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  • 31 January 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions

What Obama’s new team may mean for diplomatic progress with Iran

The commencement of President Obama’s second term in office brings a whole host of updates to his administration. With old advisors and secretaries departing and a new national security team being formed, several of these changes may have direct implications on future talks with Iran.

Foremost among these is the recent Senate confirmation of John Kerry as Secretary of State, as well as the appointment, if confirmed, of Chuck Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense. A key member of President Obama’s Iran negotiating team, Gary Samore, who was the White House White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism, is also leaving. Samore’s successor still has not been decided and his replacement will be one among many in President Obama’s Iran and Middle East teams that will shake out in the upcoming weeks and months.

There are indications that these changes, especially at the State Department and the Pentagon, will make way for an opportunity for serious engagement with Iran. Both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are arguably less hawkish on Iran than their predecessors, and Kerry has in the past recognized Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment (a key Iranian demand).

If serious negotiations are to occur, they will have to be based on mutual, give and take compromise by both Iran and the U.S. Undoubtedly, Iran’s chief demand will be sanctions relief and a recognition of a right to enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and for the U.S. it will be to reduce that enrichment to lower grades and hold Iran accountable to NPT obligations through increased inspections.

Former Ambassador William H. Luers and Thomas Pickering, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs, have outlined how a possible deal would work in their recent article for the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The shape of a deal on the nuclear issues is obliquely understood by both sides, but Iran has made clear it expects some specificity on this issue. Of course getting to a deal is a problem because of 30 years of mistrust between the two sides. So at the most basic level, Iran should agree to keep in full its nonproliferation treaty commitment and to provide for the greatest transparency so inspectors can monitor its nuclear program.

“On the U.S. side, there should be a plan to reduce the sanctions on nuclear development as well as recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes only. An early start would be for Iran to stop production of 20 percent-enriched uranium (which can shorten the time needed to produce weapons-grade uranium) in exchange for relaxed sanctions.”

Both sides have increasingly given signals of willingness to come to compromise, and even the principles of a compromise have also been established. As Obama’s second term changes shape out, there is reason to be hopeful for the upcoming nuclear talks with Iran. A hope that, for the million of Iranians currently bearing the brunt of US sanctions, cannot come to fruition soon enough.

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 June 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Clinton and Baker on Iran, Israeli strikes, and diplomacy

In an interview with Charlie Rose at the State Department  last Wednesday, June 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former Secretary of State James Baker discussed the role of diplomacy in resolving US- Iranian tensions [watch the interview here, read the transcript here].

Baker said the U.S. must pursue all non-military means to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, but if those efforts fail, the U.S. would have to “take them out.”   Clinton insisted that diplomatic options for dealing with Iran had not yet been exhausted, and warned that a foreign attack could unify and legitimize the regime. She said,  there are some hardliners in Iran who ” are saying the best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody, just bring it on, because that would unify us, it would legitimize the regime.” Instead of giving the hardliners this credibility, Clinton said of the diplomatic process that the US should “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” in order to find a peaceful agreement.

  • 18 August 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 3 Comments
  • MEK

State Department includes MEK in latest terrorism report, but review still pending

The State Department today released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which includes the  Mujahedin-e Khalq under the section on Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Does this mean the group’s terror designation has been retained and its multi-million dollar campaign to pressure its way off of the FTO list has failed?

No.

The review by Secretary Clinton regarding the MEK designation remains pending.  FTOs  are legally allowed to appeal their listing every two years, and Secretary Clinton’s decision regarding their most recent appeal will come out separately and is expected soon.

The Country Reports on Terrorism, on the other hand, is legally required every year, and–since MEK remains an FTO (at least until Clinton finalizes her review)–the organization is listed in the report.

The report does, however, include many important facts on the history, ideology, and current status of the MEK (which may be worth a look by some of the prominent former U.S. officials receiving cash to advocate for the group without doing their homework).  It also includes a few updates from last year’s report that may or may not suggest which direction the State Department is headed regarding the FTO review.  The main update from last year’s report is regarding the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover:

Though denied by the MEK, analysis based on eyewitness accounts and MEK documents demonstrates that MEK members participated in and supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and that the MEK later argued against the early release the American hostages. The MEK also provided personnel to guard and defend the site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, following the takeover of the Embassy.

The new report also has omitted some items from last year’s report.  It no longer contains a passage on how Saddam Hussein provided MEK with millions of dollars from the Oil For Food program, and it no longer mentions that a “significant number of MEK personnel voluntarily left Ashraf, and an additional several hundred individuals renounced ties to the MEK and (have) been voluntarily repatriated to Iran.”

The full passage on MEK, with annotations from last year’s report, is included after the jump.

  • 26 October 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Persian Gulf

Fueling Ethnic Tensions in the Persian Gulf is Not a Strategy for Middle East Stability

Washington risks entering into a game of escalating provocations with Tehran even as continuing efforts to restart talks in November are underway. Iran’s announcement that the two US hikers being held Evin prison will now face trial just ahead of the talks is no coincidence. The move is particularly shameful considering that these US citizens have been held for over a year without formal charges and recently leaked military reports support the hiker’s assertion that they were captured in Iraq – not in Iran. Meanwhile, last week’s announcement of the largest US arms deal in history, a $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia that includes advanced aircraft and bunker busting bombs, was clearly aimed at Tehran.

But while the package was branded as an effort to “enhance regional stability” by reassuring Persian Gulf states of the United States’ commitment to their security, the State Department broke its own longstanding protocol and used provocative, ethnically divisive language when announcing the deal.

Instead of using the historically accepted term – and observing State Department protocol – “Persian Gulf”, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro referred to the “Arabian Gulf”, a politically charged phrase with a relatively recent but insidious history.

Tell Secretary Clinton: Referring to Persian Gulf as “Arabian Gulf” Only Fuels Ethnic Tensions ->

Read More on the Huffington Post ->

  • 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.

  • 29 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 13 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Senate Cmte. Passes Sanctions, Despite State Dept. Opposition

Washington, DC – The Senate Banking Committee passed a broad set of Iran sanctions today, despite one Senator saying that the act was opposed by U.S. Department of State. The unanimous vote, 23-0 in favor, papered over differences that emerged in the hearing.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) raised repeated objections to the bill.  “This is a tacit vote of no confidence [against the Obama administration],” Corker said.  During an exchange with a colleague after the vote, Corker revealed the “State Department actually did not want to see this happen.”

Democratic supporters of the bill strongly disagreed with the notion that they were undermining President Obama.  Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) contended that the legislation “is about strengthening the administration’s hand at the end of the day, not weakening it.”  Senator Dodd agreed with Menendez, though he confessed, “I’ve never met yet an administration of any stripe or color that welcomed Congressional intervention of any kind.”

This bill follows the House Foreign Affairs Committee sanctions bill passed yesterday. Like the House bill, this one expands unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions and targets companies exporting refined petroleum to Iran or helping to develop Iran’s oil refining industry.  Other provisions would make American companies liable if their foreign subsidiaries do business in Iran, and would codify the embargo on goods shipped to and from Iran, including pistachios, Persian carpets, and caviar.

The bill, introduced by the Chair of the committee, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), would make it so the President can no longer lift the embargo on Iran without Congressional approval.

  • 23 December 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Uncategorized

US speaks up on Alaei brothers detention and human rights center closure

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack released this statement today:

“The United States condemns the closing of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights and urges Iranian authorities to allow this and similar civil society organizations to operate free of oppression. On December 21, Iranian authorities closed down the civil society organization of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi just prior to a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, authorities briefly detained Ms. Ebadi, a renowned human rights defender and both the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in its 102 year-old history.”

  • 5 December 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Persian Gulf

Public Diplomacy 2.0

(h/t memri)

U.S. State Department Team Will Explain U.S. Positions To Online Iranians

The U.S. State Department has established a special team of Farsi speakers to monitor websites and blogs in Iran, and to respond and to explain the U.S. position, particularly on the Iranian nuclear issue, on chat rooms and online forums.

Sources: Jomhouri-e Eslami, Iran, December 4, 2008; Fars, Parsine, Iran, December 3, 2008

For more info, click here.

  • 21 March 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • 13 Comments
  • Legislative Agenda, US-Iran War

The Mujahedeen is lobbying hard on Capitol Hill

To those who know the Mujahedin-e Khalq, its presence on Capitol Hill is disturbing. After all, the very men and women prowling the halls of Congress are named on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. It recently hosted a conference– complete with a decadent spread of Persian food- for Congress and staff in banquet hall of a congressional office building.

Termed a Marxist cult by Ervand Abrahamian, the MeK and its political arm, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, operates in the US through various front groups such as Committee for Support of Referendum in Iran. Several members of Congress receive campaign contributions by the group’s members and many others have been targeted, including high ranking senators and representatives from California.

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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