In talk, Barney Frank calls for U.S. military restraint on Iran
Using military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is neither practical nor necessary, Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, told a room full of students April 22 in the Sherman Function Hall. Frank's speech follows a referendum proposed last semester by the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee, which was passed by the student body to officially denounce a nuclear Iran. Dmitry Vilner '08, the club's advocacy director, said its focus this semester has been on ways Iran can be prevented from building nuclear weapons.
Frank, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Service Committee, said the United Nations should institute sanctions against Iran, rather than attempt to topple the regime, to impede the Islamic republic's pursuit of nuclear weapons..
"We should be doing everything we can short of invasion to keep them from getting nuclear weapons," he said.
The problem the United States faces, Frank said, is getting Russia and China in the U.N. Security Council to agree to the sanctions
Frank also said that the United States' negotiations with Iran are impeded by the war in Iraq.
"An American military assault on Iran would make Iraq more unstable," he said, adding that U.S. troops can't handle going into Iran as they are already over-extended in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Among the lessons the U.S. has learned from Iraq, Frank said, is knowing if and when to topple a regime is a key.
"If your goal is to change a part of a regime's policy, it is a mistake to make it a goal to overthrow that regime unless you have a high chance of success."
The plan to spread democracy "has backfired on us," he said candidly. "It doesn't make sense to give the people more power then piss off the multitudes."
Frank said resulting radicalization and anti-Americanism of the Middle East has eroded the United States' ability to influence policy. "I don't think we're wrong here. I think we're right," he said. "But the rest of the world doesn't have my sense of confidence."
Frank met with club leaders before the event to answer questions.
Aaron Voldman, '09, a campus coordinator of Democracy for America, asked Frank about how the creation of a federal Department of Peace could offer an alternative for handling the crisis. Frank answered that he believed the goals of a Department of Peace are those that should already be covered by the State Department.
Following the event, Voldman said he was disappointed that Frank does not support the creation of a Peace Department.
"I feel he offered no alternative to prevent conflict in the first place, while the Department of Peace does.