February 21, 2013

New Congressional Push to Prevent War, Establish Diplomatic Envoy to Iran


Barbara Lee

Washington, DC – Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and ten of her colleagues are renewing a push to establish a Special Envoy to Iran who would lead efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear dispute, prevent war, and support human rights.

The legislation, which was reintroduced last week, calls for the President to use all diplomatic means to resolve the nuclear dispute and rules out the use of military force without Congressional authorization. It urges the President to “secure an agreement that ensures Iran does not engage in nuclear weapons work and that Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is verifiably limited to civilian purposes” through increased safeguards and international inspections.

The bill would also lift the State Department’s “no contact” policy with Iran, which prohibits U.S. officials from having any contact with their Iranian counterparts unless expressly permitted by the Secretary of State. Eliminating the “no contact” policy has been endorsed by former officials such as former Special Envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, who urged the Obama Administration to scrap the longstanding policy at the beginning of its first term.

Notable U.S. officials have urged for the appointment of a Special Envoy to Iran, including key members of Obama’s national security team. John Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor who has now been nominated to head the CIA, urged in a 2008 report for the U.S. should appoint such an envoy to facilitate direct bilateral negotiations with Iran. 

Rep. Lee has introduced the legislation in past Congresses, including last year when the bill garnered thirty-five cosponsors. The proposal was also offered last year as an amendment to the annual defense bill, garnering the support of seventy-seven Representatives. 

This idea of engaging in direct dialogue with Iran has been long lauded by many current and former U.S. officials and military servicemen. The bill itself includes quotes from top civilian and military officials, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen who called for establishing a direct communications line in 2009, stating “I’m talking about any channel that’s open. We’ve not had a direct link of communication with Iran since 1979. And I think that has planted many seeds for miscalculation. When you miscalculate, you can escalate and misunderstand.” 

In addition to Rep. Lee, H.R.783 is cosponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Conyers (D-MI), John Dingell (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Hank Johnson (D-GA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Bobby Rush (D-IL).

Read the bill: H.R. 783 – the Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act




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