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Republicans Try To Bully US Into Attacking Iran

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So far, the Republican-controlled 114th Congress has attacked women's reproductive rights and savaged undocumented immigrants. Now they want to bully the Administration into attacking Iran.

A classic "Psychology Today" article summarized the voluminous research on bullies. Usually they are hotheads who believe that aggression is the best way to resolve conflicts. Often they perceive provocation where it does not actually exist. They start fights. They have a strong need to dominate and typically pick on those perceived as weaker. Longitudinal studies indicate that while bullies may start out with normal intelligence levels, their aggressive behavior ultimately impairs their intellectual functions. One psychologist observed that bullies "are experts at using short-term payoffs. They're not very good at long-range things that are in their best interest."

The Republican congressional behavior is classic bullying: "repeated, aggressive behavior intended to gain power over another." Research suggests that bullies typically have low self-esteem. Republicans act the way they do because they're deeply insecure; they doubt their masculinity. This explains why the GOP-dominated Congress, mostly white men, bully women, racial and ethnic minorities, and most anyone who doesn't agree with them. It also explains their adoration of "manly" leaders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vladimir Putin, and Bibi Netanyahu.

Now Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has scheduled bellicose Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress on March 3rd. Netanyahu will provide his opinion of US negotiations with Iran -- why they won't work. It's an attempt to bully the Obama Administration into attacking Iran.

Congressional Republicans don't like President Obama because he's black, liberal, and because they believe he's "soft." Therefore, Republicans have dogmatically dismissed his domestic policy initiatives, whether for job creation, gender equity, immigration, or healthcare. During the President's second term they've expanded this to include foreign policy, particularly initiatives in Iran and Syria. Boehner isn't happy with the negotiations with Iran and, therefore, took the diplomatically unprecedented move of inviting the hawkish Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress.

On November 24, 2013, an interim agreement was signed by Iran and the six western negotiating nations: China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. Iran rolled back part of its nuclear program in return for some relief from economic sanctions (that had crippled its economy). The parties agreed to extend the talks until July 1, 2015. At issue are the numbers and capabilities of Iran's centrifuges, the size of a uranium stockpile, verification processes, and the duration of the agreement. The intent is keeping Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

Republicans (and Netanyahu) believe that President Obama and the other negotiators are too accommodating. Therefore, they propose levying new sanctions on Iran before the July 1, 2015, deadline for negotiations.

In his State-of-the-Union address President Obama responded: "Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies -- including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails -- alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn't make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress."

Obama stood up to the Republican bullies.

Nonetheless, Speaker Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress without consulting the President or the Democratic House and Senate leadership. It was an unprecedented move. Israeli opposition leaders said Netanyahu's invitation, "contradicts protocol and rules of propriety." Secretary of State John Kerry observed: "In Israel" one of the top intelligence personnel within the Israeli intelligence field" was asked directly by a congressional delegation that visited there over the weekend what the effect of sanctions would be. And this person answered that it would be like throwing a grenade into the process."

But Republicans don't care about protocol and the rules of propriety. They are bullies and, with their invitation to Netanyahu, have expanded their "field of play" to the entire scope of Administration policy. We can expect a series of similar speeches criticizing Obama's foreign policy. Republicans have long admired Russian premiere Vladimir Putin for his manly image and bare-knuckles political style. Perhaps he will be the next invitee to the Boehner speaker series. He could speak about Russian policy to quench dissent, suppress ethnic minorities, and repress members of the LGBT community.

US foreign policy should be determined by adults not by bullies. America ended up fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the bully politics of the Bush administration. Enough is enough. Republicans need to back off and disinvite Bibi Netanyahu.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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