You don’t hear a lot of politicians talking sense about Iran these days. Either they pretend tough talk and unilateral sanctions will do the trick, ignoring history and common sense, or they are part of the “don’t bother me now” faction.
That’s why I liked Rep. Gary Ackerman’s statement to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia this week during a hearing on the political reform movement in Iran.
Ackerman said something most Jewish leaders don’t want to hear when it comes to Iran: “In foreign affairs… the world offers few situations that lend themselves to neat, quick or simple solutions.”
Imagine; bluster and slogans don’t solve international crises. Who knew?
While the Jewish community has been focused almost entirely on sanctions – despite the reality that sanctions that are not universally applied are unlikely to halt Iran’s quest for nuclear weaponry – Ackerman wants us to look a little more for smart ways to help the Iranian dissident movement. The question we should asking, he said, is “How can we help accelerate the demise of this awful and irresponsible regime?”
Then he gets to the heart of the matter:
“The most essential thing, I think, is to be patient—not passive and not indifferent—but instead of heeding the inner voice that yells, ‘Don’t just stand there! Do something!’ we need to turn this impulse on its head. Rather than just doing something, we need to stop and think things through.”
Ackerman then invokes a kind of diplomatic Hippocratic Oath.
“It seems to me that our first obligation is ‘to do no harm.’ And our second obligation is to recognize that we are not a doctor, and Iran is not a patient. Iran is a sovereign state whose people are struggling bravely for their own freedom. It is natural and right for us to want to support their struggle. The question is how?”
Ackerman isn’t against sanctions; he says he remains “convinced that the United States must continue to work with our international partners to apply sanctions to the government of Iran for its defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and for its violations of its IAEA safeguards agreement.”
But he is saying things you don’t hear from Jewish leaders, starting with the fact that sanctions are no panacea – and that maybe it’s time to start thinking about some other strategies for dealing with the Iran threat.