Joe Lieberman and the spectre of an Iran war

My occasional hobby is sending emails to my elected officials about important issues. The nice thing about this is that somebody, at least, reads them (enough to figure out what I’m complaining about) and I often get back a response with a moderately detailed position statement following a moderately coherent argument.

After the recent news about Iranian weapons in Iraq, which seemed like a possible repeat of the prelude to Iraq, I sent a letter to (among others) my senator, Joe Lieberman, urging him in the strongest terms not to let this turn into justification for another war fiasco. Fortunately, it looks like the White House is not going to use this to launch another war, but whether that was the original intention is an open question. Anyhow, here’s the message I got back from Joe:

Dear Mr. Ross:

Thank you for contacting me about the escalating situation in Iran concerning its nuclear program.

So now EFPs contribute to the “escalating situation” of the Iranian nuclear program? I’m confused. Tell me more, Joe.

As you know, the accession of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran has increased the concern of the United States, as well as our allies, due to his recent remarks regarding the annihilation of Israel and the United States, as well as his support for Iran’s nuclear program. President Ahmadinejad’s declaration that Iran had enriched uranium, and Iran’s refusal to date to suspend enrichment in defiance of a call by the United Nations (UN) to halt its nuclear program, further complicates an already troubling situation.

U.S. sanctions currently in effect ban or strictly limit U.S. trade, aid, and investment in Iran and penalize foreign firms that invest in Iran’s energy sector; but unilateral U.S. sanctions do not appear to have materially slowed Iran’s weapons of mass destruction programs or shaken the regime’s grip on power. Over the past two years, the Bush Administration has been engaged with our partners and allies, particularly European nations and Russia, to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Unfortunately, the Government of Iran has responded by reneging on multiple treaty obligations and other pledges and continuing to push forward with its nuclear program.

Hmm. I thought there was a distinction between Iran’s nuclear program and the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Guess not. Wait, I think I’m starting to understand. EFP (of dubious provenance)=IED=bomb=weapon of mass destruction=nuclear weapon=nuclear program. Ok, go on.

It also contains provisions that authorize assistance to peaceful pro-democracy groups inside and outside Iran and provides additional tools to curb money laundering efforts that finance and support weapons of mass destruction proliferation. I cosponsored an earlier version of this legislation (S. 333) in 2005, and I supported H.R. 6198. I was very pleased that the measure was adopted by the Senate and that it is now law. In addition, I supported S.Res. 633, which the Senate adopted by unanimous consent in December 2006. S.Res. 633 condemned a conference in Iran denying that the Holocaust occurred. The Conference was hosted by the Government of Iran and its President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

We cannot, and must not, stand on the sidelines while Iran continues to develop nuclear capabilities and threaten the security and stability of the world. I strongly believe the United States must work diplomatically with our allies as well as the UN to alleviate this situation. I believe all options for dealing with Iran’s quest to develop nuclear weapons should remain on the table. As your Senator, please be assured I will continue to monitor this situation closely.

So all options should remain on the table (such as pre-emptive nuclear strikes) despite the fact that UN inspections and extensive investigation by US and other intelligence agencies have revealed nothing to contradict the Iranian public position that it is abiding by the NPT? Given the candor of Ahmadinejad about Holocaust denial and the annihilation of Israel, it doesn’t make sense (to me at least) that he would in such strong terms not only endorse the NPT, but also state that developing nuclear weapons would be against his nation’s religious principles, unless it was true. It’s certainly prudent not to take the word from Tehran as gospel, and to make contingency plans, but can we at least refrain from saber-rattling until we evidence and/or statements from Iranian official to suggest that they actually are trying to develop nukes?

Maybe I should look at this optimistically: nobody actually read my message, and a computer automatically put it in the “Iran weapons of mass destruction” inbox based on keywords. It’s good that my senator has everything figured out already, so he doesn’t have to pay attention to the silly ideas of his constituents.