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Medea Benjamin: We Need to Build Up the Antiwar Movement to Oppose War Against Iran

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The State Department has ordered all non-emergency personnel to evacuate the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Iraq in response to what the White House says is a threat linked to Iran. No further details were given. Iraqi officials expressed skepticism about any purported threats, as did a senior British official who is the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are continuing to mount, despite both parties saying they are not seeking war. The New York Times reports the Pentagon has drawn up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if President Trump decides to take military action against Iran. The U.S. also recently deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region, claiming there was a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.” We speak with CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin about the growing threat of war with Iran and the role of national security adviser John Bolton, who Benjamin says has been pushing for war with Iran for years.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Talking about Trump being frustrated that he was told that they could throw out the democratically elected president of Venezuela, whatever people think of him, do you have a sense that now with this—that now Trump is just shifting focus to Iran right now, where possibly he thinks, to the shock of many, he could be more successful? The State Department just today ordering all non-emergency personnel to evacuate the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Iraq, the order was in response to what the White House says is a threat linked to Iran, though no further details were given. Iraqi officials expressing skepticism about any purported threats, as did a senior British official who’s the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State there. And then you have the exposé in The New York Times that the Trump administration has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to bring 120,000 troops to the region. You just recently returned, Medea Benjamin, from Iran. Can you respond to what’s happening right now?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We are very concerned about what’s happening now. The U.S. has taken so many measures just in the last year or two to move towards a war with Iran, starting with pulling out of the nuclear deal, designating the Iran Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, trying to get the Iranian oil exports down to zero, creating chaos in the Iranian economy. And, of course, Iran is going to prepare itself for what looks like an attack. And this also can be put on John Bolton, who has been calling for an attack on Iran since before he ever got into the administration.

I think this is a time where we have to build up an antiwar movement again. We are seeing a repeat of what happened in Iraq with lies, misinterpretations, not only being put out by this administration, but being echoed by the mainstream media, including The New York Times. We have a mobilization at the Venezuelan Embassy on Saturday in D.C. that we encourage people to come to. And from there, we’re going to be going to the White House to protest this escalation of tensions with Iran and say no to a war with Iran.

We have to be pushing our members of Congress to speak out forcefully against what the Trump administration is now doing and to say this is a totally manufactured crisis and the U.S. people will not stand for another war in the Middle East.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Medea, I wanted to ask you—President Trump, yesterday, after The New York Times report came out, denied that he’s actually issued that order to mobilize 120,000 troops. How do you deal with the reality that so many reports that come out about what the Trump administration is planning to do, then Trump himself comes out and says, “No, I didn’t do that” or “I didn’t order that” or “I’m not doing that”? It’s very difficult to figure out what the policies of this administration are.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Absolutely. And then, in the same breath, he said, “I didn’t order it. But if we were going to do it, we’d send even more than 120,000 troops.” It is, I think, important to understand that these policies are being organized by John Bolton—John Bolton who is so close to the MEK in the case of Iran, John Bolton who has said before that he wants to bomb Iran, John Bolton that is so close to the Saudis and to Israel. And, of course, Donald Trump himself having an even closer relationship to the Saudis and to Israel, has made the situation in Iran extremely dangerous.

The only thing that’s going to counter this is if we get Congress to stand up to pass legislation that says, “We will not allow any unauthorized attack on either Iran or Venezuela”; if we get all the presidential candidates to stand up and say no to an attack on Iran; and if we get the American people to be very loud and clear saying, “We are totally opposed to any attack on Iran.” And further than that, we should be calling for a lifting of the crippling economic sanctions in the case of both Iran and Venezuela. We should be calling for the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. These are positions that we should demand of our members of Congress, the administration and all of the presidential candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, we want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of CodePink, one of the activists who had lived inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., demanding the embassy not be turned over to Venezuelan opposition leaders. She was in Iran earlier this year, the author of several books, including Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her latest book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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