As violence continues to rage in Iraq, a new confrontation is looming with neighboring Iran. The government of Iran seems determined to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, and the U.S. is determined to prevent them, including by a possible military attack. While we agree Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons, we come together as religious leaders to urge that the U.S. engage in direct negotiations with Iran as an alternative to military action in resolving the crisis.
We are encouraged that the U.S. government is cooperating with European countries and international agencies. While we welcome the U.S. willingness to join multilateral talks with Iran, we believe that a strategy of direct U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran without preconditions is the surest means of reducing the nuclear danger and enhancing security in the region. The United States should negotiate with Iran on a mutually acceptable settlement of the nuclear standoff while making it clear that Americans absolutely reject anti-Semitism and threats against Israel. In response to the real threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, strategic combinations of pressures and incentives must be seriously and persistently tried, beginning with direct negotiations.
U.S. negotiations with Iran could also help resolve the crisis in Iraq. The U.S. should seek Iran’s support for international efforts to rebuild and stabilize Iraq, in conjunction with an orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, the removal of foreign military bases, and the renouncing of any proprietary American claims on Iraqi oil and reconstruction contracts.