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United Against Iran

by ROBERT DREYFUSS in Washington, D.C.

05 Nov 2008 15:56No Comments
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A brand new assembly of bipartisan hawks, from neoconservative hardliners to liberal interventionists, was launched this fall with a mission to mobilize grassroots Americans against Iran's nuclear program. The group, the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., describes itself as a "non-partisan, broad-based coalition" whose members include "human rights and humanitarian groups, the labor movement, political advocacy and grassroots organizations, representatives of diverse ethnicities, faith communities, political and social affiliations." To kick it off, several of its principals authored a September 21, 2008, op ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled: "Everyone Needs To Worry About Iran."

But so far, at least, the organization seems confined to a propaganda role, uniting ten advocates of a hard-line approach toward Tehran and led by a former Republican political operative, Mark Wallace, who served as deputy campaign chairman for the Bush-Cheney '04 reelection effort. Wallace, who has specialized in anti-United Nations investigations over allegations of mismanagement, fraud, and abuse, also served as an advisor to Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, during her one and only debate with Senator Joseph Biden, and he is married to Nicole Wallace, the spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign.

Not surprisingly, other leaders of the coalition - which presents itself as United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI - include such hawkish luminaries as James Woolsey, the former CIA director who is closely aligned with the neoconservative movement; Fouad Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who was one of the leading voices in support of the war in Iraq; and Karen Hughes, the former aide to George W. Bush in Texas and at the White House, who later led the State Department's public diplomacy effort in the Muslim world.

But the group is comprised of more than just GOP operatives and neoconservative strategists. Among other UANI leaders are two leading Democratic party hawks on Iran: Richard Holbrooke, a former Clinton Administration who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Dennis Ross, who worked in several administrations and served as special Middle East coordinator for President Clinton.

In its mission statement, UANI says: "The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran should concern every American and be unacceptable to the community of nations. ... The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a danger to world peace." It promises to conduct a wide-ranging propaganda campaign to "inform the public about the nature of the Iranian regime, including its desire and intent to possess nuclear weapons, as well as Iran's role as a state sponsor of global terrorism," and it intends to "mobilize public support, utilize media outreach, and persuade our elected leaders to voice a robust and united American opposition to a nuclear Iran."

So far, at least, UANI's campaign isn't going well.

Its website, UnitedAgainstNuclearIran.com, is mostly empty. It lists several dozen state chapters, but the vast majority of them have only a single member thus far. By mid-October, the largest state chapter, California United Against Nuclear Iran, had a total of eleven members. The apparent leader of the California chapter, Linda - she doesn't list her last name - is a Biblical fundamentalist who warns on UANI's web site that the End Times is near: "We must pray for the peace of Israel, as the scriptures tell us to," writes Linda. "Ezekiel 38-39 tell us that a nation from the North called Gog/Magog (Russia in modern times), will rise against the small country of Israel, and many other countries will come with Russia in those days. Russia is mentioned as the king of the North, and China is mentioned as the king coming from the East with a 200,000,000 man army!"

The only "event" listed on UANI's website several weeks after its creation is scheduled for December 31, 2008, when Dr. Kojo Opoku Aidoo will lecture at the University of Ghana about the "potential dangers of Iran's efforts to 'nuclearize.'"

Of course, great things have arisen from more humble beginnings. But for an organization whose members include first-rank diplomats and former U.S. officials, UANI seems to have gotten off to a rocky start. They're also circulating a petition ("A nuclear-armed Iran is a danger to world peace and should be unacceptable to the community of nations. As Americans, we stand united against nuclear Iran."), raising funds, and offering a newsletter, "Eye on Iran."

The fact that Holbrooke joined up with a hawkish, neoconservative-inspired group like UANI may not bode well for his desire to be included in an Obama administration, if the senator from Illinois were to be elected. Last year, Holbrooke endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, thus alienating himself from Obama's circle, and since Clinton dropped out of the race the Obama team has not exactly welcomed Holbrooke. According to a former White House official, who requested anonymity, Holbrooke is close to Biden, Obama's vice presidential pick, and he is hoping that the Delaware senator might provide entree into an Obama administration. Its been widely reported in Washington that Holbrooke is vigorously lobbying for an appointment as secretary of state.

Ross, meanwhile, is an Obama adviser. He is viewed with suspicion by many in the Obama circle because of his hawkish attitudes, his reputation as a strong supporter of Israel, and his post at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a staunchly pro-Israel thinktank that has called for a hardline policy toward Iran. Until recently, Ross was several ranks removed from the inner circle of Obama's team but, according to a highly informed Washington source, lately Ross has become more influential, especially on policy toward Israel and Iran. Though Obama has repeatedly declared his intention to open up a diplomatic dialogue with Iran, he has also warned that he will not rule out the use of force over Iran's nuclear program and he has called for much more stringent economic sanctions against Iran, including an embargo on imports of gasoline and refined petroleum products by Tehran.

UANI does not address the issue of whether the United States should use military force against Iran. Holbrooke, Woolsey, Ross, and Wallace all co-signed the Wall Street Journal piece, in which they declared, "We do not aim to beat the drums of war." But they stress that it is "unacceptable" for Iran to possess nuclear weapons, even though some experts question whether Iran is, in fact, moving toward a military nuclear capability as opposed to a civilian enrichment program, and many others say that the United States should start thinking about how to co-exist with, and contain, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. UANI says that a nuclear Iran poses a "direct threat to the United States and its allies," and it links the nuclear issue to "Iran's support of terrorism," implying that Iran might supply its regional allies, such as Hezbollah or Hamas, with a bomb.

The new organization has attracted virtually no attention in the media, despite its high-profile launch in the Wall Street Journal and the blue-chip credentials of its leading lights. That could change, however, as UANI gets off the ground, and as it attracts more supporters than End Times fundamentalists such as Linda from California.

Photo updated Oct. 2010.

Copyright © 2008 Tehran Bureau

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