December 2, 2008

Leaders on Iran in the 111th Congress: the Progressive Caucus

As 2009 rapidly approaches, look for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to become a more central player in the 111th Congress, particularly on Iran legislation.
The Progressive Caucus’ (CPC) position on Iran policy places a very high premium on shifting towards dialogue, rather than confrontation with Tehran. Arguing for the establishment of “a diplomatic dialogue with the Government of Iran as well as deepening relationships and cross-cultural exchanges with the Iranian people”, the CPC firmly believes that these efforts will ultimately “help foster greater understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the United States. These actions would also enhance the stability and security of the Persian Gulf region, including reducing the threat of the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons in the region, while advancing other United States foreign policy objectives in that region.”

Moreover, the caucus’ directive is aimed at stopping “the policy approach and tactics used by the Bush Administration leading up to the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq” from being “replicated in a misguided and reckless drive to a military confrontation and possible war with Iran.”  These include the rejection of “congressional authorization for the use of military force… against Iran or its nuclear program either explicitly or implicitly”.  Additionally, the CPC clearly argues that the U.S. should “not enter into a preemptive war against Iran and to contemplate the use of military force only as a last resort and in full accordance with international law and constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional authorization”.

It’s also important to note the emphasis on the need to remove the policy of regime change from the greater U.S. strategy.  The CPC hopes to ban funding for covert action in Iran and to offer “security guarantees…through negotiations with the Government and the people of Iran in exchange for ironclad, enforceable guarantees and rigorous, on-going inspections by experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.”
Lastly, it is argued that while the establishment of “full diplomatic, political, and economic relations between the United States and Iran should not happen unless and until enforceable international safeguards are put in place to prevent the weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program and the Government of Iran ends its support for international terrorist groups… the attainment of these policy objectives should not constitute preconditions for any bilateral diplomatic dialogue,” echoing President-elect Barack Obama’s often-criticized campaign stance on dialogue without preconditions.
Congressman Raul M. Grijalva was elected co-chair of the Caucus in recent leadership elections, replacing Congresswoman Barbara Lee who will assume leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey was re-elected, thus joining Congressman Grijalva as co-chair of the CPC.

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