Sunday, September 23, 2012

Iran: Internal Resistance and U.S. Interventions

1.     What Country in the Middle East refuses to confirm or deny that it has a nuclear weapons program and refuses to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty?
2.     What country agreed to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and has repeatedly opened its country to IAEA inspectors?

Israel. Iran. These are the answers to World Can’t Waits’ quiz, Iran Who is the Real Threat?  World Can’t Wait joined Protest Chaplains of Chicago and five other area faith and peace and justice groups to talk about Iran----its history of resistance and its long history of US interventions.  Many of these groups have been sending delegations for years like the Fellowship of Reconciliation or Voices for Creative Nonviolence while others like the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation are leading voices against sanctions and the danger of doing to Iran what we did to Iraq. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship reminded us also how peacemaking is part of their tradition and how easily we can be misled by misrepresentations of reality.

40 or so people gathered on September 20th, the eve of International Day for Peace, in the sanctuary of Wellington United Church of Christ to learn and talk about Iran.  Local Iranian and anti-war activist Saman Sepheri was our guide and discussion leader.

The evening began with a welcome from Rev. Dan Dale from Wellington which included a reminder that Wellington UCC is a JustPeace Church and that the United Church of Christ passed a resolution at its 27th General Synod in 2009 to learn more about Iran. He also reminded folks that Christian churches and faith-based organizations had signed a letter this spring against Senate Resolution 380, a resolution that paves the way for an attack on Iran.

Holding this holy conversation about a country’s right to self determination with the backdrop of protestors covered in blood and the broken mirror cross behind it was the perfect setting.

We began our time together with a ringing of the peace bowl, a crystal singing bowl and then a minute of silence in honor of International Peace Day.  The sound and the silence filled the space as we centered on our prayers for peace and the gifts and commitments we bring.

CodePink in Iran
We opened our discussion with a quick checking in about why we had come--- our questions, our concerns, our worries. Many had come to find out how to stop a war from happening, others wanted to know more about the Green Movement or other kinds of resistance movements in Iran, while still others wanted to know if Iran was making nuclear weapons with enriched uranium.  

Saman’s presentation was broken into three parts so we could stop and take questions. We wanted to have enough time throughout for questions and comments.  

It is too difficult for me to summarize all the issues we covered or the depth of where we went but a few things stand out.  “Self determination”and “No meddling” are two. Saman was insistent that we understand the right of the Iranian people to determine their country’s government and future without the “meddling” from others, in particular the U.S. Thus, he was adamantly against sanctions and any other actions that would interfere with Iranians dealing with their own issues.

He also called on us, fellow anti-war activists, to support those Iranians who are working at the grassroots level like Havaar and the feminist collective RAHA.  In fact he began his talk by reading from a recent letter from these two groups who have come under recent attack lately by others in the antiwar movement.

One of the things that also stood out for me was Saman’s passionate opposition to sanctions. He was adamant that the sanctions were doing what they were intended to do, squash the people’s movement as the country scrambles to take care of basic necessities instead of engaging in public debate about the political direction of the country. The sanctions also play into the hands of the government, he said, in providing it an excuse for its repressive policies. He made a sharp distinction for those of us who had supported sanctions against South Africa and now the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel’s policies.  The main difference is who has asked for these sanctions. It was the South African people and now the Palestinians, those who were or are suffering, who asked for these sanctions.  The Iranian people did not ask for sanctions.

With regards to the question of enriched uranium, the ingredient needed for making nuclear weapons and the chief reason given for a possible attack, he pointed to the facts in the IAEA report and the fact that Israel and US are the major nuclear powers in the world with the US being the only country to actually have dropped a nuclear bomb on another country and Israel being the country in the Middle East that has not signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. He challenged us then, US citizens, to do our own house cleaning, before pointing the finger at others.

We did not talk much about a possible war with Israel or the US and what to do if or when. I would like to suggest those of you reading this blog to go to the resource listed below here to find out what kinds of actions you can take at this time.

Tell Meet the Press that it has an obligation to challenge the false statements of Israeli leaders it invites on its program.
Sign the Iran Pledge of Resistance! This is not a petition, but a pledge to take action.
“If the United States applies increased sanctions, invades, bombs, sends combat troops or drones, or otherwise significantly escalates its intervention in Iran or the region directly or through support of its allies, I pledge to join with others to engage in acts of legal protest and/or nonviolent civil disobedience to prevent or halt the death and destruction which U.S. military actions would cause to the people of Iran, the Middle East, our communities at home, and the planet itself.

Don’t Iraq Iran petition at

Code Pink Women Say No to War with Iran

International Day of Peace signals the beginning of the General Assembly where President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be present. Obama has increased crippling sanctions against Iran and still threatens the possibility of a military strike. Netanyahu has raised his war-mongering to a fever pitch in recent weeks.  Havaar points out that "Netanyahu, Obama, and Ahmadinejad may have different and often conflicting agendas, but these leaders and their governments are all threats to Iranians and to peace in the region." It is important then for all of us who are anti-war or pro solidarity to join them and  others in their call for an end to these threats to peace including ending the sanctions and saying NO to war.

If Israel or the US does strike or go to war with Iran, Protest Chaplains of Chicago will be part of the antiwar or resistance movement here for sure. Please join us if you are in Chicago or visit us on our facebook page to learn more about what we are doing and thinking. If you would like to join us, we meet the third Wednesday of the month at Wellington United Church of Christ. 
To learn more about Havaar go to
To learn more about the World Can’t Wait and its campaign against a war with Iran go to
For discussion about the IAE report go to Friends Committee on National Legislation
For weekly reporting on Iran and Syria go to Iran Weekly by Frank Brodhead at