After withdrawing from the Iran deal last spring, the Trump administration has taken several steps that have increased tension in the region. Last fall, National Security Adviser John Bolton directed the Pentagon to develop military options for attacking Iran. And the administration has imposed numerous sanctions since withdrawing from the deal, including as recently as in the past few days. These sanctions have had serious economic impact in Iran.
Since the instatement of the additional sanctions, the situation has continued to escalate, with Iran threatening to resume high level uranium enrichment in response to the sanctions, and the Trump Administration dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group to send a “clear and unmistakable” message.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has at several points in recent years lifted up the value of reduced tensions and open dialogue with Iran. The most recent General Assembly affirmed the value of respectful understanding and reducing tensions with the government and 82 million people of Iran. (The full General Assembly resolution can be found below.) As members of a community of nations, we must work to reduce tension and avoid conflict, rather than continuing down the path to yet another war in the Middle East.
To prevent the United States from launching another disastrous war, Senators Tom Udall (NM), Dick Durbin (IL), and Rand Paul (KY) introduced S. 1039, bipartisan legislation to prohibit the use of funds for military operations in or against Iran without prior authorization from Congress. Representatives Anna Eshoo (CA-18) and Mike Thompson (CA-5) introduced similar legislation in the House (H.R. 2354).
General Assembly Guidance
To support the hard work required for peacemaking and nuclear disarmament, the 223rd General Assembly (2018):
1. Encourages all parties to the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to continue to comply with the terms of that agreement.
2. Urges the government of the United States to reconsider its unilateral withdrawal from the agreement, particularly in light of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reporting that Iran was in full compliance with its provisions and the way the “Deal” was seen to be helping open that society to further positive change.
3. Affirms the value of respectful understanding and reducing tensions with the government and 82 million people of Iran of whom two-thirds are Persian and one-third a variety of ethnicities and non-Shiite Muslim religious traditions, including Christians—some of whom will suffer from association with unwise actions by Western nations.
4. Opposes punitive sanctions on U.S. and European-based non-military companies and nongovernmental organizations as ultimately ineffective, if not counterproductive.
5. Opposes efforts to increase hostilities with Iran, which do not seem to serve U.S. interests.
6. Urges the U.S. Congress to fulfill its responsibility to hold hearings and otherwise hold the Administration accountable for faithful execution of the laws related to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and to effective diplomacy and statecraft in general, so that the U.S. may be a reliable partner to its allies and an upholder of international law.
7. Directs the Presbyterian Mission Agency (through its Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations), the Office of the General Assembly, and other Presbyterian agencies to include this resolution in their witness, and urges members, congregations, and presbyteries to continue to support peace and reconciliation efforts, and to include the people of Iran, as well as our mission partners, in their prayer, study, and witness.
Without claiming perfection for any multiparty agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal provides a strong inspection program to verify that Iran would not enrich uranium sufficient for a single weapon before 2030, and promises no nuclear weapons development after, in exchange for an end to economic sanctions and increased trade and free movement. The Stated Clerk, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, spoke promptly to the issues at stake: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2018/5/9/stated-clerk-issues-st….
An article in Unbound also assesses the matter: http://justiceunbound.org/carousel/standing-up-for-the-ir…/.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as part of the worldwide communion of Reformed Churches, shares a commitment to seek peace and reconciliation among peoples and to support the work of governments to these ends. In order to be effective servants and prophets when called upon, we draw upon and respect the expertise of diplomats and others who build positive relationships and nurture human rights. There is enough distrust, hostility, and genuine environmental danger in the world without adding to it; better to rejoin and, if possible, improve the Iran nuclear deal rather than observe a further deterioration of relations and weakening of U.S. interests.