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Blue Moon Over Congress: Opening to Push for Diplomacy with Iran

(Photo: Serge Melki / Flickr)

Sometimes, a comet passes so close to the Earth that it’s visible with the naked eye. Sometimes there’s a warm, sunny Saturday in late October in Chicago. Sometimes, a close friend gets married.

You wouldn’t say, “I can’t be bothered to go outside to look at the sky, I’m watching CNN.” You wouldn’t say, “It’s great that you’re getting married, but I’m very busy with work.”

Once in a blue moon, there’s a good opportunity to try to push the House to be more open to pursuing diplomacy with Iran.

You might think: What’s the rush? We can push for diplomacy with Iran later. A month before the next war, we can say, “What about diplomacy?” Unfortunately, a month before the next war, my right-wing cousins will say, “We already tried that, and it didn’t work.” You’ll say, “When was that?” They’ll say, “2009. Sorry you missed it. You were watching CNN.”

Often, talking to House offices about being more open to pursuing diplomacy with Iran can feel like that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus shows Neo what the world really looks like. No sun is visible in the sky. (No one knows for sure exactly why the House is like this about Iran. I have a theory, but when I say what my theory is, my right-wing cousins call me bad names.)

But now there is an opening to talk to Members of the House about diplomacy with Iran.

Iran just had a presidential election. Who knew? So there’s going to be a new Iranian president. New guy, opportunity to “reset” United States relations with Iran. But wait, there’s more. Something quite unexpected happened in the Iranian election. One of the candidates said to Iranian voters, “Why don’t we try to get along better with the West?” And the funny thing is, that guy won the election.

So, some Republicans and Democrats in the House, led by Republican Charles Dent and Democrat David Price, are circulating a letter to President Obama saying, “Why don’t we give talks with the new guy a chance, before we crank the confrontation with Iran up to 11?”

Now, my right-wing cousins are quick to point out that in the Iranian system, the “president,” despite the name, is not actually the top banana, especially when it comes to the country’s nuclear program.

But while the Iranian president is not the top banana, that doesn’t mean that he has no power to shape how things go, particularly when he has a fresh mandate from Iranian voters to try to get along better with the West.

After all, if it doesn’t matter at all who the No. 2 guy is, how come my right-wing cousins got all verklempt when President Obama asked Chuck Hagel to be his secretary of defense?

Here’s the other reason that this is a unique opportunity: The moxiest machers on the “Let’s not rush to war with Iran” team are lobbying Members to sign the Dent-Price letter: J Street and Americans for Peace Now are in the House.

I can’t promise you that if your Representative signs the Dent-Price letter, we’ll never have a war with Iran. But remember February 2003. Millions of us marched against the US invasion of Iraq. But it was too late. The war train had already left the station.

Imagine if we could get a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Then, when my right-wing cousins try to set a new war train in motion, our team can stand in front of the train and say, “We tried diplomacy, and it did work.

Wouldn’t that be a powerful argument to stop a new war train?

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