Last week, one of us served as an expert witness before the Chicago City Council during its debate on a resolution opposing a U.S. military strike on Iran. In his usual direct political manner, Mayor Daley had his supporters on the Council stall the vote on the resolution, saying he was worried it would tie the hands of the next president.

“If Iran attacks Israel, we should sit back and not do anything?” Daley asked rhetorically. “They haven’t attacked us, [but] they can attack everyone else? I have real problems with that.”

Daley is wrong. The point of a resolution against a U.S. military strike on Iran — a position that has already been embraced by more than 10 cities across this country — is precisely that use of such a strike makes the danger of war more likely, not less. Opposing a military response does not mean we “sit back and not do anything.” To the contrary, it means that the real possibilities for avoiding war — diplomacy, multilateralism, genuine engagement, and more diplomacy — move to the front burner of U.S. policy.

In December 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate was made public. This document, representing the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, was clear: Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, it does not have a viable nuclear weapons program, and it’s not at all clear that it even wants such a program. And yet, the White House continued to ratchet up its rhetoric against Iran, in a propaganda scenario frighteningly reminiscent of the run-up to the illegal 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Daley’s questioning of Iran’s attacking Israel — the only country in the Middle East that actually does possess a nuclear weapon — conveniently ignores the larger point of the resolution presented before the City Council. It’s in all of Iran’s neighbors’ best interests, including Israel’s, to prevent an unprovoked, unnecessary new war in the region. In the event of a U.S. military strike, Iran could retaliate, threatening to attack U.S. troops in Iraq or Israel itself, or shutting the Strait of Hormuz, through which 45 percent of the world’s oil passes every day.

It’s precisely because of the threat of a U.S. war against Iran — a preventive war that would be illegal under international law, in violation of the UN Charter and the U.S. Constitution, and devastating to regional as well as U.S. security — that many cities around the country are moving now to quell the bellicose rhetoric.

As the ongoing Iraq war demonstrates, the White House has already shown itself reckless, willing to choose war when it wasn’t required, holding itself above the requirements of international law, and holding the American people and Congress in utter contempt. So, cities around the country, as well as counties, states and institutions across our nation, are moving to end the war in Iraq and to prevent a new war in Iran. (Go to for more information about this trend.)

A U.S. “surgical” strike in Iran would be an act of war. Testifying in front of the City Council, one of us reminded the aldermen that such an attack would inflame anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world.

Already, according to a recent Arab Public Opinion poll conducted by the University of Maryland, 83 percent of those polled in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates hold an unfavorable view of the United States. Increasing that anti-American sentiment does precious little to enhance U.S. interests in the Middle East and throughout the world, and in fact escalates the threat to the security of all Americans — in Chicago and beyond.

The U.S. needs to open negotiations with Iran on all the issues dividing our two nations: nuclear weapons (including our own); intervention in Iraq (ours and theirs); support for organizations threatening terror or other attacks against each other (ours and theirs); security guarantees (ours and theirs), and, ultimately, the resumption of normal diplomatic and trade ties between the U.S. and Iran.

A U.S. military strike could launch a war. It would be devastating not only for the 70 million Iranians, but for Israel, for U.S. troops in the region, and for any hope of peace in the world. We need diplomacy, Mayor Daley, not more war.

Farrah Hassen is the Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies where she directs the New Internationalism project. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer and more recently Ending the Iraq War: A Primer.

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