It always irks me when I hear someone refer to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” as if it were some foregone conclusion that such a program even exists.  From what we usually hear in the media, you would think the entire international community somehow discovered Iranian scientists in white lab coats secretly assembling missiles with nuclear warheads.  But as we should all know by now, there is no evidence that the Iranian government has any intention of building a nuclear weapons arsenal.  And that’s according to the United States “National Intelligence Estimate”, not to mention Israeli intelligence among countless other sources.  But don’t take my word for it.  All you need to do is visit www.iranfact.org, courtesy of NIAC.

Unfortunately, most media pundits and most of our elected officials don’t visit Iran Fact Check very often.  In fact, most of the general public at large is not aware of the facts surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, thanks mostly to how this topic is covered in the mainstream media.

So, it never surprises me when I hear friends and coworkers make reference to Iran’s nuclear “weapons” program…I’ve come to expect that by now.  But when I hear my own elected official from my own district tell me personally that the Iranian government is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, that’s when I have to draw the line and speak up.

And that’s exactly what I did in July of this year after receiving a letter from my congresswoman thanking me for contacting her about sanctions and assuring me that we must “take effective action to address the threat posed by Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Yep, sure enough, even my Congresswoman effectively told me that Iran was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  Really?, I thought to myself…  Even though U.S. and Israeli intelligence and the IAEA still haven’t come to that conclusion, you have somehow figured that out that Iran has a program that no one else knows about?

So, I wrote back, and here is what I said:

Dear Ms Lofgren,

First and foremost, I would like to extend my thanks to you for signing the Dent-Price letter.  As an Iranian-American and proud member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), we feel it is extremely important that the United States vigorously pursue diplomacy with Iran to resolve any outstanding differences between the countries.  The Dent-Price letter is one small but very important step towards that end.

I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to you for the emails I received on July 12th and again on July 26th regarding diplomacy with Iran (I have attached them both below).  It is absolutely critical that we do all we can to avoid any military confrontation with Iran, so I am encouraged by your comments.

However, I would like to respond to one of the statements in your letter from July 12th wherein you expressed your belief “that we must take effective action to address the threat posed by Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons”.  It is important to note that neither the U.S. nor Israeli intelligence agencies have any evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear “weapon” at this time, as has been stated by each on more than one occasion.

So, for the record, I’d like to include a practical resource put together by NIAC which addresses the facts when it comes to Iran and nuclear weapons:

http://www.iranfact.org/do-the-u-s-and-israel-believe-iran-is-developing-nuclear-weapons/

I believe it is extremely important that we all choose words carefully and be mindful of semantics when referring to Iran’s nuclear program, and not blur the line between nuclear enrichment and nuclear weapons.

Inaccuracies regarding nuclear and biological weapons have already played a key role in persuading Americans to support our military intervention in Iraq.  So, I think we can agree that it would be prudent to avoid this same semantic confusion now when it comes to U.S. relations with Iran and at a time when U.S. military forces are already stretched too thin and the budget deficit looms large.

Now is definitely not the time to set the stage for another war in the Middle East.

So, again, I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation for any and all of your efforts towards diplomacy, and not war, with Iran.

Sincerely,

Paul Fogarty

I can’t say I expected much of a response, if anything, but to my surprise I received a personalized reply directly from my congresswoman effectively thanking me for having corrected her:

Dear Mr. Fogarty:

Thank you for following up with me regarding Iran. I appreciate your kind words about my efforts to pursue diplomacy, and I understand your concerns about semantics when discussing Iran’s nuclear program.  I appreciate that you brought this to my attention.  Please be assured that I will keep your thoughtful comments in mind going forward, and I hope you will not hesitate to contact me in the future if I may ever be of assistance to you or your family.

Sincerely

Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress

And, as if that were not enough, two weeks later I received another reply acknowledging my efforts as one of the reasons she ultimately signed on to the “Dent-Price” letter (emphasis added):

Dear Mr. Fogarty:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Iran, and specifically the letter circulated by my colleagues, Reps. Dent and Price. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with me.

Due in part to your advocacy, I have signed onto the letter.  I have grave concerns about the worldwide effects of a military conflict with Iran, and hope that we can avoid that outcome with redoubled diplomacy.

Again, thanks for being in touch. If I may ever be of any assistance to you or your family, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely

Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress

Now, the Dent-Price letter was written to encourage the president to live up to his campaign promise of pursuing diplomacy with Iran–especially now that Iran has a new president.  So, at the behest of NIAC, I also encouraged my representative to sign the Dent Price letter which the NIAC staff (along with J-Street and various other peace groups) worked so diligently to distribute to members of congress.  And here is proof positive that my efforts paid off.

So, what’s the takeaway message here?  Fact check your representative!  It works!  And furthermore, speak up on any issue that’s important to you.  Your voice is heard and it does make a difference.