The Daily Iowan

Posted by The Daily Iowan on March 22, 2012 in News Clips

A visiting expert on the Middle East warned about the dangers of pro-war rhetoric in the face of potential nuclear conflict between United States and Iran on Wednesday.

During his lecture "The Crisis in the Gulf: U.S. Policy Toward Iran," James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, promoted peace talks while speaking in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

"The issue ought to be that another war is the last thing America needs," he said. "Our goal is to get people to speak out for this."

Zogby said the people of Iowa — where he has given four lectures in the past year — are capable of promoting international pacifism through their state government.

"There are people in Iowa, and they can act, and they have power. If they encourage representatives to take action, we could see something positive happen," he said. "All you need to do is talk to your local senators. Demand that they stop talking about war and start talking about peace."

At the beginning of March, President Obama met with Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the state of Iran's nuclear program.

On Monday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a statement that Iran would retaliate if the country felt threatened by the U.S. and Israel, according to Al Jazeera.

Lynda Fischer, a member of the Iowa Chapter of Veterans For Peace, said the participation of younger generations in pacific efforts is necessary to keep the movement alive.

"There needs to be more young people involved in these kinds of peace movements," she said. "People don't realize the deaths that occur with war. And the government is old enough that some of them probably forget too. There needs to be people around that can keep reminding [the government] of the consequences of war."

Ed Flaherty, another representative for the Iowa Chapter of Veterans for Peace, said Zogby's perspective is important because he recognizes that the U.S., Israel, and Iran each are to blame for the current situation.

"Zogby sees all parties involved in the conflict as having responsibility in making peace," Flaherty said. "Their rhetoric up to this point has been dangerous. There are no innocents in this situation. Everyone has played a part in escalating the conflict."

The conflict, Zogby said, has been a continuing problem that has grown over the past years. The lecturer said Iran was emboldened by the Iraq war and the takedown of Saddam Hussein, the country's biggest rival.

"I think we are on a collision course, and I think anything we can do to turn it around will help …" he said. "We should be focusing on ridiculing [the Iranian government] instead of publicizing them, calling them the number one threat to the world."

Brian Lai, a UI associate professor of political science, said the three key players — Iran, Israel, and the United States — can each make decisions to push the issue closer or further from a conflict.

"If Israel attacked first, the situation would become problematic, given Israel's position in the Arab world," he said.

Lai also said actions by Israel are influenced by U.S. decisions, but there is uncertainty over who would react first and what actions will be taken.

Zogby said the problem comes down to previous failures of the U.S. on peace treaties.

"Politicians have a deficiency in nutrition," he said with a smile. "So that they have to fuel themselves with hysterical calls for war."

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