NIAC Staff

NIAC Staff

NIAC Calls for Bank of America to Stop Closures of Iranian American Bank Accounts

فارسی

For years, Iranian Americans have had their bank accounts shuttered as a direct result of their Iranian national origin or heritage. This is a form of discrimination that is profoundly damaging, throwing individuals into financial limbo while they wait to see if and when the bank will release their life savings. If you have faced discrimination from a bank account or had your account frozen, consider sharing your story so that we can build a documented case for why these discriminatory actions need to halt. 

Banks cite this as precautionary efforts to abide by U.S. sanctions that prohibit individuals from operating bank accounts in Iran. While not technically required by law, many of these banks judge that the risk of running afoul of sanctions outweighs the risk of engaging in discrimination against Iranian Americans. 

This is why NIAC is petitioning the Department of Treasury for a formal rule change to license Americans to operate bank accounts from Iran. We believe that we can change this rule and end these bank’s discriminatory actions against our community. 

A significant majority of complaints we have received come as a result of actions from Bank of America. Despite multiple efforts since 2014 by NIAC to engage Bank of America to fix their policies, Bank of America continues to engage in account closures of Iranian Americans.

That is why NIAC has again sent a letter to Bank of America clarifying that sanctions do not obligate them to close bank accounts of individuals ordinarily resident in the United States, while holding the option open to take legal action to protect the interests of Iranian Americans and bring an end to their discriminatory treatment at Bank of America.

Know that NIAC will not stop fighting for you, whether we are up against Trump’s Treasury, Bank of America, or anyone else harming Iranian Americans.


Download a PDF of the letter here

July 19, 2019

Dear Mr. Leitch:

I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”), the largest grassroots organization in the United States representing the interests of Iranian Americans, regarding Bank of America’s treatment of its U.S. customers of Iranian origin. Over the past several years, we have received persistent questions and complaints from Iranian Americans and Iranian nationals in the U.S. whose bank accounts have been abruptly closed by Bank of America – in some cases without notice and in other cases even when documents requested by the bank were submitted by these customers that confirmed that the provision of services to such customers was lawful. Our review of this material indicates that Bank of America has adopted policies and practices that are clearly discriminatory towards customers of Iranian origin. We therefore request that Bank of America immediately remediate its internal policies and procedures to ensure that such discrimination ceases. Absent such steps, we reserve the right to pursue litigation regarding this matter.

While we understand from past engagement that Bank of America cites U.S. sanctions on Iran as the basis for its actions, the actions undertaken by Bank of America are unwarranted as a matter of law. U.S. sanctions targeting Iran do not prohibit Bank of America from holding accounts on behalf of customers of Iranian origin. Instead, U.S. sanctions prohibit Bank of America from servicing “Iranian accounts,” which are defined for purposes of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”), 31 C.F.R. Part 560, as “accounts of persons ordinarily resident in Iran, except when such persons are not located in Iran.” Unless Bank of America has indication that a customer is a person ordinarily resident in Iran and is physically located in Iran, Bank of America has no legal obligation to deny services to a given customer under the ITSR.  

We find it egregious that Bank of America would treat its customers of Iranian origin in such a manner rather than appropriately tailoring its compliance policies and procedures in such a way as to ensure it conforms its conduct to the demands of U.S. law while respecting its customers’ rights and providing its customers exceptional service. We remain interested in discussing steps that Bank of America can take to ensure that its customers of Iranian origin are not treated in a discriminatory manner by the bank, and we reserve the right to pursue litigation to resolve this issue if necessary. 

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Jamal Abdi
President, National Iranian American Council

Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist

Washington, DC
Full Time, Exempt

The Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist (“Digital Specialist”) is responsible for leading and managing NIAC’s digital communications and marketing presence, including its website, social media, videos, graphics, and other online and printed materials. The Digital Specialist ensures that all digital content is created and executed in line with the organizations’ brand and that it is then evaluated for effectiveness. S/he works with the Communications Director and senior leadership to devise and implement NIAC’s overarching communications, marketing, and brand strategy. The Digital Specialist reports to the Communications Director. Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Visibility and Brand

  1. Work with the Communications Director to strengthen NIAC’s brand, boost visibility, advance its mission, and build its digital base.
  2. Manage NIAC’s web and social media presence, including the website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Medium accounts, with the aim of boosting engagement.
  3. Design NIAC’s updated visual brand and ensure it is implemented across all marketing collateral (e.g. event flyers, email design, event invitations).
  4. Ensure that all digital materials adhere to NIAC’s brand and image and fits into the organization’s overarching communications and brand strategy.

Digital Content

  1. Design, create, and send out NIAC’s weekly newsletter and Iran Unfiltered digest.
  2. Design NIAC’s digital and printed marketing content, including graphics, videos, layouts for marketing materials, standalone landing pages, and more.
  3. Design and coordinate emails in consultation with appropriate department using EveryAction.
  4. Publish and disseminate NIAC’s content on the website and social media accounts, utilizing best practices to maximize distribution, reach, and engagement.
  5. Manage, or assist the Communications Director in managing, all major communications projects, such as landing pages and videos.

Digital Marketing

  1. Work with outside consultants to create and manage NIAC’s Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube digital advertising campaigns, including by drafting ad copy and graphics and targeting appropriate audience segments.
  2. Track, analyze, and report on the effectiveness of NIAC’s online engagement campaigns, with the aim of boosting engagement and conversions, assisting in digital fundraising campaigns, and optimizing lead generation.
  3. Devise and execute digital and social media strategies for campaigns and organizational events, including fundraisers, advocacy efforts, social events, and conferences.
  4. Support Communications Director in monitoring communications challenges and opportunities, taking the initiative and working with the relevant departments to address these as needed.

General Support

  1. Oversee communications interns.
  2. Provide media relations assistance to the Communications Director as needed, including by assisting in routing reporters and press inquiries.

Desired Experience:

  • Four plus years of digital communications and marketing experience.
  • Undergraduate degree. Marketing, communications, English, journalism, political science, international relations, or a related field preferred.
  • Experience with HTML, Google Analytics, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, WordPress, and Mailchimp
  • Familiarity with CRM platforms like EveryAction preferred.
  • Familiarity with Digital Advertising platforms, such as Google AdWords and Facebook
  • Experience with graphic design and multimedia production, including video, strongly preferred.
  • Experience with digital advocacy campaigns preferred
  • Familiarity with NIAC’s mission, the political landscape, and the Iranian-American community preferred
  • Persian language knowledge a plus

Qualities that will thrive in this position:

  • Strong self-starter, entrepreneurial, creative; eager to present new, bold ideas and solutions
  • Willing to do what it takes to get a high quality, polished project done; low ego, high focus on quality, open to honest feedback and collaboration
  • Hard worker, can do flexible hours and manage his/her time independently; understands that changing the nature of U.S-Iran relations and strengthening Iranian Americans’ voice doesn’t always happen between 9 and 5
  • Strong attention to detail, while being able to think strategically and understand the larger vision
  • Works effectively independently and in a team environment
  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic, and creative
  • Ability to manage multiple daily deadlines and multiple assignments
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Ability to lead, influence, and work across departments

To Apply: Interested candidates should send a cover letter with salary requirements and resume to Nicole Ataei at nataei@niacouncil.org with the subject line “Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist.”

Salary & Benefits
Salary is commensurate with experience. Fortune 100-style benefits include:

  • Generous health, dental, vision, long-term disability, and life insurance plans
  • 15 days of annual paid leave and 12 paid holidays
  • 401k with 2% company match
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

About NIAC
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people. We accomplish our mission through expert research and analysis, civic and policy education, and community building.

We are the 501(c)3 sister organization of NIAC Action, the grassroots, civic action organization committed to building political power for the Iranian-American community to advance peace and diplomacy with Iran, secure equitable immigration policies, and protect the civil rights of all Americans.

Al Jazeera: Jamal Abdi discusses Trump’s failed Iran policies

NIAC Statement in Response to Reports of Downed U.S. Drone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 20, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON DC – Today, Iranian forces reportedly shot down a U.S. military drone after it had allegedly entered into Iranian territory. U.S. officials maintain that the incident occurred in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.

In response, Sina Toossi, Research Associate at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said:

“Reports that Iran has shot down a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf are alarming and serve as yet another potential tripmine to all-out war erupting. As U.S.-Iran tensions have soared in recent weeks, the need for deconfliction channels between the two countries is more pronounced than ever. These vital channels of communication existed in the past, allowing both sides to delineate boundaries and avoid collisions between their respective militaries in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Syria and in other theaters. However, the Trump administration, in pursuit of a counterproductive and destabilizing so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, has eliminated all levels of communication between the two sides.

“If it is proven that Iran shot down the U.S. drone over international waters, it is provocative act that must be condemned by the international community. Regardless, there is a vital need for immediate U.S.-Iran deescalation. There are no military solutions to the U.S. disputes with Iran—only diplomatic ones. However, rather than pursue sincere diplomacy, President Trump has elected to pile on pressure with no strategic foresight at the behest of uber-hawkish advisors like John Bolton. If Trump wants to avoid a disastrous conflict at this critical juncture, he needs new advisors that would reopen channels of dialogue and enact policies that would bring Trump closer to a deal with Tehran, not war.”

Toossi continued:

“The fact is that the Trump White House’s policies have set the U.S. on a path to conflict with Iran. Actions such as designating as a foreign terrorist organization Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a state-run military force which operates in the Persian Gulf in close proximity to U.S. forces, were bound to lead to the dangerous scenarios unfolding today. Indeed, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies long warned against designating the IRGC for precisely this risk of escalation. They have since also held that Iran’s recent, more threatening activity is due to the Trump’s administration aggressive actions, including the IRGC designation and terminating sanction waivers for importers of Iranian oil.”

NIAC’s Ehsan Zahedani Appears on Iran International

NIAC Responds to State Department’s Decision to Suspend Funding to Grantee Using Funds to Attack U.S. Civil Society

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 31, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington D.C. – Today, the State Department announced that it is suspending funding to a grantee of the department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), the Iran Disinformation Project (Iran Disinfo), after it was revealed that the group was using funds to attack journalists, analysts, and American civil society organizations, like NIAC, online. The suspension of IranDisinfo follows a major astroturf campaign against NIAC last weekend involving hawkish pro-war organizations like Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and radical diaspora groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – which operates a social media “troll farm” in Albania.

NIAC President Jamal Abdi said in response to these developments:

“Suspending funding for this organization is a fine start. But the American people deserve to know if this is part of a larger conspiracy funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. We need answers as to whether any member of the Trump Administration or U.S. government agency has been involved in guiding, coordinating, or encouraging attacks and propaganda against critics or political opponents of the Trump Administration.”

Abdi elaborated on the links between the groups in question and the Trump Administration:

“There are close ties between officials in the Trump Administration organizations involved in these attacks. We know that the President’s National Security Advisor John Bolton is fond of the MEK, has advocated publicly for the group, and has likely received payment in the form of speaking fees from this former terrorist organization. We also know that former senior FDD officials now sit in John Bolton’s National Security Council and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – while he was the CIA Director – took the highly unusual step of declassifying documents and providing them exclusively to FDD to make the case for military action against Iran.”

Abdi continued:

“If the Trump Administration is funneling funds or coordinating with the perpetrators of this campaign, it is incumbent on Congress to get to the bottom of it. We look forward to working to uncover the truth behind these attacks and any involvement by the U.S. government as well as foreign state sponsored actors. We will not let anyone silence our voices and create a chilling effect meant to deter political engagement within our community.”

BACKGROUND

In last week’s online propaganda campaign, IranDisinfo along with FDD and MEK attempted to spread the outrageously false claim that NIAC and any Iranian American journalist, academic, or political candidate who has spoken out against Donald Trump’s Iran policies or opposed war against Iran are supporters of, or even supported by, the Iranian government.

The attacks utilized an army of bots and inauthentic social media accounts to launch hundreds of thousands of tweets intended to create a false narrative that Iranians and Iranian Americans support the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” and push for war with Iran. The coordinated assault also aimed to discredit pro-peace Iranian Americans by claiming they are supportive of or even supported by the Islamic Republic.

FDD analyst Saeed Ghasseminejad is the main research contributor to IranDisinfo and FDD operates an identical “IranDisinfo” section on its own website. IranDisinfo’s website is also hosted by Tavanna, another organization that is funded by the State Department, and its Executive Director lists IranDisinfo among her affiliations.

NIAC Statement on Trump’s Tweet Threat to “End” Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, May 19, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Trump threatened to “end” Iran in a tweet on the heels of reports that rockets landed near the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad.

In response, President of the National Iranian American Council, Jamal Abdi, issued the following statement:

“President Trump’s saber-rattling about Iran has reached a dangerous new low with his threat to “end” Iran—a country of 83 million men, women, and children. Since the President reneged on the Iran nuclear deal last year, the administration’s policies have been geared towards provoking Iran into retaliation to give cover for a perilous escalation favored by administration hawks. There is no doubt that National Security Advisor John Bolton will use the slightest Iranian action—even bereft of reliable intelligence—as a pretext to push for the war he’s always wanted.

“Trump’s belligerent threat to destroy Iran comes on the heels of reports that a “low-grade” rocket landed in an empty lot near the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad. Last September, a similar incident led to Bolton asking the Pentagon for options to militarily strike Iran. At the time, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis shot down Bolton’s plans. With Mattis gone today, Bolton is well positioned to push Trump and the U.S. into a conflict that would be catastrophic for U.S. interests and regional and global stability.

“The fact is that the United States and the world should not be in this position where a war with Iran is even a possibility. America’s traditional allies in Europe, as well as the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, have repeatedly warned that the administration’s actions are leading to a dangerous tit-for-tat with Iran. Simply stated, the current state of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran is exclusively due to the policies of the Trump administration, which abandoned a nonproliferation agreement that was working in favor of a so-called “maximum pressure campaign.”

“President Trump has claimed that he doesn’t want war, but his bombastic rhetoric is ensuring that he walks into one. Threats of destruction, a la “fire and fury,” will not get him a deal with Iran, just as they haven’t with North Korea. Instead, if Trump is sincere about wanting diplomatic compromise, he should cease his policy of economic warfare that is strangling the Iranian people and pursue a tone of mutual respect with Tehran. Foremost, this would require him to fire John Bolton, who has made clear he opposes U.S.-Iran diplomacy in principle.”

Message from Representative Jayapal to NIAC’s Emerald Gala

NIAC Statement on Reports that Iran Will Halt Compliance with Aspects of Nuclear Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, May 6, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

In response to reports that Iran will halt its compliance with aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal, Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), released the following statement:

“We call on all parties to fully uphold their commitments under the nuclear accord and condemn any and all violations of this agreement that is so important to preventing war and the spread of nuclear weapons. Iran’s potential move risks playing into a dangerous tit for tat that leads to military confrontation. Despite the deterioration of the accord, the window for diplomacy can be reopened if all parties forgo escalation, uphold their commitments under the JCPOA, and seek equitable compromise.  

“These forthcoming steps do not occur in a vacuum. Donald Trump, spurred on by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, has been trying for months to shatter the nuclear deal. Now, he will own the consequences of Iran resuming aspects of its nuclear program that should be barred by the successful agreement that he inherited.

“Members of the Trump administration appear to be repeating the George W. Bush administration’s playbook for war with Iraqtying Iran to al-Qaeda, baselessly stating that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and politicizing intelligence assessments on Iran. Bolton has gone into overdrive in recent weeks to spur Iranian retaliation to justify his reckless aggressionincluding using the routine deployment of an aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf to threaten “unrelenting force” against Iran.

“It is imperative that sober policymakers and commentators keep Iran’s actions in perspective, examine hyperbolic rhetoric with a critical eye, and remain cognizant of the consequences of further escalation.

“Meanwhile, the Iranian people are the primary victims of the Trump administration’s diplomatic sabotage. The reimposition of sanctions and unprecedented steps on oil exports are directly harming the Iranian people, who are now squeezed in a vice of oppressive sanctions and state repression under a growing threat of war.

“The choice to the U.S. is clear: return Iran to compliance with the nuclear deal by resuming sanctions-lifting obligations, or follow Trump and Bolton’s disastrous path to war. We hope all policymakers and 2020 candidates make clear that returning to the JCPOA is the only responsible choice.”

2019 NIAC Congressional Fellowship

NIAC is pleased to announce that it is revitalizing its Congressional Fellowship in honor of the late Ali Youssefi. Youssefi served as NIAC’s board chair in 2016-17 and was an outstanding philanthropist, brilliant developer, and an ardent supporter of the Iranian-American community who understood the value of public service and giving back. We hope that this new initiative will inspire the next generation of Iranian-American leaders to pursue a career in public service.

NIAC’s Congressional fellowship is designed to provide young Iranian Americans the opportunity to learn the legislative process and start a career in public service by working on Capitol Hill.

NIAC will award two Iranian Americans a fellowship to work in a Congressional office in Summer or Fall. Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $2,500 and receive support from NIAC staff to be placed in a Congressional office, and will be asked to write about their experience for publication on our website.

Rising college sophomores, juniors, seniors, recent graduates, and graduate students who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of Iranian descent are eligible to apply. Responsibilities of the fellow will be determined by the Congressional office with which they are placed, though NIAC will arrange additional educational briefings and meetings for the fellow outside of their official duties.

The selection process is expected to be highly competitive; applicants are judged on the basis of their academic credentials, demonstrated interest and involvement in public service and the Iranian-American community and the ability to fulfill the needs and expectations of the Congressional office. A background in public policy, political science, economics, international affairs, or journalism is preferred.

Please note: the Summer application consists of two separate parts with different deadlines.

Part I: Due by May 22, 2019 11:59 pm EST [DEADLINE EXTENDED].

  • A completed application form (Form can be found here)
  • Two letters of recommendation, one academic, one from an employment supervisor
  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Current college transcript
  • 500-word essay addressing the following question: What are the two most important issues facing the Iranian-American community and how can public service contribute to a solution?

Part II (only to be completed by Fellows)

  • NIAC will help place fellows with selected Congressional offices. Fellowship finalists considered for placement will be expected to interview with Congressional offices to ensure a good match.
  • Fellowship start dates are ultimately determined by the matching Congressional office but it is presumed that students on the semester system will work from June 3 – August 1, 2019 and those on the quarter system will work from June 17 – August 16, 2019. Note that students on the quarter system are expected to remain on the Hill for the same length of time.

If you have questions on the application process, please contact us at fellowship@niacouncil.org.

Memo: A Snapshot of Visas and Waivers Over One Year of the Muslim Ban

Lack of information on the implementation of the Muslim Ban has served as one of the greatest impediments to challenging it. January 27, 2019 marked two years since the Muslim Ban first went into effect as Executive Order 13769. It was repackaged as Executive Order 13780, signed on March 6, 2017, and finally Presidential Proclamation 9645, issued on September 24, 2017. Last week, the State Department finally delivered statistics on the Muslim Ban to Senator Van Hollen thanks to his tireless efforts to seek answers. Below are some key findings based on the statistics released:

Iranians Only Granted Waivers in 1.6% of Cases

  • Between December 8, 2017 and October 31, 2018:
    • 19,163 Iranians rejected under ‘undue hardship’ or ‘national interest’ criteria.
    • 5,978 languished in administrative processing for the national security element of the waiver process.
    • Iranians represent 21,089 out of 31,304 total nonimmigrant visas and 8,545 out of 17,352 total immigrant visas subject to ban during this period.
    • Of those rejected for a waiver for failure to prove undue hardship or national interest criteria, Iranians represent 77% of rejections. 19,163 out of 24,584 total.
    • Only 413 met the conditions for a waiver. This is an abysmally low 1.6%.
    • In other words, for every one Iranian who qualified for a waiver, 46 were rejected.
    • Not all of those who qualified for a waiver received a visa. For every 71 applicants, only 1 Iranian was issued a visa.

Iranian Students Exempted But Still Impacted

  • All Iranian immigrant visa applicants were subject to the ban, however it makes an exception for Iranian nationals under valid student (F and M) and exchange visitor (J) visas. Out of 25,752 Iranian nonimmigrant visa applicants, 21,089 were subject to the Muslim Ban and 4,663 were exempted under F, M, and J visas.
  • However, State Department statistics that are released monthly show that only 2,160 F, M, and J visas were actually issued during this period. Numerous students who previously received visas were unable to renew them and complete their studies. For some perspective, in 2015, there were 4,944 F, M, and J visas issued to Iranian nationals according to the State Department’s annual statistics. This is an approximately 56% drop.

Numbers Reveal that the Ban is Still a Muslim Ban Despite the Addition of Venezuela and North Korea

  • Venezuela was added to Proclamation 9645 (Muslim Ban 3.0) in an embarrassingly transparent effort by the Trump administration to distract from the Islamophobic nature of the ban. However, the Venezuelan ban only applies to B-1/B-2 visas and only to officials of select government agencies such as the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. Thus the addition of Venezuela was meaningless and the newly released numbers reflect as much:
    • Out of 3,093 Venezuelan immigrant visa applicants and 87,573 nonimmigrant visa applicants not a single one was subject to the ban.
  • Visas are suspended for all North Korean nationals but due to the nature of U.S.-North Korean relations this has only impacted 62 visa applicants compared to tens of thousands from other countries.