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Iran at a Crossroads – LIVESTREAMING Here

UPDATE: It’s confirmed, we’ll be Livestreaming our conference here at niacINsight tomorrow.  So tune in between 9:00 and 2:00 to see what’s happening!

Iran used to be a pretty black-and-white issue. You either wanted war, or not.  Diplomacy, or not.  Regime change, or not.

Those days of simple choices between two clear opposites–they’re long gone.

Now, the rise of an indigenous opposition movement has thrown a new set of variables into questions of “regime change,” diplomacy, and even human rights.  Iran-watchers are struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all: how can you still oppose war but support the dismantling of the Islamic theocracy?  How can someone help the opposition but still oppose overt US government involvement? And don’t even get me started on the nuclear issue…

All of this confusion amid the new complex reality of post-June 12th Iran means it’s probably a good thing that people are still debating the issue as vigorously as ever.  Open any major newspaper in the US and chances are you’ll find at least one or two (often four or five) different articles about Iran.  From op-eds advocating a preemptive strike, to analysts who say the Green Movement is just a fad–there is a wider diversity of opinions now than ever before.  Even politicians and pundits who might otherwise have the luxury of ignoring the Iran issue are being forced to weigh in (see Palin, Sarah), and despite their often ludicrous claims, ultimately the best thing for US-Iran policy is a robust debate about substantive issues.  That’s the only way we’ll be able to think our way through this difficult challenge.

(Incidentally, some major steps have already been taken in formulating a coherent policy proposal: see here and here for one approach that’s coming clearer into view).

Our goal here at NIAC is to contribute some wisdom and clarity to the debate on Iran — both among the Iranian-American community and inside the Washington DC beltway.  Toward that end, we are pleased to announce our upcoming conference on Capitol Hill: “Iran at a Crossroads: Assessing a Changing Landscape.” We’re bringing together the top Iran experts in the world, alongside members of Congress and their staffs, to explore the most important questions facing US-Iran policy today.

We’ll look into the current state of the Green Movement as the latest chapter in Iran’s 100-year democratic evolution.  We’ll examine the prospects for US-Iran relations one year after President Obama began his engagement strategy, and we’ll try to determine if there is a US-Iran war looming on the horizon.  (And we’ll also celebrate the upcoming Norooz holiday with some excellent food and our very own haft-seen table).

The video will be streamed live on this site, niacINsight, so check back here next Wednesday morning (March 10) at 9am for the feed.  Or feel free to RSVP and show up in person.

We are grateful to our special guests Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with all of our excellent panelists (including our friends at EA).

Full info available below the jump, or at niacouncil.org/march10.  Hope to see you there!

  • 27 February 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • 0 Comments
  • Culture, Events in DC

“The Bakhtiari Alphabet” to be screened at GW tonight

George Washington University and Georgetown University’s Iranian Cultural Societies will be screening “The Bakhtiari Alphabet” documentary at 7.30 PM in the Amphitheater at GW. The film follows the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe, located in southwestern Iran. The film is directed by filmmaker Reza Ghadiani and Professor Cima Sedigh. From the film’s press release:

“The Bakhtiari Alphabet” was created over the course of 7 years in the remote and mountainous regions of Iran, where the Bakhtiari live and migrate. Over that time, Dr. Sedigh lived with the nomadic tribe anywhere from a few weeks to a few months each year, studying their geography, history, economy, politics and culture. The film reveals both the struggle and humanity of this rapidly disappearing culture.

Admission is free. For more information on the event and to watch the trailer, please click here.

Say No to Iranian Deportation Bill – Deadline Tomorrow

As you know, Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) announced last week that he plans to introduce shameful legislation (the STEP Act) instituting the mass deportation of Iranians and blocking Iranians from visiting the US.

This bill would tear apart families and force all Iranians who have visas for work or school to be expelled from the country within 60 days of passage.

Thanks to many of you, over 2,000 letters have been signed calling on Congressman Barrett to abandon the STEP Act! But there’s still more work to be done to make sure this outrageous proposal does not go forward.

Tomorrow we will be delivering your messages in person to Congressman Barrett’s office in Washington DC.

The more letters we have to deliver, the bigger your voices will be—we want to make sure that Congressman Barrett gets the message, so we need a big push from you.

Now is the time to reach out to your friends and family to make sure they join the 2,000 people who have already signed their letter calling on Congressman Barrett to abandon the STEP Act. Everyone should be aware of this disgraceful proposal so that they can voice their opposition and stop the bill.

So please, forward this link to all of your friends and family and encourage them to sign our letter today so that tomorrow we can tell Rep. Barrett to stop the STEP Act!

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • 2 Comments
  • Culture, Events in DC

Freer and Sackler Galleries’ 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival Debuts

In conjunction with the Falnama: The Book of Omens exhibit, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries’ 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival features five new films and a special presentation by Abbas Kiarostami. The film festival runs all month from January 8 to February 21 and is organized by Carter Long of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts with the support of ILEX Foundation: Olga M. Davidson and Niloofar Fotouhi.

Films include, Payman Haghani’s A Man Who Ate His Cherries, Kiarostami’s Taziyeh (The Spectators) and Shirin, Samira Makhmalbaf’s Two-Legged Horse, Niloofar and Shalizeh Arefpour’s Heiran. Film topics range from a story of a wealthy child with no legs and 12-year old girl’s quest for an education and an Iranian girl who falls in love with an Afghan refugee.

All films are in Persian with English subtitles. The festival recommends viewers to arrive at least an hour early; as there is high demand for tickets, assigned seating is in effect and tickets are distributed one hour before show-time with a two-ticket-per-person limit. For information on the film festival, please click here.

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 6 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Assassination attempt against Karroubi fails

There was an attempted assassination attempt against Mehdi Karroubi several hours ago, when the cleric and leading opposition figure arrived in Qazvin for a mourning ceremony of opposition supporters killed in protests.

One of Karroubi’s family members gave this first-hand account to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

“Members of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards gathered at their garrisons prior to Mr. Karroubi’s arrival. As soon as he entered Qazvin, they appeared. Their actions were fully coordinated with Fars News Agency. As soon as Mr. Karroubi entered the private home where he was staying, Fars News reported it. The coordination between the Revolutionary Guards and Fars News was extensive.

When the Basij and Revolutionary Guards members assembled to protest Karroubi’s presence in Qazvin, two bullets were fired at his car. Fortunately the car was bullet proof. The front windshield was much stronger and only cracked. Otherwise the bullets would have entered the car and caused serious injuries.

I believe the message to Mr. Karroubi is that he is not safe anywhere he goes and if he doesn’t restrict himself to his house, he will be targeted.”

Fars News is closely affiliated with the IRGC.

Congressman Introducing Legislation to Bar & Deport Iranians from U.S.

Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) has announced his intention to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.”  The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, first introduced in 2003, also would have required all persons from these countries on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange and tourist visas to leave the United States within 60 days, despite their legal status in the country.  Residents and nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen would be affected.

The bill makes an exception only in the cases of individuals who are seeking political or religious asylum, or who have immediate emergency medical needs.

Congressman Barrett said his bill came in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas-day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. “While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens.”

The American Army major and Nigerian alleged to have committed those attacks would not have been affected by the STEP Act.

In response to Barrett’s announcement, the National Iranian American Council has launched a campaign against the bill, saying it is “offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests, and discriminates against Iranians and Iranian Americans.”  The group also noted that no Iranian has ever committed a terrorist act on American soil.

The 2003 version of the bill is available online.  Congressman Barrett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.  Aside from the inclusion of Yemen, and a new provision to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States, Congressman Barrett has not indicated any further differences between his new bill and the legislation he introduced in 2003.

  • 14 December 2009
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Events in DC, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Will Congress Undo Obama’s Diplomacy?

Cross-posted from the HuffingtonPost:

The 111th Congress is barreling forward in a last minute race to enact what may prove to be one of the most damaging American foreign policy decision for years to come before adjourning for the holidays. It is a decision that may isolate us from our closest allies and biggest trading partners, pose momentous new challenges for our efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the greater Middle East, undermine the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy, and once again place the United States on the grave path towards military confrontation. But if you think Congress is engaging in the type of spirited debate that such a strategically significant policy deserves, think again.

  • 11 December 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Gates: Iran Could Face “Significant Additional Sanctions”

With President Obama’s year-end deadline approaching for Iran to resume nuclear negotiations, the administration is seriously considering applying sanctions on Iran.

“I think that you are going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community, assuming that the Iranians don’t change course,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday at a talk with U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq.

Politico reported today that in a taped interview with Al Jazeera English, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the “time has come” for the world to condemn Iran’s nuclear program.

Politco:

Clinton did not say, when asked, whether the United States would support an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, but she did express disappointment at Iran’s diplomacy.

‘What we have tried to do is engage in diplomacy in a very vigorous way in order to reassure the international community, including all states, that Iran’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately, we haven’t had the kind of response we were hoping for from the Iranians.’

‘I think the international community really still wants to engage with Iran, but people are going to now turn to other routes like more pressure, like sanctions to try to change their mind and their behavior,’ she said.

  • 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.”

  • 10 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

Clinton Appoints NIAC Advisory Board Member to Senior Iran Post

Amb. John Limbert

Amb. John Limbert Speaking at the NIAC Conference

Cross posted from www.niacouncil.org.

Washington, D.C. — The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) applauds the appointment of Ambassador John Limbert as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the US Department of State.

Amb. Limbert, who served on NIACs Board of Advisors up until his appointment, is a decorated career US diplomat who has previously held posts in Iraq, Mauritania and Guinea, in addition to holding several senior positions in Washington with the State Department. Amb. Limbert is currently Distinguished Professor of International Affairs at the US Naval Academy.

Amb. Limbert is one country’s foremost experts on Iranian issues. He began his career in the 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer and an English instructor at Shiraz University. In 1979, Amb. Limbert was held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran for fourteen months. A fluent Persian speaker, Limbert will be a vital asset to the United States throughout the continuing negotiations and conversations with the Iranian government.

“The Obama administration has declared that they want to find a new future with the people of Iran,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. “With Limbert in the State Department tasked to complete that vision, history will be completed: A person who stood at the center of US-Iran relations when they broke down 30 years ago, will lead the efforts to restore the broken ties.”

The day before getting sworn in, Amb. Limbert spoke at a conference hosted by NIAC on Capitol Hill, along with other senior US diplomats and experts on US-Iran relations. Amb. Limbert stressed the importance of patience and persistence in the ongoing negotiations, and argued that productive discussions on the fate of Iran’s nuclear program could also allow the United States to press Tehran on its human rights record.

“There are few people in the United States that know Iran as well as Amb. Limbert,” Parsi said. “He’s not only expert on Iranian foreign policy, but also on Iranian poetry, which matters a lot. I can’t think of anyone more suitable for this job.”

Amb. Limbert has frequently spoken at NIAC events and fundraisers. NIAC welcomes this appointment and wishes Amb. Limbert the best of luck in tackling the complex issues that lie ahead in finding a better future for the peoples of Iran and the US.

Sign the Petition

 

7,348 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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