The escalation of tensions with Iran, provoked by the Trump administration, is deeply worrisome. The National Council of Churches strongly urges President Trump to pursue a path of diplomacy and negotiations, marked by good faith, in order to avoid war. We draw encouragement from reports the president does not seek war with Iran. We call upon the Administration to fully comply with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” to return to a policy of dialogue, and to remove warships and soldiers from this already fragile region.
Since last fall, when National Security Advisor John Bolton directed acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to develop plans for military action against Iran, the United States has added to the sanctions it placed on Iran after announcing its withdrawal from the JCPOA. A US carrier group has been moved to the Persian Gulf as Iran has responded with threats to resume enriching uranium. This week, US diplomats were withdrawn from Iraq and the US State Department issued a travel alert discouraging Americans from travel to Iraq. These are moves that indicate the US is making preparations for armed hostilities. A downward spiral toward violence and further destabilization, culminating in war, appears to be on the horizon. However, little evidence has been shared that indicates Iran is itself engaged in provocative behavior.
Reports that senior officials see little justification for these hostile actions concern us greatly. “No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Major General Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed anti-ISIS coalition. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt recently stated, “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side. Most of all, we need to make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to renuclearization.” Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported that Iran was in full compliance with its part of the JCPOA.
From NCC’s resolution from November 16, 2002:
The United States dominates the world militarily and increasingly attempts to do so politically. The NCC is especially concerned that in its objectives, the US is increasingly militaristic and unilateral in pursuing political and economic goals... We are particularly distressed to hear of military responses to global political concerns. We call for more intensified efforts to use all possible diplomatic and other international channels to seek peace with justice.
We urge the Trump Administration to quickly de-escalate these tensions with Iran and return to compliance with the JCPOA. We join with our ecumenical partners in praying and working for peace and understanding in the days ahead.
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.
--Jeremiah 4:19-20 NRSV