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  • 30 September 2013
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Dear President Obama: Thank You for Breaking 34 Years of Silence with Iran

Presidents Obama & Rouhani

President Obama broke 34 years of silence between U.S. and Iranian Presidents by calling President Rouhani on Friday.  This was a historic moment, and the White House should know they have strong support from the American people for bold diplomacy with Iran.  Tell President Obama he has your full support for diplomatic engagement with Iran by signing the petition below, and we’ll deliver the signatures directly to the White House!

The petition states the following:

Dear President Obama,
Thank you for breaking 34 years of silence between the U.S. and Iran. You have our full support for your diplomatic engagement with Iran towards a brighter future with human rights and security.

 

[emailpetition id=”5″ class=”aligncenter”]
  • 2 August 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: August 2, 2012

Congress Sends New Sanctions Bill to President

A day after President Obama increased sanctions on Iran via executive order, Congress is sending a new sanctions bill to the President’s desk, which attempts to bankrupt Iran and cause hyperinflation by preventing Iran from repatriating any revenue from its energy. NIAC criticized the sanctions, saying “The bill imposes collective punishment on the Iranian people by seeking to destroy the Iranian economy (The Hill 8/1; NIAC 8/1).

UN Secretary General Calls on MEK to Leave Camp Ashraf

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK)  to follow orders and leave their paramilitary base in Iraq, Camp Ashraf. The group has stopped adhering to the agreement it signed to abandon its base, despite the State Department saying its decision on whether to keep the group on its terrorist list would be based in part on its cooperation (Washington Post 8/1).

Amnesty International Report Voices Concern for Iranian Women

  • 19 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: July 19, 2012

Confusion Surrounds Identity of Suicide Bomber in Bulgaria

Swedish and Israeli officials are denying Bulgarian reports that the suicide bomber who carried out an attack on a bus full of Israeli tourists Thursday, killing five Israelis, was Swedish citizen connected to al Qaeda (The Atlantic 7/19).

In an interview with MSNBC, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren insisted, “our sources confirm that Hezbollah was behind this. Hezbollah takes its marching orders directly from Tehran,” (NBCNews 7/19).

President Barack Obama said the U.S. would “stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.” President Obama called Mr. Netanyahu to extend his condolences (WSJ 7/18).

State Department Official Calls Congressional Letter “Pandering” to Terrorist Group

State Department official Dan Fried called a Congressional letter supporting the MEK’s refusal of the to abandon its paramilitary base in Iraq “pandering of the worst sort and completely undermines U.S. policy.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) are spearheading the letter to Secretary Clinton.   (Foreign Policy 7/18).

State Department Calls for Release of Iranian Activists

The State Department voiced “concern” in a press release yesterday for Kurdish activist Mohammed Seddigh Kaboudvand and human rights activist Nargess Mohammadi, who are serving prison sentences in Iran. Kaboudvand has been on hunger strike since May 26, after authorities precluded him from seeing his ill son, and Mohammadi has been denied proper medical attention. The press release says both “are suffering from rapidly deteriorating health” (State Department 7/18).

Yemen Warns Iran Against Meddling

  • 9 November 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Congress Playing Dangerous Game on Iran Sanctions

Are Congress and the White House on a collision course over Iran?  That’s looking increasingly likely, as Congressional proponents of the “nuclear option” of sanctions — sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) — try to force President Obama to pull the trigger.  But the White House has reportedly decided against the nuclear option, saying it would “disrupt oil markets and further damage the U.S. and world economies.”

The news came shortly after the Treasury Department’s top sanctions enforcer finished a tour of our major European allies – the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.  The message he received is obvious enough.  It seems Europe isn’t interested in weighing down its economy at the moment; it’s a bit preoccupied with containing the Eurozone debt crisis that’s imperiling the very future of Europe’s economic union.

As this makes clear, the U.S. is running out of things to sanction, except for ourselves and our allies.

So Central Bank sanctions are out, at least for now.  And the administration may be realizing that with a full year left before the next election, it needs to engage in serious, tough diplomacy now to convince the Iranian regime to implement the additional protocol and to adopt the transparency measures that are critical to addressing the very serious concerns raised IAEA in today’s IAEA report.

That isn’t sitting well with many members of Congress.  In August, 92 Senators sent a letter calling on President Obama to sanction the CBI, and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) warned the President that he would introduce legislation to force his hand if he didn’t comply.

Now, Kirk is looking to make good on that threat.  No less than three days after the LA Times reported Central Bank sanctions are no longer an option, Kirk announced that he’s introducing legislation that would require the President to sanction the Central Bank.  And given the idea’s support in Congress, there is a very real chance the Senate will vote to do exactly that, possibly as soon as this week.  So what would be the effect on the global economy, our alliances, the Iranian people, and the regime if the Congress were to do this?  Let’s examine:

 

Impact on energy prices, the U.S. and the global economy:

“…U.S. officials have decided that such sanctions could disrupt oil markets and further damage the U.S. and world economies.” – L.A. Times

U.S. and European officials “fear sanctioning Bank Markazi risks sharply driving up global energy prices, as Tehran could find itself unable to execute oil sales.” – Wall Street Journal

 

Impact on global efforts against Iran:

“European countries reportedly oppose such a sanction as an extreme step with potential humanitarian consequences.” – Congressional Research Service

“U.S. officials have worried that unilateral Americans sanctions against Bank Markazi might not be respected by even some American allies. This could place Washington into the difficult position of either backing down or theoretically trying to ban important foreign companies and governments from using the U.S. financial system.” – Wall Street Journal

“Some U.S. officials have pointed out in internal discussions that the step could risk the cooperation of a number of countries that have been less enthusiastic about past international sanctions, including some of the most important developing nations.” –L.A. Times

 

Impact on humanitarian situation in Iran:

The oil embargo of Iraq, which was accomplished in part by sanctioning the Central Bank of Iraq, contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children according to UNICEF estimates and failed to depose Saddam Hussein or prevent war. – UNICEF

Sanctioning the CBI would cause massive secondary effects, such as preventing the import of food and medicine into Iran. Even without CBI sanctions, “Americans who broker sales of food and medical items to Iran report difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions,” according to the Atlantic Council.  When the U.S. and the international community sanctioned Libya’s central bank, AFP reported, “Although some essential goods could be imported under the current sanctions regime, they cannot be paid for because … foreign banks are refusing to do business with Libyan entities.”

 

Impact on Iranian regime:

Iranian government officials discount the effects of sanctions on the government’s finances since the sanctions and regional tensions also increase concern about global oil supplies and thus increase the price of Iran’s oil exports –  Bijan Khajehpour, Iranian economist

“These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country. Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.” – Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement

“[Sanctions’] basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.” – Fareed Zakaria, CNN


Effectiveness and precedent

Sanctions have failed to achieve their objectives in 95.7% of case since World War I, and sanctions are more than three times more likely to end in military conflict than success. – Dr. Robert Pape, Harvard’s Journal of International Security

Though the UN Security Council has imposed central bank sanctions against Iraq and Libya, which ultimately ended in war, the U.S. has never imposed unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions on a central bank.

  • 22 June 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 5 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Obama’s Pursuit of Sanctions Came at Expense of Human Rights

When the United States’ efforts to pass new Iran sanctions finally came to fruition just days before the June 12 anniversary of Iran’s dubious presidential elections, some observers concluded that the new sanctions must have been a result of the Iranian government’s atrocious human rights violations.

The Obama Administration encouraged this impression, even though the sanctions push actually came at the expense of concerted action on Iran’s human rights crisis. The day after the sanctions vote Secretary Clinton declared. “The sanctions that were passed by the United Nations yesterday are designed to target those who are behind government actions that have increased human rights abuses, like the Revolutionary Guard.”

The truth is that the U.N. sanctions did not make even a passing reference to Iran’s human rights crisis. The Revolutionary Guards were sanctioned not for their appalling human rights abuses, but for their role in Iran’s nuclear program.

Indeed, the Obama Administration made a conscious decision to forgo a major push on human rights in Iran so as to not distract from the all-important UN sanctions push, according to multiple officials who’ve worked with the Administration on Iran’s human rights crisis.

Continue reading at the Huffington Post >>

  • 4 May 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Senators Take on Obama over Iran Sanctions

The Cable reports that a bipartisan group of Senators have sent a letter to the Chairmen of the Iran sanctions conference, laying down the gauntlet regarding changes sought by the Obama Administration for the final bill, as well as multilateral efforts being pursued by the Administration.

The letter highlights the infamous Gates memo, in which Defense Secretary Gates stated that Iran could potentially assemble all the parts needed for a nuclear weapon “but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.”  The Senators write that this is a reminder “that there is little time left to wait for tough new multilateral sanctions – from the United Nations or otherwise.”

However, Gates was warning that Iran may pursue the Japan model instead of seeking to become a full blown nuclear power; if anything he was calling for a serious evaluation of U.S. policy options should sanctions fail to dissuade Iran from pursuing this model, not supporting the letter’s argument that we should all panic and abandon other tools so we can rush forward with unilateral sanctions.  If there is an argument for how much time we have available to develop and pursue better options, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright assessed that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon for at least two to five years.

  • 22 April 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

What you need to know about Congress’ Iran sanctions

This morning, the House will vote to begin Conference with the Senate to finalize an Iran sanctions bill to be sent to the President.

Many questions remain about what happens from here–will concerns raised by the White House and other Members of Congress be fixed in conference?  Will Congress coordinate passage with the White House’s ongoing multilateral efforts or will it act unilaterally and risk undermining the President? Will the final package include anything to support the human rights of the Iranian people?

Here are some key resources regarding the sanctions bills and the conference process:

Conference Analysis

NIAC analysis and recommendations for final sanctions package: don’t neglect human rights

National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce study: sanctions will cost U.S. 210,000 jobs and $25 billion in exports

NGO Coalition Calls on U.S. to Lift Ban on Humanitarian Relief for Iranians

Fifteen organizations call for Iran sanctions legislation to support human rights

The Hill: Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

Obama Administration Statements

State Department Letter to Senator Kerry: Sanctions bills may undermine our efforts

White House, State Department: We oppose broad sanctions targeting the Iranian people

Bill Text

H.R.2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 (passed the House 12/15/09)

S.2799, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 (passed Senate 01/28/10)

H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (passed House 10/14/09)


  • 15 April 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 6 Comments
  • Immigration Policy, Iranian American activism, Legislative Agenda

Tell President Obama to Fix the Single-Entry Visa Policy for Iranian Students in the US

So many Iranian Americans began their journey in the U.S. as students, but now that path is becoming increasingly closed. Not only is it more difficult for Iranians to obtain visas to study in the U.S., but Iranian students are only eligible for single-entry visas.

This means that Iranians studying in the U.S. cannot visit their family or travel abroad without losing their student visa. Even in emergencies—such as if a family member falls ill—or academic opportunities—such as an international conference—Iranian students who leave the U.S. cannot come back unless they start the entire application process over again and obtain a brand new visa.

President Obama stated in his recent Norooz message that he is “committed to increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities.”

We should thank the President for this commitment, but we must also take this opportunity to say: Mr. President, please fix the “single-entry only” student visa policy that unnecessarily burdens all Iranians studying in the U.S.

Send a letter urging President Obama to address the single-entry only policy so that Iranian students in the U.S. can visit their families, attend international conferences, and travel abroad for personal and educational purposes.

  • 20 March 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran

President Obama’s Norooz Message

Today, I want to extend my best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz in the United States and around the world. On this New Year’s celebration, friends and family have a unique opportunity to reflect on the year gone by; to celebrate their time together; and to share in their hopes for the future.

One year ago, I chose this occasion to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to offer a new chapter of engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. I did so with no illusions. For three decades, the United States and Iran have been alienated from one another. Iran’s leaders have sought their own legitimacy through hostility to America. And we continue to have serious differences on many issues.

Continue Reading Below the Fold – Click here for the Persian version (pdf)

  • 1 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file

Tehran dismisses another US sanction

Last Thursday the US senate passed a broad, indiscriminate sanctions bill that would restrict Iran’s importation of petroleum; predictably this move was promptly dismissed by authorities in Tehran. It is reported, (via www.presstv.com) that Ramin Mehman-Parast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the US will not persuade Iran to give up any “legal rights” to its nuclear program, as Iran has adamantly claimed that the nuclear program is in line with Iran’s commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

We have repeatedly said that the US sanctions imposed against our nation during the past 31 years … have resulted in nothing but our nations’ stronger determination to assert independence and achieve self-reliance,” [Mehman-Parast] said.

The Senate bill will require President Obama to punish foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran.

Additionally, Press TV also reports that senior Iranian lawmaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel gave a speech on Monday, stating that Tehran will stand firmly by its cause regardless if the US is trying to gain universal consensus for sanctions against Iran, conveying that Iran’s national response to the world powers is “Independence, freedom and the Islamic Republic.”

The Iranian nation conveys this message to arrogant and bullying powers that it will firmly support its independence, freedom and ideals,” said Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on Monday in a speech on the occasion of the start of ceremonies marking the 31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
“We will not bow to pressure [of bullying powers] concerning our legal right to peaceful nuclear technology”.

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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