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E Pluribus Unum

It’s no challenge trying to find an American flag and seal in the U.S. State Department. Almost every place you look, you can find our nation’s beautiful seal decorated with these powerful words, “E Pluribus Unum” meaning Out of Many One.

But the reason I went to the State Department was not just to admire the flags and phrases, but to attend a conference,  The Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum.  As an Iranian American, I was interested to hear from Hillary Clinton about how diaspora communities like mine fit into the diverse American tapestry.

Kris Balderston opened the conference and noted that nowadays the meaning of our nation’s motto has transformed into a similar concept that we are one nation united under the precepts of being Americans working together towards common goals. No matter what country of origin, ethnicity, religion, or gender the citizens belong to, they are all striving towards the same things whether it is education, freedom, or peace. The purpose of this conference is to recognize and connect all the different Diasporas in the United States and provide them with a road map to the future full of success and achievement of common goals. Additionally, the conference encourages building bridges from the Diasporas in the U.S. to their countries of origin, via people to people interactions.

  • 26 March 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • About

A New Look

As of today, niacINsight has a new look.  We hope you like it!

This is just the beginning, though.  In a couple of days, NIAC will unveil a new and improved website over at niacouncil.org.  It’s taken months to get everything ready, but soon you will be able to access brand new resources, news and commentary, information about events and even a special section with added content for NIAC members.  Not a NIAC member yet?  Sign up quick to get all the benefits of our new website!

  • 30 November 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • About, Events in DC

The truth is incontrovertible

Here at NIAC, we’ve been focusing on doing our work rather than devoting all our time to responding to the flimsy allegations made against us by Eli Lake (with the assistance of an individual we’re suing for defamation, and parroted by neoconservative bloggers).

But since BBC Persian has done an actual investigation of the allegations against NIAC and the political motivations behind them, we felt like this video is worth sharing.  (Persian, and skip ahead past the first 20 seconds)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYZc2EZdBic]

English readers who’d like more information can find our response to Mr. Lake’s *ahem* journalism here and a point-by-point response to the many insinuations (and outright falsehoods) in his article here.

And for those unfamiliar with the quotation this post’s title is taken from–it’s one of my favorites by Winston Churchill–here it is reproduced in its entirety:

“The truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

  • 9 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 1 Comments
  • About, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Abdo: “The Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”

Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst at the Century Foundation, wrote an article in the October 7, 2009 edition of Foreign Policy about the expanding power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran.

Abdo writes:

“The secretive paramilitary group became a dominant institution in Iran — socially, politically, militarily, and economically — during Ahmadinejad’s first term. He appointed IRGC members to positions as ambassadors, mayors, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking officials at state-run economic institutions. The IRGC returned the favor during the electoral campaign. Before the election, the chief of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari, encouraged the guards to “participate” — a not-so-subtle directive to do whatever necessary to guarantee Ahmadinejad’s re-election. They did so, both by intimidating opposition members and even, some in Iran allege, single-handedly rigging the vote.”

The newly appointed commander of the Basij paramilitary group under IRGC control is Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior military officer who was sanctioned by the UN for links to Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Adbo highlights his role as “a key player in organizing and financing Ansar Hezbollah, a militia that orchestrated the 1999 attack on student dormitories at Tehran University” among his other involvements with severe crackdowns on dissidents in Iran in illustrating what she refers to as the titular “Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”.

Abdo’s views ring true with other analysts and scholars on Iran, as well as some current developments. Rasool Nafisi, professor from Strayer University, recently discussed the increasing military stronghold on Iran socially, politically, economically at a NIAC briefing on Capitol Hill as part of its US-Iran Policy program. Recently a company affiliated with the IRGC purchased a majority share of Iran’s telecommunications monopoly for nearly $8 billion. Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center recently spoke of the silencing of more moderate opposition and reformist voices in Iran since the June election and the continuing rise of hardline elements in the Iranian government at a recent discussion on Middle East affairs.

Abdo also writes about how the militaristic expansion in Iran causing stirs on all sides of the political discourse:

“Khamenei’s appointments come amid a fierce debate inside Iran. Even conservatives are unnerved by the militarization of the state. They argue that the military’s intervention in Iranian politics is against the revolutionary ideals of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic in 1979. Khomeini established the IRGC to defend the revolution from internal threats after the fall of the shah. In 1988, he established the Basij forces on university campuses across Iran to ensure that students, long known for political dissent, would remain loyal to the republic.

Now, Khamenei has given the militias under his control unprecedented power. This will surely lead to a more restrictive society at the precise moment a broad-based opposition movement seemed to promise real change for the first time since the 1979 revolution.”

This trend has created fears of a descent into a Junta-like system in Iran.

  • 15 July 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
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NIAC on Twitter

NIAC is now on Twitter–check us out here: twitter.com/niacouncil.

  • 19 January 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
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Many thanks to our friends

I want to take a moment to say thanks to all of our loyal readers here at niacINsight.  It’s incredibly encouraging for us to see that you care about our work, so thank you. 

And a special note of thanks to our good friends Laura Rozen and Paul Kerr, who both run much more successful blogs than this one, and who have linked to these pages recently.  We are very grateful, so you should check them out as well over at The Cable and Total WonKerr.  Bookmark them, visit them daily, and comment on their posts, because they’re two of the best in the business.

Oh, and happy inauguration day!

  • 15 December 2008
  • Posted By Michelle Moghtader
  • 0 Comments
  • About, Culture, Diplomacy, Events in Iran

Disgruntled Iranian Students

“I hate three things,” said an Iranian student leader, “One, I hate Ahmadinejad.”

Do you know your neighbor?

Last night, NIAC held an informal meet and greet where members of the community were welcomed to come by to meet NIAC staff and ask questions and discuss any issues on their mind.  Between the hours of 7-9 pm, Iranian-American Denver residents dropped in at their own convenience to say hello and talk politics.

During the meeting I was amazed to find out that there are approximately 4,000 to 10,000 Iranians in Colorado!  The large difference in the numbers is mainly due to a lack of accurate data since the last census was taken.  The 2000 U.S. Census places the overall Iranian number far lower than what is commonly predicted and Iranians are constantly growing in numbers. Hence, speculation often tends to range from the very low to the very high.

My amazement at the discovery of the numbers in Colorado came at the fact that we don’t know we exist!  We all know about Tehrangeles and New York and some other key locations Iranian Americans have chosen to migrate to, but we’re not too sure about our own neighbors.

Regardless, I am impressed by the large numbers and the apparent vibrant community here.  The individuals that we had an opportunity to meet with are well informed and very much aware of the political environment.  All in all, our informal event was well received and well attended.  Thanks to all of those who chose to take an hour or two of their evening to join us for an informal chit chat session!

  • 4 July 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • About

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY

From all of us here at NIAC, happy Independence Day!

Day 1 with NIAC

One of the great aspects of America is that we have many different cultures and identities living together in relative harmony. As a democracy, the American political institution functions best when citizens participate. The Iranian-American community may be small, but as an important minority it is our duty as US citizens to engage in American civic life. Unfortunately, the Iranian community is largely politically inactive, but non-partisan organizations like NIAC have sought to encourage the community to engage in American civic life to a greater extent.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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