This morning, our friends at Berim delivered over 100,000 petition signatures to a representative of the US’s UN delegation, urging President Obama to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and recommit to diplomacy with Iran. Berim, Credo, Win Without War and Just Foreign Policy all joined with Peace Action West to gather signatures at this crucial time for negotiations with the new Iranian government.
Thanks so much to all of you who signed the petition and shared it with your friends. Check out more photos of the petition delivery here.
It’s astounding to watch a run-up to war come to a screeching halt. And it wouldn’t have happened without your efforts.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the media was discussing a strike on Syria as an inevitability. After you joined the clamor for a vote in Congress, President Obama surprisingly slowed down the rush to war and got ready to put the question to Congress.
Then things really got impressive.
The public sent a persistent, insistent message that couldn’t be ignored. We were on Capitol Hill this week while all of this was developing and visited over 70 House and Senate offices.Every one of them confirmed that they were flooded with calls and emails overwhelmingly opposed to military action.
The red flag thrown up by the American people, forcing a real debate, left time for the promising diplomatic opportunity that arose this week. On an evening when President Obama had planned to sell us a war, he instead announced that he had called on Congress to delay a vote while his administration works with the Russian government and other allies on a new proposal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
I cannot tell you how inspiring it is to be in the middle of the action and see your efforts reverberating in Congress. Thank you so much for the thousands of emails and phone calls that gave our arguments for peace a fighting chance.
This isn’t over yet. We must remain vigilant and push for the diplomatic solution to succeed, and block any new attempts to revert to military force. We will be keeping our ears to the ground and will let you know when your action is needed.
But for now, we should take a moment to celebrate the fact that we helped bring our nation back from the brink of war.
Thank you, from all of us at Peace Action West, for making this possible.
We are on Capitol Hill this week urging members of Congress to vote against authorizing force in Syria. In our first day, we’ve already visited dozens of offices, and most people we talk to are undecided and still gathering information to inform their decisions.
Since a lot of people have asked me for resources and ideas on nonmilitary alternatives to the crisis, I wanted to share the talking points we are distributing to congressional offices outlining reasons to oppose a military strike and what nonmilitary alternatives could look like.
The Unintended Consequences of Military Force in Syria
& Effective Non-Military Alternatives
Peace Action West urges a “no” vote on the Syria AUMF
There is little evidence that strikes can “degrade and deter” Assad’s future use of chemical weapons. Strikes could instead lead to use of chemical weapons in reprisals.
Military planners say there is slim evidence that the current plan can accomplish its stated goals. Strikes on chemical weapons stockpiles could kill civilians or disperse the weapons and therefore may have been ruled out. Attacks on command, control and delivery systems can’t stop Assad from fighting on. Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold said about Syria plans: “There’s a broad naïveté in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve.”
Military strikes leading to chemical weapons reprisals by the Assad regime could kill thousands. As Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned “If President Assad were to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives.”
A political solution in Syria is our ultimate goal. Military strikes make this harder.
President Obama has said that a political solution is the longer-term goal in Syria. Strikes are likely to harden the positions of the Assad regime and other Syrian political factions, making negotiation much more difficult. UN Chief Ban warns of “tragic consequences”: increasing sectarian violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis. Unilateral war will sow division with critical players needed for a political solution (e.g. Russia, Iran, the Arab League, and the U.S.).
Unilateral military strikes that violate international law can’t “enforce norms on chemical weapons”. A “do what I say not what I do” foreign policy harms US credibility.
The most fundamental international norm regarding political violence is the prohibition against the use of force by countries not acting in immediate self-defense or without UN approval. While some argue that there are times when the U.S. has to engage in wars that are “illegal but legitimate”, the idea of enforcing one norm through an illegal action that violates an even more fundamental norm borders on the absurd. President Obama and Secretary Kerry both ran for president trumpeting their opposition to the unilateral approach of the George W. Bush era. Unilateral action could now erode the international goodwill the U.S. has rebuilt. If the war goes badly, U.S. credibility could be damaged far more seriously than if we avoid military action.
The norm against chemical weapons use can be enforced through nonmilitary means.
Opposition to military strikes DOES NOT equal “doing nothing.” The Ghouta attacks – and the threat of war – have galvanized world attention. When the UN inspectors’ report comes back, pressure will build at the UN. “The Russian and Chinese veto is not simply an unalterable fact of nature which must be accepted,” said Mark Lynch in Foreign Policy earlier this year. China has reversed itself before with UN action on Sudan and Libya. Former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft says Russia remains part of a solution. If the Security Council fails to act, one can to go to the General Assembly under the UN’s Uniting for Peace rule. The UN could demand that Syria join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The UN could enforce an arms embargo, call for a ceasefire, or use targeted economic sanctions.
An international humanitarian offensive saves far more lives with far less risk.
While military attacks might accomplish little more than sending a cruise-missile-diplomacy message to Assad, many of the seven million refugees and displaced persons will suffer without food, clean water, and medical care. While the U.S. has contributed, only about 50% an earlier global goal for aid has been met. As the crisis grows that original goal is nowhere near enough.
- Current international plans for humanitarian response are underfunded and not getting the diplomatic focus they need. Plans for military action have distracted the international community from addressing the humanitarian crisis.
- A massive increase in funding by the U.S., Europe, and other countries is needed. This should not be just pledges as it sometimes has been but cash that can be used.  While the U.S. budget is strained, if the U.S. is willing to spend money on a dubious military attack, it should be willing to spend on effective humanitarian aid.
- International assistance is needed to rebuild basic services like schools, hospitals, water and sanitation services both in Syria and in neighboring areas.
- Diplomacy is needed to ensure access to aid and medical care across borders and military lines. U.S. military strikes could disrupt humanitarian access.
- Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure humanitarian aid for civilians is distributed impartially to government controlled and rebel held areas.
- Bureaucratic barriers to the delivery of aid such as customs rules should be removed.
Now is the time to leverage increased urgency to craft a Syrian political settlement.
Everyone agrees there will be no end to the civil war in Syria without a negotiated political solution. “Limited strikes” can’t help craft a political solution but do endanger hopes for a settlement. It’s surely an uphill battle, but the U.S. should use the urgency of the moment to focus on diplomacy. The UN and the Arab League are intensifying efforts to bring parties to the Geneva II peace conference this fall. There are promising signs. Iran has harshly condemned the use of chemical weapons and shown a willingness to help craft a solution. China has said that those responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria must be held accountable. Despite its mixed signals, even Russia has made positive statements about international action.
Robust application of international criminal law is part of the solution.
Both the Assad regime and some factions within the Syrian rebel forces have committed serious human rights violations. The International Criminal Court could investigate war crimes. Some analysts believe that the threat of referral to the ICC could create pressure at the bargaining table on both Assad and rebel forces. Some support a so–called contingent referral. In other words, the ICC would investigate if a binding peace agreement between parties is not reached.
 Economic sanctions should be extremely targeted not to harm the long-suffering civilian populations.
It’s time to really ramp things up. The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on attacking Syria this week. We’re on Capitol Hill right now urging members to vote no, and we need your voices behind us.
ABC and other media outlets are projecting a very close vote. Your representatives could make the margin of difference.
Things are looking bad for the pro-bombing side. Lots of members of Congress are considering voting no to the use of military force to solve the Syrian crisis. That means the administration is increasing their pressure on Congress, especially antiwar progressives. Many representatives are undecided and say they are waiting to hear from their constituents. Everyone needs to hear from us.
If ever there was a time for you to go the extra mile, it’s now. Thank you for raising your voice already. You can help more by:
- Calling your representative and senators at 202-224-3121, to tell them to vote no on the resolution to attack Syria. Already called? Call again! Click here to report your call. (Click here to find your representatives.)
- Sending an email to Congress.
- Telling your friends to speak out.
- Tweeting at your representative and senators. We’ve made it easy, just enter your complete address, search, and hit the tweet button.
Thank you for helping to stop this war in its tracks.
We have about a week to stop a rush to war in Syria. Please Call your representative and senators now at 202-224-3121 and urge them to vote NO on the authorization to use force in Syria. If you don’t know who your representative and senators are, click here.
Here are some points you could make in your call (although the only crucial point is to vote against the Authorization of Use of Force for Syria):
- Vote no on an authorization for military action. (This one is critical to start with. It’s the message staff will record carefully.)
- Even military brass say the strikes won’t work. There’s no evidence these types of “limited strikes” actually accomplish their goals. The Syrian regime will fight on.
- Military strikes could backfire for civilians. Even targeted strikes end up killing some of the very civilians we are seeking to protect. Thousands of civilians have been killed by similar “limited” U.S. led interventions in places like Kosovo, Libya, and Somalia.
- Military strikes won’t end the Syrian civil war but they could prolong it. The U.S. could join calls for a ceasefire while jumpstarting the stalled “Geneva II” peace conference to bring Russia, the U.S., Syrian factions and the Arab League together for diplomacy. Military attacks now could harden positions and destroy the chances for diplomacy for a long time.
- Many experts believe that military strikes could lead to reprisals. The Syrian regime could ramp up attacks on rebels and civilians in rebel held areas, and even, feeling it has nothing to lose, decide to use chemical weapons in these reprisals.
- The current draft of the authorization legislation is very broad. It could lead to a longer conflict if initial strikes lead to a wider conflict in Syria or even escalate beyond its borders.
- A unilateral war that violates international law can’t “promote international norms”. President Obama has said these attacks are to enforce “international norms against chemicals weapons” but crucial norms against unilateral military action are just as fundamental.
- A robust international humanitarian campaign could protect Syria’s millions of refugees. The U.S. could save more lives by focusing efforts on the humanitarian crisis. Thousands of lives could be saved through access to the wounded and by providing clean water and food.
It’s make or break time for diplomacy with Iran.
Next month, Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani will be in the same place for the first time, attending the UN General Assembly in New York. An overture toward the new Iranian president could help kick-start diplomacy and avoid another devastating war.
Let’s raise our voices to make it happen. Sign our petition to President Obama calling on him to seize the moment and reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran.
Efforts that could sabotage diplomacy with Iran are already well underway. Just this week, a prominent pair of politicians—a Republican and Democrat—called for sanctions on Iran that will “bring the Iranian economy to near-ruin.” If you were the new president of Iran, would you interpret that as an invitation to start productive talks?
We are pushing back hard by launching our Seize the Moment campaign. We are working with partners around the country to mobilize thousands of people and build a groundswell of support for President Obama to reach out to Iran’s new president. He’s going to face intense pressure to keep squeezing Iran rather than engage in smart negotiations. Lack of diplomatic progress will fuel calls for more aggression and put us on a path toward war.
If we want to stop the run-up to war, we need to drown out our opponents now. Please sign our petition to President Obama urging him to meet with Hassan Rouhani next month.
Your signature will be delivered with thousands of others to the White House right before the UN General Assembly. We can’t afford to be silent now. Thank you for taking action.