Members of Congress call Iranians at home in show of diplomacy as the drumbeats of war continue in a show of informal diplomacy. Speaking about the stand-off with Iran, Rep. Ron Paul said: “There’s no reason … we can’t practice a little bit of diplomacy, we can’t talk to people. And they say, ‘Well we can’t talk to our enemies.’ Well, that’s the people we ought to be talking to. “
JESSICA WEATHERUP: In Washington, DC, Tuesday, a diverse group of politicians and activists attended a press conference entitled “It’s Time to Talk,” which emphasized dialog with Iran and discouraged further saber rattling. Organized for the Campaign for the New American Policy on Iran, the event featured three ’60s-era red phones with Iranians on the other end of the line, allowing informal conversation between citizens of both nations.
LYNN WOOLSEY, US CONGRESSWOMAN (D-CA): I agree with you, and I promise you I will do everything I can.
JESSICA WEATHERUP: The event featured speeches from Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian members of Congress. Also presenting were representatives from the American Conservative Defense Alliance, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and a former special advisor to Ronald Reagan.
WOOLSEY: This is a calling campaign. It’s a really good way of sending a clear message to President Bush that Congress is not going to step aside while he expands the occupation of Iraq into Iran. Negotiation isn’t just the best choice for the situation, it is the right choice, it is the only choice.
BARBARA LEE, US CONGRESSWOMAN (D-CA): Our message today is simple: it’s time to talk to Iran. In fact, it is past time that we talk to Iran, because we hear the same people who supported a disastrous war of choice in Iraq, they are the same people who are now steadily beating the drum for war with Iran. One of the most important first steps we should take is to have direct, comprehensive, and unconditional bilateral talks with Iran. That is why I introduced HR 5056, The Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008, which directs the president to appoint a high-level envoy empowered to conduct direct, unconditional, bilateral negotiations with Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran.
RON PAUL, US CONGRESSMAN (R-TX): We have to do everything possible here in the Congress. The fact that we removed from legislation that had instructions that the president can’t do anything against Iranians without the permission of Congress is removed from the legislation. That’s atrocious. And at the same time, it was totally unnecessary. No president should go to war without consent of the Congress, with a declaration of war. And yes, a lot of loudmouth, a lot of talk. But Khrushchev also told us he would bury us, and he had nuclear weapons and could have. So put it in perspective is all I ask. And there’s no reason in the world why we can’t practice a little bit of diplomacy, we can’t talk to people. And they say, “Well, we can’t talk to our enemies.” Well, that’s the people we ought to be talking to. I mean, that’s when you need diplomacy. I almost say, so they have a nuclear weapon. I mean, it’d be horrible, but what about the Soviets? They had 40,000 nuclear weapons. They had them 90 miles off our shore. They had intercontinental ballistic missiles. And what did we do? We talked to them.
PHIL GIRALDI, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: I’d like to say first that as a former CIA officer who worked on terrorism, I have no real illusions about Iran and the Iranian government. I worked in the 1980s against Iranian terrorism in Western Europe and in the Middle East. The government of Iran is not necessarily a benign institution in my point of view. But given that, I believe that there are very serious consequences to any kind of military action against Iran. Iran does indeed control terrorism resources. Iran could make our situation in Iraq extremely difficult, could make it possibly untenable for American forces. It could attack our ships in the Straits of Hormuz. It could send—I gassed up yesterday. It was $4.89 a gallon. It could send it up to $8.89 a gallon if we had a war with Iran. So there are a lot of good reasons to be extremely cautious about the situation with Iran and to proceed in a very measured fashion.
CARAH ONG, IRAN POLICY ANALIST, CENTER FOR ARMS CONTROL AND NONPROLIFERATION: Thank you all so much. We’re now going to invite our members of congress and former congressman Barr to have a conversation with an Iranian, which you can see is happening currently right behind us. All of these people are talking to Iranian citizens.
SHEILA JACKSON-LEE, US CONGRESSWOMAN (D-TX): This was a 22-year-old who is now looking forward to her life as a career person, a international designer. What she affirmed, in my words, was she did not want war. She wanted freedom and democracy, and she was very grateful to have us standing for that.
LEE: We talked about occupations. This gentleman was a petroleum engineer. And I asked him how he was. He said he was close to sixty. He had a birthday next week. And we emphasized the fact that like we were talking today, we thought our governments should talk. I think it shows the public that dialog is possible, and that if we can talk people-to-people, then certainly our governments should be able to talk.
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