Action Alert:

US Threatens War with Iran

This article originally appeared in the 2019 MAPA Summer newsletter

by Cole Harrison and Valentine Moghadam

The Trump administration has been charting a course toward war with Iran. Trump officials have led us into extremely dangerous waters in which real or imagined, deliberate or accidental, actions by either side could spark an exchange and quickly escalate into full-fledged war. Whether recent “softening” language and offers to talk to Iranian leaders “without preconditions” will amount to anything remains to be seen.

Mass. Peace Action, along with other peace groups, held emergency rallies in eastern and western parts of the Commonwealth on June 1 to demand that the US stop the drive toward war, honor the Iran nuclear accord, end sanctions, and begin to negotiate. More than 50 people gathered in Watertown for a stand-out demonstration, and 40 in Northampton.

State Sen. William Brownsberger, comedian and former lieutenant- governor candidate Jimmy Tingle, Watertown alderman Tony Palomba, and National Iranian American Council rep Mojgan Haji spoke. The following remarks are based on a speech MAPA’s executive director Cole Harrison delivered at the rally.

We are living in a perilous time. The build-up to war has gained steam over the past year. First, Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the carefully negotiated Iran nuclear agreement, despite Iran’s repeatedly verified compliance and the continued adherence of other signatories including Russia, China, and European countries. Then he re-imposed the full set of US sanctions which had been lifted under the agreement but now are being used once again to cripple Iran’s economy.

Those sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranian citizens, causing a decline in the currency’s value and shortages of many essential goods, including life-saving medications to treat serious diseases. But they will not bring down the regime; on the contrary, they strengthen the hand of the hardliners in the Iranian state.

Trump’s recent actions have been even more overtly confrontational. In April, over the strong objection of top Pentagon and CIA officials, the administration designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran’s military, as a foreign terrorist organization. Iran reciprocated by designating US Central Command as a terrorist organization, and the US as a state sponsor of terror.

Then last month, John Bolton used a speculative Israeli report about unspecified Iranian “threats” to justify his own threats that Iran would face “unrelenting force” if it, or any of its proxies, should attack U.S. interests in the region. In other words, the administration expanded the scenarios in which it might “retaliate” against Iran to include actions by local militias, not just Iran itself, and actions that are somehow harmful to US “interests,” not just military assaults.

The US has done much to destabilize the Middle East and antagonize Iran. We attacked Afghanistan, located on one side of Iran, and Iraq, on the other side. US troops remain in both those countries. We bombed Libya and Somalia. We supported rebels seeking to overthrow the government of Syria, and backed Israel when it attacked Gaza, annexed the Golan Heights, and claimed jurisdiction over Jerusalem, all in violation of UN resolutions. For four years, the US has been arming and supporting the Saudi-UAE coalition that has been systematically destroying Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, but one with a rich and ancient culture.

A war with Iran would be horrific, leading to enormous suffering and loss of life. Iran covers a territory four times the size of Iraq and has a population of 81 million, more than double that of Iraq. Retired US Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff when we attacked Iraq in 2003, recently stated that such a conflict would be “a disaster that would make the 10 years in Iraq look like child’s play in comparison.”

The Trump administration is building its case for war with Iran with the same dubious narratives of nuclear threats and ties to al Qaeda that brought us the Iraq war. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said, “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop.”  A 2018 study by the New America think tank found “no evidence of cooperation” between al Qaeda and Iran.  And since the US has managed to bully the Europeans and prevent Iran from realizing any economic benefits from the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran now plans to reduce its compliance with the accord. The administration will try to use the specter of an Iranian bomb to make its case for war. 

Two bills have been filed to prevent war with Iran. One is HR 2354, The Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran act, sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo of California. Massachusetts Senators Warren and Markey have both cosponsored the Senate version of this legislation. The House bill has 45 cosponsors, but only one of them, Rep. Jim McGovern, is from Massachusetts. The other bill is HR 2829, which has been endorsed by Rep. Ayanna Pressley. We must demand of all our Congressional delegates that they strongly support one or both of these acts and oppose war with Iran!


(This article drew from research and writing of National Peace Action’s executive director, Jon Rainwater.)

—Val Moghadam, a Professor of International Affairs and Sociology at Northeastern University, is a member of the Mass. Peace Action Board and the National Peace Action Board of Directors. Cole Harrison is the executive director of Mass. Peace Action.