August 3, 2006 - BUSH ADMIN BACKS OFF THREAT OF PRE-EMPTIVE NUCLEAR STRIKE AGAINST IRAN IN LETTER TO MARKEY

Washington, DC -- Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Taskforce on Nonproliferation, released a letter from the State Department indicating that the Bush Administration has backed off its unwise threats of first use of nuclear weapons against Iran.  The letter from Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Jeffrey T. Bergner came in response to a June 19, 2006 letter sent by Rep. Markey and 14 other Members of Congress urging President Bush to rescind his public threats of a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran, and instead focus on diplomatic solutions to the problem of Iran’s nuclear program.

“It seems that the Bush Administration has finally recognized that loose talk about pre-emptive nuclear strikes is not the way to address the current crisis of Iran’s efforts to acquire a uranium enrichment capacity that would allow them to become a nuclear weapons state,” said Rep. Markey.  “Congress, the American people, and the international community have sent the Administration a strong signal that it’s time to give diplomacy a chance for success.” 

The State Department letter released today said that, “Both the President and Secretary Rice have said that the United States is committed to a peaceful, multilateral, diplomatic resolution to this issue.”  The letter also indicated that the Bush Administration’s was now willing to enter into negotiations with Iran should it suspend uranium-enrichment activities.  The letter also noted that the Administration was seeking to “build a consensus that sends a strong message to the Iranian regime:  it must either work on a solution, or become further isolated from the international community.”  The letter also stated that “We will continue to work with the international community to seek an end to Iran’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to counter Iran’s support for terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.”

“Threats of a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike are counterproductive to our security goals because they will harden Iran’s negotiating position.  Such threats also damage our larger nonproliferation efforts by undermining long-standing U.S. policy guaranteeing non-nuclear states that we won’t use our nuclear weapons against them,” Markey concluded.

Below is the letter that was sent to the President last month and can also be found here: 07-31-06 - State Dept reply to Markey letter.pdf

June 19, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are heartened by recent reports indicating that the U.S. is now directly engaged in international negotiations aimed at peacefully resolving concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.  In connection with those discussions, we believe it would be important and constructive for you to clarify a statement you made earlier this year which suggested that the U.S. might be considering the option of a pre-emptive nuclear attack against Iran.

As you will recall, on April 18, 2006, you were asked “Sir, when you talk about Iran and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table.  Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike?”  Your response to this question was “All options are on the table.”  

While we share your concern about Iran’s irresponsible violations of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and safeguards agreement which Iran signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we do not believe that the U.S. should threaten to use nuclear weapons to resolve this crisis.  We would also note that as the U.S. seeks to ensure strict Iranian compliance with its obligations under the NPT, we should keep in mind the fact that  in connection with the 1995 NPT review conference, the United States issued a statement reaffirming earlier U.N. Security Council pledges that the U.S. “will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.”  This position was reaffirmed on February 22, 2002 by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher when he said “The formulation I have is the formulation we have been using since 1995, and that is that the United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a state toward which it has a security commitment carried out, or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.”  These negative security assurances have been a longstanding U.S. policy, as Mr. Boucher emphasized by saying “Everything I said has been said consistently for 20 or 30 years, and that remains the situation.”

Global security will be greatly threatened if Iran develops nuclear weapons.  However, a U.S. pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran would likely have catastrophic consequences that would undermine U.S. security objectives – both in the Middle East and around the world.  We therefore urge you to make it clear that the U.S. is not actively considering first use of nuclear weapons against Iran in response to its efforts to obtain uranium enrichment capabilities.  We understand that in a crisis, many options – including military options – must be carefully considered.  But we believe there is still time for diplomacy, including a continuation of the dialogue that recently began over the proposal set forth by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. We urge you to focus your Administration’s efforts on seeking a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

                                          Sincerely,

Edward J. Markey                                           Howard L. Berman
            John Conyers, Jr.                                Pete Stark
            Tammy Baldwin                                  James P. McGovern
            Betty McCollum                                   Diane E. Watson
            Rush D. Holt                                        Lynn C. Woolsey
            Jim McDermott                                    Lloyd Doggett
            Maurice D. Hinchey                              Sam Farr
            Janice D. Schakowsky

Cc: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein
202.225.2836