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Events in DC

The US & Iran: Between Human Rights, Diplomacy & Sanctions

The National Iranian American Council is pleased to announce we will be having a policy conference on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in Dirksen Senate Office Building G-50.

The conference will run from 9 AM to 12.30 PM and will feature two panels; the first will assess the human rights and political situation in Iran and the second will assess President Obama’s diplomacy.

For more information, please visit www.niacouncil.org/nov4. To RSVP, please send an email with your name, title and organization (if any) to rsvp at niacouncil.org.

Nuclear deal drafted Wednesday, signatures due Friday

An agreement calling for Iran to send its domestically-produced low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment and then have it returned for medical use (what is being called by some the “elegant solution”) was accepted by negotiators in Wednesday’s negotiations in Vienna. Friday is the current deadline for delegations from France, Russia, the US, and Iran to sign it.

Mohamed ElBaradei called the development “a balanced approach to the problem.”

David Sanger wrote about concerns regarding the timing of uranium shipments:

NYT: “If Iran actually sends the low-enriched uranium to Russia in a single shipment, as the draft document states, it would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year, according to the agency’s experts. If the fuel leaves Iran in batches, the experts warn, Iran would have the ability to replace it almost as quickly as it leaves the country.”

Julian Borger of the UK’s Guardian also wrote an article on the nuclear deal and a blog post based on discussions with a diplomat involved in the negotiations which addresses the timing of shipments. He writes:

“The fuel would be sent by the end of the year, and sent out in bulk, not in small parcels.”

He has also recently added new information on the possible deal:

Update: some more details. 1200 kg of Iranian LEU (just under three quarters of the present stockpile) would be shipped by the end of the year. The four signatories of the deal would be Iran, Russia, France and the IAEA, not the US (as stated in earlier reports). France’s role in fuel fabrication would be presented as optional, as a way of soothing Iranian sensitivities over past uranium deals with France that went sour.

The draft is a significant step forward in talks and a good reason for hawks to reign in sanctions rhetoric, much less talk of the military option for a while longer. Incidentally, and on a completely unrelated note…don’ t miss AEI’s event: “Should Israel Attack Iran?” this Friday.

  • 19 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 5 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Berman-Hoyer play hot potato with Sanctions Bill

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said Thursday the committee will mark up the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194) (IRPSA) on October 28.

Later that day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was pressed by Chief Deputy Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and “committed to moving the bill quickly to a vote once it is passed out of the committee.”

When he introduced the bill last Spring, Berman made it clear:

“I fully support the Administration’s strategy of direct diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I have no intention of moving this bill though the legislative process in the near future,” Berman continued. “In fact, I hope that Congress will never need to take any action on this legislation, for that would mean that Iran at last has complied with the repeatedly-expressed demand of the international community to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program and to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons once and for all.”

So why are these people talking about passing these sanctions without the administration asking for it,  while continually undermining current negotiations? (Day 2 of talks wrapped in Vienna today.)

Both are under pressure to move the bill, and both are looking to pass the onus onto the other. Ultimately only the Obama administration would lose out because Berman and Hoyer are acting at cross purposes with it.

  • 17 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran

Mottaki: no direct talk with the US

From Fars News Agency this morning:

[On Wednesday Foreign Minister Manouchehr] Mottaki, [who was] speaking on the sidelines of [a] ceremony to unveil a stamp on the occasion of this year’s International Qods Day, [responded] to a reporter’s question [on] whether [Under Secretary of State] William Burns is scheduled to attend the session on behalf of the United States [by saying] “There will be no direct talks there and it would be 6+1 this time.”  The Iranian top diplomat [responded] to another question [on] whether Iran and the United States might [engage] in direct talks on the sidelines of the negotiations, was quoted by the Islamic republic news agency as saying, “The Americans would be present at the negotiation table and there would be talks this round on various topics.” Mottaki added, “On the part of Iran the discussion would be pursued over reaching a framework based on our proposed package and we hope reaching that framework would be possible.”

  • 8 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran: Three US nationals not to be released soon

An official from Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed after about one month the arrest of three US citizens on charges of illegal entry into Iran from the north western borders. Fars News Agency has more:

“Considering the sensitiveness of the time and place of the arrest of these people, the probe into the main and probable reasons of their entry into the Islamic Republic of Iran’s territory is under investigation by the security organizations, which will take time,” Director of the Iranian Foreign Ministry for American Affairs Alireza Salari said in a meeting with the Swiss ambassador to Tehran. During the meeting, Salari briefed Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Livia Leu Agosti, whose embassy also serves as the US Interest Section in Iran, about the arrest of the three Americans.

The three, identified as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were arrested after crossing into Iran via Iraq’s Kurdish region in early August.

  • 3 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Washington Times: Obama wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei

From the Washington Times this morning:

President Obama sent a second letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before Iran’s disputed presidential elections, an Iranian-American activist says. The Washington Times reported in June that Mr. Obama wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei in May seeking talks and improved relations between the longtime adversaries.

An Iranian Web site, Tabnak, reported Wednesday that the president had sent a second letter, but did not provide a date.

An Iranian individual familiar with the report told The Washington Times that the second letter arrived two weeks ago via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The individual, who asked not to be named because he was discussing sensitive matters, said the letter asked for “better cooperation” between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic relations since 1980. White House officials cast doubt on the report but declined to deny it on the record.

“There have been multiple ways that communication has taken place with Iran,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor wrote in an e-mail. “We do not discuss the details or modalities of those communications.” Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian-American Council, a group that represents Iranians in the U.S., said Ayatollah Khamenei had responded to Mr. Obama’s first letter and that Mr. Obama then sent another letter to the Iranian leader.

Mr. Parsi, who did not disclose the contents of the letters, said that the entire exchange took place prior to the June 12 presidential elections, which handed a disputed victory to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since the vote, thousands of Iranians have protested in the streets, and the regime has arrested hundreds of reformists, academics and Iranians with ties to the West. At least 30 people have been killed, according to government figures, and 100 are being tried on charges they sought to overthrow the Iranian government with foreign help.

The Iranian press report about a second letter from Mr. Obama came as diplomats from six world powers met in Frankfurt to urge Iran to agree to talks or face new sanctions. On Tuesday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Iran was preparing a new offer for negotiations over its nuclear program.

  • 2 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in DC, Iran Election 2009

Obama’s second letter to Iran

From Press TV this morning:

US President Barack Obama has reportedly sent his second direct message to Iran’s leading authority, the Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Tabnak, a semi-official Iranian news service, on Wednesday said the country’s most prominent political figure has received a second letter, but did not mention the exact date the correspondence had reached Tehran. “The first letter was dispatched in Ordibehesht, before the elections,” Tabnak said referring to the second solar month of the Persian calendar corresponding to 21 April to 21 May.

According to the report, Obama’s first letter was not left without an answer. “The leader at the time replied to the letter by providing argumentation,” the report added without revealing the contents of the letter.

  • 10 June 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

WaPo’s Glenn Kessler on Dennis Ross

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler (who will also be appearing at NIAC’s upcoming conference on Capitol Hill) was asked to share his views of Amb. Dennis Ross, President Obama’s point person on Iran at the State Department. Kessler is familiar with much of the criticism that Ross faced prior to joining the Administration–much of which came from these pages. Hopefully we’ll be able hear more about Ross and the Obama Administration’s Iran policy next Wednesday on Capitol Hill!

RossAudio

“Iran Threat Reduction Act” gaining Republican support in House

cross posted from NIACouncil.org

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Late last month, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, introduced H.R. 1208, the “Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2009.”  The bill now has 48 cosponsors–all Republicans.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has also introduced three other resolutions focused on Iran in the three months since the beginning of the 111th Congress: H.Con.Res. 16, H.R. 485, and H.R. 364.  Two of these deal specifically with the nuclear issue, while the other, H.Con.Res. 16, “recognizes the threat of spreading radical Islamist terrorism and Iranian adventurism in Africa.”

According to a letter from the office of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, the Iran Threat Reduction Act “requires U.S. sanctions against Iran to remain in place until the President certifies that they have verifiably dismantled all their weapons of mass destruction programs.”  Current sanctions that would be affected by this measure focus on Iran’s energy sector as well as US export controls and a ban on most imported goods from Iran.

Additionally, the bill would require managers of federal and private pension plans, thrift savings plans and mutual funds “to divest all investments of such plans from Iran’s energy infrastructure.”  Congress has previously wrestled with the issue of Iran divestment, which many trade groups say would violate the Constitution.

Finally, it would “prohibitbilateral U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements with countries assisting Iran’s nuclear or missile or advanced conventional weapons programs.”  This provision is largely directed toward Russia, with whom President Bush signed a 123 Agreement last year, but which requires Congressional ratification.

The Act is being seen by many as an attempt to make good on Ros-Lehtinen’s promises to beef up Iran sanctions in the current session, but Democrats have been hesitant to support such an aggressive move before President Obama unveils his new strategy for engaging Iran.

At the close of the legislative session last Fall, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen lamented Congress’ inability to pass tougher sanctions, saying the provisions that did pass the House “fall far short of the type of comprehensive sanctions that would truly cripple the Iranian economy, which is dependent on investments in its energy sector.”

The bill has been referred to a number of committees, including the Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it awaits action.

  • 26 February 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, US-Iran War

Woolsey delivers remarks on House floor: “Time to Talk to Iran”

woolseyRep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), always a friend to her sizable Iranian-American constituency,  delivered the following speech yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives.

At first glance, it might appear that Rep. Woolsey is uncharacteristically harsh when talking about how to deal with Iran.  But I read this as a sign that the strongest supporters of direct diplomacy are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness.  There is a lot riding on our outreach to Iran.  And now that it is no longer a question of if we talk to Iran but when we talk, we need to make sure we do it right.  It is because of members of Congress like Rep. Woolsey that the threat of war has abated, now we have the responsibility to make sure the diplomatic approach we supported so strongly can actually produce results.

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
HOUSE
PAGE H2809
Feb. 25, 2009

IT’S TIME TO TALK TO IRAN

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak about the urgent need for the United States to begin direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program.

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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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