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Don’t pull the trigger on Iran bishops counsel

WASHINGTON DC (SE) : “Resolve conflict with Iran through diplomatic, not military means,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says in a March 2 letter addressed to the secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The bishops are encouraging their government to work to reduce nuclear arms and maintain security in the Middle East, without recourse to war.

“Promoting military options at this time is unwise, even counterproductive,” the bishops say. 

The chairperson of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard Pates, says, “The difficult situation involving our nation, the international community and Iran,” includes Iran’s refusal to acknowledge its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to open its facilities for inspection.

“Their refusal exacerbates suspicions that Iran is developing its nuclear capability to produce weapons rather than energy,” the bishop of Des Moines says.

He adds that the bishops’ conference has always expressed “strong objection to Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.”

He then quotes from the just War Theory of the Catholic Church, saying, “Before military options are considered, all alternatives, including effective and targeted sanctions and incentives for Iran to engage in diplomacy and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, need to be exhausted.”

The bishop continues, “In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort. Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear programme and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action.”

Bishop Pates predicted that even threatened strikes could well serve to strengthen the hold on power of the current regime in Tehran and further marginalise more moderate voices in the country that counsel abiding by international norms.

He added that as history teaches us, this type of experience in the Islamic Republic of Iran can have unintended and unforeseen consequences.

“Iran is an example of the significant threat posed to global security by a proliferation of nuclear weapons. The specific situation of Iran should be viewed within the wider search for a just and peaceful world built on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament,” Bishop Pates continues.

“A morally responsible nonproliferation strategy must be tied to a clear strategy for reducing and ultimately ending the reliance on nuclear weapons by any country. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty itself ties nonproliferation to eventual nuclear disarmament,” he concludes.

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