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Iran: Peace Advocates Mobilize Amid Nuclear War Of Words

Antiwar demonstration in Warsaw on March 19, 2006 (epa) Germany's Left Party has announced that its parliamentary leader, Oskar Lafontaine, will travel to Iran in a bid to avert a possible military attack over the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Meanwhile, antiwar groups have stepped up their efforts to prevent what some regard as an imminent war against Iran.

PRAGUE, April 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The international community marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March amid growing fear of a new conflict -- this time targeting Iran.

Activists in several countries held antiwar rallies at which they called for a foreign withdrawal from Iraq and urged the United States not to attack Iran.

More Than Active

But some advocates of peace and dialogue have opted for a more active approach of direct engagement with the Iranian government.

A lawmaker for Germany's Left Party, Ulrich Maurer, has warned that "the danger of war with Iran is growing." Maurer recently announced that party colleague Oskar Lafontaine will go to Iran in an attempt to mediate in the nuclear crisis and prevent a military strike on Iran.

Lafontaine will reportedly ask Iranian leaders to recognize the right of Israel to exist and to comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"There is really a whole series of continuing and escalating U.S. threats and military preparation, and this is very reminiscent to the way in which the U.S. prepared for war against Iraq."

Such concerns are echoed by other analysts and activists, who point to the escalation of rhetoric over Iran's disputed nuclear activities. Some observers see parallels to the run-up to war on Iraq.

Sara Flounders is the coordinator of the "Stop War on Iran" campaign.

"There is really a whole series of continuing and escalating U.S. threats and military preparation, and this is very reminiscent to the way in which the U.S. prepared for war against Iraq -- where there were constant reports of weapons of mass destruction, stories that the media covered endlessly claiming that Iraq was 45 minutes from launch time, had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and so on and so forth," Flounders said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stressed that "Iran is not Iraq" and said Washington is committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.

Flounders said she thinks a military attack on Iran could have disastrous consequences.

"The war against Iraq is an absolute disaster for the people of Iraq and for the people here in the U.S.," Flounders said. "So imagine what launching a new war would mean to the people of Iran. But also it's a global threat."

Reaching Out

In order to preempt any possible attack on Iran, the Stop War on Iran campaign is trying to raise public awareness, mobilize grassroots groups, and also pressure the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration.

The campaign has also launched a website that includes a petition calling on "voices opposed to the devastation of a new war in the Middle East to speak out now."

Flounders said the petition has been signed by some prominent figures -- including 2005 Nobel laureate for literature Harold Pinter and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

"There are many Iranian people, Iranian Americans, and Iranian people in Britain and other countries, but the overwhelming number [of signatories] are grassroots community activists, union officials, academics and professors of a number of universities, authors, religious leaders -- such as Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who is the founder of Pax Christi, the largest Catholic peace organization -- [and] Tony Benn, a member of Parliament from Britain, [as well as] Denis Halliday, the former UN assistant secretary-general," Flounders said.

Another antiwar group -- the Campaign Against Sanctions And Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) -- is sounding the alarm through public meetings and speeches as well as by lobbying opinion makers.

The CASMII has warned that a war on Iran could lead to "a catastrophe" and threaten international peace and stability.

A group called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) has cautioned that the confrontation with Iran could lead to "sanctions or the use of force." The IPPNW has called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to create a senior-level UN commission to mediate in the dispute and break the cycle of escalation.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.