong Israeli-Palestinian contention, there are ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. It’s important to understand why. The recent concentrated conflicts have been caused or exacerbated by the following factors:
(a) External military intervention, as in Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2011. In none of these cases has the result been security, stability, democracy, development, or women’s participation and rights. Indeed, the NATO bombing of Libya that dislodged the Gaddafi regime has resulted in a failed state where hapless migrants are imprisoned or worse;
(b) External support for armed rebels. In Syria since 2011, and contrary to international law, logistical and military support was provided to Syrian rebels and foreign fighters, which has resulted in a 7-year internationalized civil conflict and the regional expansion of terrorism;
(c) The arms flow to Saudi Arabia. That country has among the world’s highest military expenditures – in 2015, according to World Bank figures, Saudi Arabia spent 14% of its GDP on military purchases, mostly from the U.S., compared with just 2.3% of GDP military spending in Iran. And what has Saudi Arabia done with those weapons? It has all but devastated Yemen since it began its bombardments and blockades since 2015.
It’s important to note that in every one of these examples, the U.S. has been directly or indirectly involved. When will the madness end? When will our so-called leaders understand that regime change imposed from the outside almost always has destructive outcomes?
Now let’s go back a few decades. Iranians of all generations are aware of what occurred when in 1953 the U.S., along with the U.K., helped foment a coup d’état against the government of the constitutionally-elected prime minister, Mohamad Mossadegh. What followed were over two decades of absolutist monarchical rule, which then generated dissatisfaction and rebellions that culminated in a popular revolution unfortunately hijacked by the Islamist opposition. The 1953 Iranian coup is one of the earliest examples of the detrimental effects of external intervention in a country’s domestic affairs.
Although that terrible coup has been seared in the Iranian people’s collective consciousness and historical memory, the vast majority of Iranians – whether in Iran or outside – want normalized relations with the U.S., an end to sanctions, regular trade, and civil society relations. This is the best way to strengthen Iran’s democratic forces – not through destabilization, threats, and encirclement.
In recent days, and in another example of President Trump’s erratic nature, he has offered to hold talks with the Iranian authorities. This is a positive step, but many people are mistrustful of a leader who reneges on international treaty obligations, notably the Iranian nuclear agreement. How is it possible for one American president to undo such an important international agreement that another American president approved in partnership with allies? No wonder people around the world have become skeptical of American democracy!
We are a peace organization and we oppose militarism, war, and hostilities. Let’s call on the President to revive the nuclear agreement, end sanctions, engage in talks with Iran, and GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!
Val Moghadam is Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University and a member of Massachusetts Peace Action’s Board of Directors and of its Middle East working group.