Iranian Policy Questioned at Alexandria Town Meeting

By Kirstin Downey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A town hall meeting on U.S. policy toward Iran drew more than 800 people in Alexandria last night, many of them denouncing government policies that they said are pushing the country toward another war in the Mideast.

At a sometimes-heated public forum conducted by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), almost all of the area residents who spoke raised pointed questions about the possible consequences of a U.S. attack on Iran, which many seemed to believe was imminent.

Moran, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said that the Bush administration seemed set on a similar course in Iran. He said the administration had sought $100 million to outfit B-2 aircraft with bombs capable of penetrating 60 feet of concrete before exploding. Such weapons, he said, would be needed only to attack a nation capable of protecting a weapons program in deep bunkers.

Moran also said there was a "drumbeat of rhetoric" that reminded him of the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Many in the audience indicated that they believed that the Bush administration has had a series of failures in the Mideast and that its policies have made the situation there worse.

Suggestions that Vice President Cheney should be impeached drew vigorous applause.

"Cheney is working every day to find a pretext to launch an attack on Iran," one woman in the audience said.

Moran said that impeaching Cheney would be a bad idea.

"Many people ask me about impeaching Cheney, but if we impeached Cheney, we'd need to deal with Bush," Moran said.

In response to a question about Israel's role in U.S. foreign policy, Moran said that he disagrees with the policies of those he identified as the Israeli lobby in the United States and believes they are "counterproductive." He said other groups should work equally hard to shift U.S. policies in other directions.

In recent months, President Bush has said that if Iran built nuclear weapons, it could provoke "World War III."

Many people have questioned whether he plans military action rather than diplomacy to halt Iranian nuclear efforts.

Some at last night's meeting asked what should be done about human rights abuses in Iran, with one questioner asserting that public hangings are becoming commonplace there as a means to intimidate dissidents.

Many people in the audience said they were pleased by the large turnout at the forum, titled "Is Iran Next?"

"It's good to see people are beginning to wake up to what's going on in the Middle East," said Robert Lehmberg of Alexandria, who described himself as a conservative Republican. "Our policies there are completely screwed up."

"My sense is that we're losing control of this government, and that scares me," said Betty Guttmann of Alexandria, who said she was a Democrat. "I gave up bowling to come to this."

The event was held at the landmark George Washington Masonic Temple. Traffic at the base of the towering structure was snarled as police told motorists the parking lot had overflowed.

It appeared that many people were parking on surrounding streets and walking uphill to reach the meeting.

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