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WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to work to reduce nuclear arms and maintain security in the Middle East in a March 2 letter about Iran from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines. Bishop Pates chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops (USCCB).
Bishop Pates acknowledged “the difficult situation involving our nation, the international community and Iran” including 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,” he said. Bishop Pates noted that the Conference of Bishops has always expressed “strong objection to Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.”
He voiced concern over what he called “an alarming escalation in rhetoric and tensions,” including Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to commercial traffic and speculation on the possible use of force against Iran, including an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
“The Bishops’ Conference urges the U.S. Government to continue to explore all available options to resolve the conflict with Iran through diplomatic, rather than military, means,” Bishop Pates said.
“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 (IAEA), need to be exhausted,” he added.
“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 program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action,” Bishop Pates said.
“Discussing or promoting military options at this time is unwise and may be counterproductive. Actual or threatened military strikes are likely to strengthen the regime in power in Iran and would further marginalize those in Iran who want to abide by international norms. And, as the experience in Iraq teaches, the use of force can have many unintended consequences,” he said.
“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. 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.”
Keywords: Bishop Richard pates, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB , Hillary Clinton, Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran, Middle East, International Atomic Energy Agency
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