By Jamal Abdi

Congress should not be derailing the ongoing talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

In the aftermath of this weekend’s negotiations between Iran and the United States, with an agreement for a second round next month in Baghdad, congressional hawks are going to try to ram through new sanctions.

The House and Senate will return this week after a two-week recess, and there are many tripwires in place that could disrupt the U.S.-Iran dialogue.

The Senate may take up a sanctions bill that was previously blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who demanded an amendment that would clarify there is no authorization for war with either Iran or Syria and that only Congress has the authority to declare war.

The House and Senate also have a “red lines” resolution that effectively says the United States will go to war if Iran achieves the “capability” to build a nuclear weapon — something most countries with civilian nuclear programs, including Iran, already have.

There is also a partisan “Happy birthday, Israel” resolution introduced in the House and co-sponsored by more than 60 Republicans that endorses Israeli strikes on Iran if “peaceful measures do not succeed in a reasonable amount of time.”

In February, when the new round of Iran talks were being formulated, a bipartisan group of 12 senators sent a warning shot to President Obama warning that any deal short of a “full resolution” of the Iranian nuclear issue would be inadequate. “The time for confidence-building measures is over,” the senators wrote, and insisted we must expand sanctions.

This is dangerous not only because it sets the bar for talks unnecessarily high — nobody expects we can solve the Iranian nuclear issue in a single weekend — but also since it would disregard Iranian concessions that are valuable in their own right. In the near term, securing a confidence-building deal to cap Iran’s nuclear program would address our most pressing concerns about Iran’s capabilities. It would ease, too, the “loose talk of war” surtax that is costing Americans $5 for every tank of gas due to energy market jitters. Such a deal would then buy time for the United States and its allies to establish the inspections and transparency mechanisms to ensure once and for all that Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Sanctions or war cannot do this. Only a sustained and successful diplomatic process can resolve the nuclear dispute while also effectively addressing critical issues with Iran that are too often neglected, particularly Iran’s dire human rights situation.

But any one of the measures before Congress could be used to sabotage diplomacy before it even gets off the ground. This would be a big mistake. Congress shouldn’t slam the door on peacefully resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute and set us on the course for yet another disastrous war of choice that will spike gas prices, pummel our economy, devastate Iran’s democracy and human rights movement, and — according to the overwhelming majority of military and civilian experts — make an Iranian nuclear weapon far more likely.

We need to give negotiations a real chance.

Jamal Abdi is the policy director of the National Iranian American Council. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Carolina Panthers

If the black citizens of Charlotte and white supporters of justice block the entrance to the stadium on Sunday, I...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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