Congressman Mike Doyle talks Iran and the Middle East

By Gretchen Andersen

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., made it clear that military action against Iran’s nuclear program… U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., made it clear that military action against Iran’s nuclear program should be carefully weighed and “all options should be on the table.”

“As far as I’m concerned, military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon should be our absolute last resort,” Doyle said.

Doyle’s comments were part of “Congressman Doyle on the Middle East,” an event held Friday night in the William Pitt Union and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The representative’s speech focused on U.S.-Israel relations, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and the role of the U.S. in the Middle East. About 20 students and community members attended the 30-minute speech and 15-minute question and answer session.

Doyle spoke about how the recent Arab Spring uprisings in countries like Egypt, Jordan and Syria have raised questions about Israel’s security. However, despite the changes, Doyle said U.S. support for Israel will not falter.

One of the “greatest challenges,” Doyle said, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Doyle said if Israel and the Palestine could reach a peace agreement, it would “mitigate public hostility toward Israel and improve the security situation.”

However, he also said that the possibility of a peace agreement seems “difficult, and maybe even impossible, in the immediate future.”

Doyle also spoke about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and efforts by the Obama Administration, Congress and the United Nations to sanction and talk with Iranian leaders, pointing to legislation passed by Congress in December sanctioning banks and businesses with Iran’s central bank.

A military attack on Iran is being studied by both the U.S. and Israeli militaries, Doyle said.

“Needless to say, Iran’s response has been very intense: It’s threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers. The Iranian government has also threatened to cut off oil to the EU immediately before those countries can get alternative supplies,” Doyle said.

Doyle, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted that energy experts recently estimated that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities could increase the price of gas in the United States to almost $6 a gallon.

In Doyle’s opinion, if the new sanctions — which he said “have teeth” — don’t work, then “we need to talk about military options.”

“But I think it only makes sense to see whether the new financial sanctions and the EU’s oil boycott will have a desired effect,” Doyle said.

Despite the current sanctions, Doyle said it is “irresponsible” for presidential candidates to push for military action at this time and he doesn’t believe it should be a way to score points in the presidential race.

Junior Sam Lapin, a member of PIPAC, agreed. Lapin said voters understand when candidates are pandering to them for votes. Lapin said military action has to be solely considered as a last resort and nothing else.

“It’s almost offensive advocating war. I have family in Israel, and if there is a war, I know people who will be immediately called up [to the military],” Lapin said.

Doyle, who has four children, said he thinks of them when talking about military action.

“Any time we talk of war, I think that is something we should do lightly, and not something to get votes. I think it’s important to remember we are talking about committing young men and women,” Doyle said.

Organizer of the event Noah Tankin, a sophomore, said he asked Doyle to visit campus to talk about the Middle East because of the recent events in Gaza, Syria, Egypt and Iran.

Tankin said Iran’s nuclear weapon program would be a game changer in the Middle East, initiating an arms race in the region.

“Come November, after the elections, we’ll see who really cares,” Tankin said.