Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Benefits of a US-Iran Alliance

Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the OKC Peace House (right) demonstrates in Oklahoma City with other members of Americans Against the Next War.  Photo by Darla Shelden

By Nathaniel Batchelder, Americans Against the Next War

The US must not miss the opening right before us for agreements with Iran that would bring economic benefits to both nations.  Such an alliance seems possible because the nuclear negotiations have been extended, and Iran is in compliance with dramatic demands for intrusive inspections by beefed up U.N. inspection teams.

The greatest benefit so far to the US and Iran is that negotiations have forestalled military action advocated by hawks, which could have sparked A regional war.  The US has far more to gain with Iran as an ally than an adversary.

Iran’s population of 60 million people is a huge untapped market that is not yet open to US businesses, although European industries are moving in to establish trade.  America’s ranchers and farmers would benefit from trade with Iran, because that country will buy meat and wheat, as well as other products common in our society.

Despite the historic tensions between our countries, the Iranian people remain pro-US and pro-western. On the evening of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US, a candlelight vigil in Tehran, Iran, gathered some 10,000 participants in a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for the death and destruction caused by the attacks.

Iran is not only the oldest culture in the world, it is also the most sophisticated and western in the Middle East. Education and literacy rates in Iran are the highest in the Middle East, and the education of women is not controversial. Iran’s universities currently graduate more women than men.

Iran’s formidable size, population, regional influence, as well as common interests with the US in stability in the region, make an alliance with Iran a step beneficial to both nations.  

Iran and the U.S. – Choosing Commonality

(Hal Spake at the recent Peace Festival.)

By Hal Spake, Americans Against the Next War

With the recent extension of the nuclear enrichment talks between the US and Iran, there has been a rising crescendo of calls for a military response, mostly from the same camp that gave us the gift of war In Iraq.  

The talks between the two countries are complicated by long-standing resentments on both sides.  Americans remember the 1979 Iran Embassy hostage crisis during the Carter administration. Iranians’ remember 1953, when the CIA’s Middle-East Bureau Chief engineered a coup deposing Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister.  The popular Mohammed Mossadegh was replaced with the Shah and his brutal enforcers, the Savak.  This was done because Britain wanted to reclaim Iran’s oil.  


Unfortunately many Americans don’t know this history.  News production in the US is by an industry that profits from entertaining or scaring people, and providing little content or historical information.  This failure to inform the populous is a betrayal of our heritage.  The results are ever-increasing levels of national anxiety and anger.  

Not one national news program reminds us that, of the 51 predominately Muslim nations, over half are democracies. Eight of those countries have had female leaders. Few media outlets reported the spontaneous candle light vigils in Iran after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. More than 10,000 people gathered in Tehran to express sympathy and support for the American People. Such events seldom make the news because reporters must report stories about tragedies, outrages, and celebrities.

Today offers a turning point in our history.  We can begin sweeping away the CIA’s “Legacy of Ashes” in the Middle East. The people of Iran are unabashedly pro-American.  The majority of Iran’s population was born after the ascent of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and most wish for a more representative government.  

The current Government of Iran helped the U.S. in organizing the Northern Alliance and Pashtun tribal leaders that overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan.  When the U.S. decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iranians again offered aid and intelligence services. The U.S. declined.  

Normalizing relations with Iran is a win/win for the U.S.  It redefines our apparent destructive role in the area and demonstrates our willingness to lead toward improved relations. It gives us an ally in the area that understands the culture as we engage ISIS.

We must also look at the bigger picture. If peace is to be achieved in the Middle East, the recurring conflicts must be resolved between Jews, Christians and Muslims – the three Abrahamic religions. As Jonathan Sachs, Chief Rabbi of London, said, “Religion… is like fire, and like fire it warms but also burns.  And we are the guardians of the flame.”  

The Hebrew Bible, in Genesis 12:1-3, teaches that God told Abraham, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless you and those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse.”  

Jews believe this covenant was passed to Isaac, Abraham’s youngest son.  As the founder of their tribe they believe the covenant was in turn passed to them. What is rarely taught is that Ishmael, Isaac’s older brother, was also told by God that he, too, would be the father of a great nation (Genesis 17:20).  

Muslims believe this covenant was passed to the followers of the prophet Mohammed as revealed in the Quran.  Both brothers and their descendants were blessed by God, and those who curse them are cursed by God.  Christians believe this blessing was passed to them through Jesus.

So the stage is set for Iran and the US to establish a mutually beneficial future. If we are to be warmed and comforted by our various religious beliefs, rather than consumed by their excesses, religious leaders, ministers, priests, rabbis and imams must teach how each of the Abrahamic traditions received God’s blessing and how each, when they heap curses on the others, are cursing themselves.  

"Is a US-Iranian Alliance Possible?"

By Nathaniel Batchelder, Americans Against the Next War

Congress and the American people have many reasons to cheer the progress of US negotiations with Iran. Both nations have much to gain from a successful outcome and improved relations.  

The conflicts threatening Iraq and tensions with Russia underscore the value of pursuing positive relations with Iran. The possibility of a US-Iranian alliance would benefit the whole Middle East. Is this possible?

Since the inauguration last summer of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran has displayed a totally new openness to improved relations with the US.  Iranians elected Rouhani because they were frustrated by the confrontational strutting of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose belligerent rhetoric undermined Iranian credibility, emboldened US hawks, and made Israel nervous.  

President Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif strongly desire increased trade and tourism based on respect and mutual benefit.  They have both staked their future on improved relations with western nations.

In January, the US and Iran agreed to a six-month period of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.  A prerequisite was Iranian compliance with several pre-conditions, which Iran is meeting. Iran agreed to increased access for inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to sensitive sites, and this was done.  

The IAEA has increased the numbers of inspection teams in Iran and numbers of inspectors on each team. Iran is providing information about its uranium enrichment program, which it has always avowed is purely for energy and medical purposes.  Iran has also reduced its uranium enrichment capabilities, confirmed by the IAEA.

The six-month period of negotiations will conclude in mid-July, at which time an agreement or treaty may be announced, or the negotiations period may be extended.  Either way, it is good news for all sides that Iran and the US are on the road to better relations.

Amid the attacks of the ISIS group in Iraq, and increased tensions with Russia over the Ukraine, an emerging harmony between the US and Iran could change the political equation. As a neighbor to Iraq, Iran could potentially get involved opposing ISIS to stabilize Iraq.  And, should tensions with Russia worsen, Iran’s oil and natural gas reserves could replace Russia’s exports to Europe.  Iran also wants to import beef and wheat from the US, a benefit to ranchers and farmers in states like Oklahoma.

There are skeptical factions in the US and Iran concerning the negotiations who are suspicious of “the other side.”  Israel has historically believed that Iran was secretly preparing to build an atomic weapon, and takes the position that Iran must abandon all uranium enrichment, even that permitted by international treaties for their nuclear power plants.  At various times the Israeli government and its supporters have advocated military strikes on Iran’s enrichment facilities.  They should all be satisfied by reports from the IAEA inspectors that there is no evidence of Iran wanting an atomic weapon.

Iran is a cultured nation, three times the area of Iraq, with a population of 80 million people – almost three times the population of Iraq or Saudi Arabia.  Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, with urban settlements dating back to 4,000 B.C.  Iran also has a formidable modern military, which could serve the interests for Middle East stability, if our nations worked together.

The compelling benefits to the US, Iran, and the Middle East, of a positive outcome to the negotiations are clear. Let all sides encourage and celebrate this progress.

Nathaniel Batchelder is director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City, and a member of Americans Against The Next War

Negotiations With Iran Serve U.S. Interests

By Nathaniel Batchelder, Americans Against the Next War

Ongoing negotiations with Iran could lead to normalized relations, even a major trading partner with the US. Iran would import US beef and grains, benefiting Oklahoma producers. US firms serving the petroleum and other industries are eager to open offices in Iran and become trading partners.  Releasing Iran’s oil production would lower the world oil price, giving Americans relief at the gas pumps.

As diplomatic relations improve, Iran might well become an ally for regional stability, peace, and the security of US interests.  Iran is the size of Alaska with a population of 75 million and an advanced military. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are western educated and pro-western, reaching out to change Iran’s image.

TV personality Rick Steves (“Rick Steves’ Europe”) calls Iran “the most misunderstood country he has ever visited.” His 2008 documentary about his tourism in Iran reports a modern and developed society, the majority of whom admire the US and the western world.  

Iran maintains that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes – nuclear energy and medical uses.  Skeptics in Congress and Israel do not believe this, but the IAEA, doing inspections in Iran for years, has never reported evidence to the contrary.

Despite naysayers and obstructionists, the negotiations that Iran agreed to with the P5+1 nations (U.S., China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) are on track. There is great promise in the progress thus far:

UN inspectors with the IAEA report that Iran is complying with the demands of the agreement. According to the IAEA, Iran has stopped producing 20% enriched uranium (UF6); has disabled centrifuges producing UF6; has begun diluting its stockpile of UF6 to be complete in six months;  has stopped installing additional centrifuges;  has begun providing information required by the agreements;  and is granting increasing access to IAEA inspectors.

The IAEA is doubling the numbers of their inspection teams and is installing additional monitoring equipment. All this means enhanced transparency of Iran’s nuclear program for the international community. “Trust but verify” has an honorable tradition in serious negotiations.

Nathaniel Batchelder is director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City, and a member of Americans Against The Next War.

Protesting the Keystone PIpeline

Oklahoma City activist and grandmother, Nancy Zorn, 79, using a bike-lock, attached her neck directly to an earth-mover, which brought construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to a halt, outside Allen, OK.  Photo courtesy Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance

Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are two Oklahoma City activists with the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, arrested for nonviolently protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Opposition to the pipeline and development of the Canadian tar sands is based on a long-range view of tar sands development and its threat to sustainability on earth.

A major concern is the huge contribution tar sands oil is projected to make to global warming and climate change.  Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that the primary cause of global warming is the rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 and methane resulting from human activities.  

NASA’s leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”

Climate scientists tell us humanity must reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level over 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.  Every species, every habitat, all of earth’s life systems are threatened by global warming and climate change.  

Australia’s Great Barrier coral reefs show signs of dying.  Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers around the world are melting.  Extreme weather is reported regularly.  Storms and rising seas flood coastlines where billions live.

The Canadian tar sands region to be deforested and mined is the size of Florida.  The tar sands product is a toxic substance that must be mixed into a volatile slurry to be piped through the U.S. to Texas. Leaks and spills from the Keystone XL pipeline will threaten water sources all along its route.  

TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipelines leaked 14 times in one year. In 2010, another spill dumped a million gallons of crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.  The recent oil spill in Arkansas is yet another wake-up call.

Unions supporting Keystone are eager for jobs.  But the pipeline crew is basically hired, and, in any case, pipeline construction will be temporary.  By contrast, clean energy jobs will be permanent, cannot be exported, and slow the warming of earth’s atmosphere.  

The implications of global warming got attention with the 1989 publication of Bill McKibben’s book “The End of Nature.”  He explained the heat-trapping quality of CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases.  He reported the average car generates its own weight in CO2 every year.  

Burning coal for electricity is another major source adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Global warming reduces worldwide food production and threatens natural systems that support life.

President Obama’s “all of the above” strategy supports all energy sources including fossil fuel production.   This must be replaced with a “clean energy now” strategy favoring development of non-polluting and eternal energy sources like wind and solar, to help shift away from CO2-producing fossil fuels.

Future generations call us to say “No” to the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Nathaniel Batchelder

Director, OKC Peace House

Voting for Peace

Image of Nathaniel Batchelder

OK Gazette…

By Nathaniel Batchelder

Thinking about the Nov. 6 elections, it is clear to me that we the people must stand in the gap to reverse America’s drift toward becoming a nation and government of, for and by the few doing very well, while the many struggle merely to get by. The stakes are daunting.

It is shocking that candidates on the national scene express commitment to giving more tax cuts to the wealthy and addressing the deficit only by cutting social programs serving America’s most vulnerable. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act, removing health insurance from some 30 million qualifying people. They would privatize Medicare with vouchers.


They would shift resources out of public schools with vouchers. They oppose as “job killers” government regulation of industry, banking, and finance. They oppose labor rights and raising the minimum wage. They propose cutting the Environmental Protection Agency and oppose legislation to protect the air, the oceans and the land.

They dismiss as “unproven” the consensus of the scientific community that production of heat-trapping gases is the primary cause of global warming and climate change. They would pass a personhood amendment to the Constitution restricting women’s reproductive choices, and already have curtailed reproductive freedoms in every state they could.

Aging members of the Supreme Court are likely to retire soon, their replacements to be nominated by the next president. And, once again, we are hearing dangerous talk accusing a foreign nation – Iran – of being a threat and source of weapons of mass destruction, reminiscent of the accusations that prepared America for war on Iraq.

Those listening regularly to Fox News radio and TV are wildly misled by purposeful distortions and misinformation into voting against their own interests. Huge financial support for the political agenda of the 1 percent must be countered with people power, doing what we can to encourage voting for the agenda of the reasonable majority.

I urge everyone passionate about justice and peace to take personal action encouraging voter turnout in November for candidates who will legislate for the common good and general interest of all people and earth’s challenged environment.

Our voices have power. We can speak fearlessly with family and friends; pen a brief expression of our political hopes and the importance of voting and send our note to select recipients; help with a particular campaign that speaks to us. Many are already doing these and other things.

Just imagine more people voting in 2012 than in 2008. Most important is to vote on Nov. 6, and keep hope alive.

Batchelder is director of The Peace House, an Oklahoma City nonprofit addressing human rights, economic justice, environmental sustainability and peace.

Oklahoma City billboards call for 'No War on Iran'

Oklahoma activists from the group Americans Against the Next War (AANW) are working to prevent military action or war against Iran.  They have contracted with a local outdoor advertising company for three billboards, now on display in the metro area, carrying their message: “Tell Congress: No War on Iran.”

A news conference was held Tuesday morning, July 10, in Oklahoma City, to announce the billboards, their metro locations, and present the coalition of churches, organizations and individuals cosponsoring, endorsing and funding the project.  

Speakers at the news conference included Dr. Katherine Scheirman, Col.  USAF (ret); Bob Lemon, Oklahoma City philanthropist and human rights activist;  and John Scripsick, Gold Star father whose son was killed in Iraq.  Director of the Peace House Nathaniel Batchelder served as emcee for the news conference.

AANW is a group of concerned citizens that has met weekly since February in central Oklahoma to take actions expressing concern about increasingly inflammatory rhetoric that could spark military action and war against Iran. AANW’s projects have been endorsed or cosponsored by a growing number of Oklahoma churches, organizations and individuals lending their voices to calls for restraint and patience to let the negotiations process go forward.

“We are especially concerned that a constant state of war now seems normal to a whole generation of Americans,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, Director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.  “We hope that our advocacy for non-military solutions to international disagreements will resonate with other war-weary Americans who will contact Congress with that message, too.”

“The same people who were cheerleading for the Iraq War are now fear-mongering about the threat from Iran, said Dr. Scheirman. “The reality is that Iran is a second rate military power, with an economy being crippled by poor management and international sanctions. It is isolated in the Middle East and surrounded by US military bases. I agree with Ron Paul who said that the threat to US national security is not Iran, but endless wars.”

Oklahoma City resident and donor to the billboards project Bob Lemon said, “I oppose war.  I see men and women dying, children losing arms, legs, and eyes, and I oppose another war.”

Rev. Bruce Prescott said, “Frankly, I am opposed to nuclear weaponry in any nation’s arsenal.  As long as the world turns a blind eye to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and Israel, it is hypocritical to be alarmed about the possibility that Iran might acquire them. We need to be working for the nuclear disarmament of all nations.”

“Our generals and Secretary of Defense confirm that Iran is not building nuclear bombs,” said Jalal Farzaneh, AANW member and resident of Norman, Oklahoma. “We ask Congress to say no to a war on Iran based on faulty intelligence, and to not put our troops in harm’s way. This war will not serve America’s interests,” he said.

Some of the churches and organizations endorsing or supporting the project include Mayflower Congregational Church;  Church of the Open Arms, UCC;  Joy Mennonite Church;  First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City;  Tulsa Peace Fellowship;  Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House;  National Lawyers Guild, Oklahoma Chapter;  Peace Education Institute;  Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research;  and others.

Individuals supporting or endorsing the billboard project include: Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson;  Bill Bryant, President, United Nations Association of OKC;  Dr. Martha Skeeters, PhD, University of Oklahoma Associate Professor;  Kenneth Meador, Iraq war veteran;  and many others.

AANW believes that the prominent public voices calling for war are ill advised, and that Congress and the American public should carefully examine the motivations and arguments behind calls for military action. “War has profound consequences to our economy and families not felt by media pundits and hawks in Congress whose bellicose words can make war sound like a reasonable option,” Batchelder said.

The “No War On Iran” billboard locations in the metro area are:  on I-35, north of SE 15, east side of the road facing north;  on I-35, 1/2 mile north of Britton road, west side of road facing south;  and on I-40, west of Yukon (Clarence Page airport), north side of road, facing west.

“Our billboards demonstrate that voices for peace and negotiations are now crucial to the process of resolving issues with Iran,” said Batchelder. “A war with Iran would raise world oil prices, reverse our fragile economic recovery, and plunge the U.S. into further debt.”

For more information and a larger list of endorsements visit the website: