American Iranian Friendship Council

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The OREGONIAN: Don't bomb Iran, Portland City Council votes

Portland is the second U.S. city to urge diplomacy to resolve tension over nuclear technology
Thursday, March 22, 2007 -ANNA GRIFFIN

Never shy about expressing their opinions about national or world affairs, Portland City Council members voted Wednesday to urge President Bush and Congress not to bomb Iran.

Portland becomes the second U.S. city, behind Berkeley, Calif., to demand a diplomatic solution to escalating tensions over Iran's continuing exploration of nuclear technology. Peace activists hope to spur a national call for a nonviolent end to the increasingly heated debate.

"We believe a military escalation is not the right way to go, and we believe the current conversations have far too much similarity to what was clearly a duplicitous effort to lead the world into war in Iraq," said Commissioner Erik Sten, who authored the resolution on behalf of Portland's American Iranian Friendship Council. "If we can spark a conversation in city halls across the country, we can have a real political impact."

With its 4-0 vote, the City Council asked members of Congress to vote for the Iran Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 2007, an effort to block President Bush from spending taxpayer money for military action against Iran "in the absence of an imminent threat." The fifth council member, Sam Adams, was at the International Global Cities conference in Montreal.

During Wednesday's hearing, more an affirmation than an actual debate, a dozen activists and immigrants testified that conditions for Iranian women, scholars and political activists have improved in recent years. They described the violence and extremism that resulted from the 1953 CIA-backed coup of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. They talked about similarities between the U.S. buildup before the Iraq war and what's happening now in and around Iran.

They found a willing and enthusiastic audience in the City Council.

Mayor Tom Potter said the United States should focus on restoring relationships and infrastructure in the Middle East, much as the Marshall Plan helped rebuild Europe after World War II. Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he supports peace in Iran, though he is troubled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's insistence that the Holocaust did not happen.

Commissioner Randy Leonard called on Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., to read the resolution on the floor of the Senate. Smith originally backed the Iraq war but has broken with the Bush administration and was one of two Republicans who voted last week to support bringing most U.S. troops home.

"The United States . . . should be a force for good," Leonard said. "Instead we find us using our resources to get a foothold in oil and preserve our industrial engine."

In recent years, Leonard and his colleagues have voted to call for an end to the Iraq war, to condemn abuse of the U.S. Patriot Act and to deplore the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward homosexuality.

Although they followed Berkeley's lead on Iran, Portland council members have not gone as far as leaders of California's famed liberal hub: On the same day they passed a similar Iran resolution last week, Berkeley City Council members encouraged Germany to indict former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes.