West Coast City Formally Rejects Iran Attack

OAKLAND, California - The eight-member city council of Oakland, home to nearly half a million people, unanimously passed a symbolic resolution opposing any U.S. attack against Iran Tuesday, in a bid to pressure lawmakers in Congress to reestablish their constitutional authority over U.S foreign policy and war policy and funding.Before the city council meeting began, about 15 concerned Oakland and East Bay residents spoke out against the U.S. entering into another war. Dozens of others rallied in front of City Hall in support of the resolution.

"The [George W.] Bush administration and many of its Congressional allies are engaging in a systematic campaign to convince the American people, and their representatives in Congress, that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a clear and present threat to the safety and security of the United States of America, members of our armed overseas and our allies," the resolution states.

"In a strategy eerily reminiscent of the lead-up to the Iraq war and occupation, the Bush administration and its congressional allies are using unreliable sources, exaggerated threat assessments, the selective use of information, and questionable accusations in their case to the American people for war against Iran," it says.

"Anything that we can do to decrease the human and financial costs that has impact and can affect [policy] is a human responsibility," said Ignacio De La Fuente, president of the Oakland City Council.

"I think everything about politics is really [Washington] DC-focused," noted Sanaz Meshkinpour, the Middle East programme coordinator for Global Exchange, who organises delegations to Middle East and the "Iran Diplomacy Not War Campaign".

"I think at this point we realise that the Bush administration is really hard to influence," she added. "Just every week or every other week calling our representatives over the phone is not going to do anything."

She said that the passing the resolution is very significant. "It is not something that they can say, 'Oh, that's just one individual that feels this way'. This is a way to push the grassroots and really pressure the Congressional representatives."

Although one prominent Republican lawmaker, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, sent a letter to Bush in October appealing for unconditional talks with Iran, most of the rhetoric coming out of Washington has been increasingly bellicose.

At a press conference last month, Bush raised the spectre of a "World War III" if Iran obtains even the knowledge needed to produce a nuclear weapon. Several days later, Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech to a hawkish pro-Israel think tank, the Washington Institute for Near Policy, warned Tehran of "serious consequences" if it did not freeze its nuclear programme and accused it of "direct involvement in the killings of Americans."

Ali Sheikholeslami, executive director of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Northern California, believes there is a strong chance that the U.S. will attack Iran before Bush leaves office in 14 months.

"Not by sending troops, but by attacking through missiles, Cruise missiles and other missiles that they have," he said, adding that "if more people are aware of the situation, and show their opposition to this needless and senseless war, it will have an impact."

"It doesn't seem there is a strong opposition in the Congress against war with Iran," said Shahpour (Shawn) Matloob, an Iranian-American immigration attorney in San Francisco and a supporter of the resolution. "We need more events like this and more resolutions, so hopefully the members of Congress will get it that people are against this. They don't want to pay another penny of our taxes for unjust wars."

"We already see how much money goes to Iraq that could be going to our deteriorating social services at home, and we can't continue to give lives and money to this war machine," agreed Rae Abileah , a national organiser with Code Pink, Women For Peace, adding that, "the recent Zogby survey that shows 52 percent of American people support war against Iran just points to the terrible job that the corporate media had done in educating the people about the reality of U.S. and Iranian relations".

Shapour Hashemi, an Iranian-American who has been living in the United States for more than 30 years, said: "The resolution is reflective of the diversity of the community here and the openness of this community to understanding the rather complex socio-economic environment that we all live in these days."

"I love Oakland...and what really strikes me is that we need to be able to reach out to people who are not the folks that we normally interact with on a daily basis, the people that we don't normally see, and understand them, so that we can build a bridge and secure ourselves by knowing others."

The city councils of Portland, Oregon, and Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Richmond in California have already considered similar resolutions in support of friendship between Iran and the United States and in opposition of an escalation of the Iraq war into Iran.

*Omid Memarian is a peace fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He has won several awards, including Human Rights Watch's highest honor in 2005, the Human Rights Defender Award.

(c) 2007 Inter Press Service

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