Update on Persepolis Tablets, Diplomacy and “Redlines”

It has been a whirlwind week on Iran policy as the U.S. gears up for new talks with Iran. We accomplished a number of goals: we got protections for the Persepolis Tablets, there will be votes to make clear there is no authorization for war with Iran and to support diplomacy, and there was a rejection of shifting the redline for war and placing a “zero enrichment” ultimatum on U.S.-Iran talks. Below is a summary of the week’s activities and some of the immediate next steps we are working on.

Protecting the Persepolis Tablets

First, our recent efforts to protect the Persepolis Tablets from a Senate sanctions bill were successful! Thanks to thousands of letters you sent to your Senators, and to our direct consultations with the Senate and affected parties, the sanctions bill has been amended to no longer put the Persepolis Tablets in jeopardy. This doesn’t mean our work is complete—we still need to fix the law once and for all to ensure these artifacts are never seized from universities and museums—but for today, we have prevented the worst from happening.

While we still oppose the broad sanctions bill, we also succeeded in getting the Senate to add language stating that there is no authorization for war with Iran.

Zero enrichment and the war “redline”

Thanks to the overwhelming response from everyone who called their Representative this week regarding H.Res.568 (and who sent letters over the past two months), the lead Democratic sponsor directly addressed the issues we raised.

Howard Berman (D-CA) went on the record to clarify there is no authorization for war and that “nuclear weapons capability” does not mean zero enrichment. This is a critical point—this resolution was the top lobbying ask for groups opposed to diplomatic resolution. “Nuclear weapons capable” was supposed to be code for “zero enrichment,” which is a diplomatic nonstarter for an inspections-based solution. It also was supposed to lower the President’s threshold for war with Iran from nuclear-armed to nuclear-capable.

With this week’s action, Congress is closer to the Obama Administration than to the Netanyahu government on the important question of what is our end-goal to resolve the nuclear dispute. We still oppose this resolution, which did pass overwhelmingly, but these on-the-record comments and clarifications provide serious, much needed political support for diplomacy to succeed.

Opposing war and supporting diplomacy in the Defense bill

Finally, there are two important amendments that will get a vote as part of the annual Defense bill in the coming days. The first, sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI), Ron Paul (R-TX), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Walter Jones (R-SC), would contain binding language that the bill does not authorize war with Iran. The second, offered by Barbara Lee (D-CA) would require the appointment of a special envoy for Iran diplomacy—one of the provisions in H.R.4173, which NIAC has strongly supported. There are, however, dangerous amendments regarding military preparations that will also get a vote which we are strongly opposing.

We are organizing grassroots action to tell the House to vote YES on the No War amendment and the Pro-Diplomacy amendment, and to vote NO on a pro-war amendment. Please send a letter to your Representative by clicking here.




About Author

Jamal AbdiJamal AbdiJamal Abdi joined the National Iranian American Council as Policy Director in November 2009, directing NIAC’s efforts to monitor policies and legislation, and to educate and advocate on behalf of the Iranian-American community. Abdi joined NIAC’s team following his work in the US Congress as Policy Advisor to Representative Brian Baird (D-WA). Jamal tweets at @jabdi.
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