Antiwar protesters demonstrated Saturday outside the suburban New Jersey home of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D–N.J.) over his opposition to diplomacy with Iran.
The protest was led by Codepink and Peace Action NJ. About two dozen people marched to the house in the upscale suburb of Englewood Cliffs where Menendez’s third wife lives and the senator spends much of the year.
The demonstrators also set up a haft sin — a table spread Iranians traditionally put out for the beginning of spring — outside the house and left a letter at the front door.
“We’re actually hopeful right now that there can be a deal made, because of the meeting that’s happening on Tuesday in Vienna,” Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Responsible Statecraft. “But so much of it depends on Menendez and his cadre to not muck it up. And he’s done so much already to stop the United States from rejoining the deal, and it’s made us very angry.”
Iran and the United States have agreed to begin indirect talks in Austria over rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal, a stated goal of the Biden administration. The deal, which the Trump administration had broken from in 2018, placed strict restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for six world powers ending their economic embargo on Iran.
Menendez had opposed the deal when it was first negotiated, and recently led a petition alongside Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) pushing the Biden administration to take a tough line on Iran. The petition, backed by the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was seen by pro-diplomacy advocates as an effort to derail a return to the deal.
Menendez and Graham’s letter stated that its signatories have “differing views on the [2015 deal] and the overall approach of the Trump Administration’s maximum pressure campaign,” and calls on the administration to “use the full force of our diplomatic and economic tools” to pressure Iran on its regional policies and conventional missile program.
“They pretend that they’re in line with the Biden administration, but they’re not in line with the Biden administration,” said Benjamin, who called on Menendez to publicly commit to supporting the talks with Iran.
Iranian-American human rights activist Manijeh Saba said she joined the protest because Menendez “has supported every war” and “the Iranian people are suffering so much” under U.S. economic sanctions.
“I’m not doing this because I support the Iranian government,” she added. “I’ve never supported the Iranian government. They actually threw me in jail, took my passport away for six years.”
Twenty-year Air Force veteran Ed Dugan, who has had numerous members of his family serve in the U.S. military, also spoke about the American people’s interest in diplomacy with Iran.
“My biggest reason — I brought with me — is my eleven year old son,” he said in a speech. “I don’t want to still be at war when he gets old enough for military service.”