NIAC Staff

NIAC Staff

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.

Memo on Trump Administration’s Decision to Name IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization

The Trump administration designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is a dangerous and unprecedented escalatory move that could set the stage for a catastrophic conflict with Iran. It marks the first time a state-run military, one into which ordinary Iranians are often conscripted for mandatory military service, has been designated as an FTO.

Given the IRGC is already one of the most sanctioned entities on the planet, the designation achieves little in terms of economic restrictions or penalties for the IRGC. Instead, it needlessly puts U.S. servicemen and bases across the Middle East at risk, diminishes U.S. diplomatic and military connections in countries like Iraq and Syria, and further limits the potential for future diplomatic de-escalation with Iran. The Pentagon has long warned against the move, and the CIA voiced reservations about this decision.

There is no doubt that the IRGC engages in a wide range of activities that undermine regional security and repress the Iranian people. Yet, the IRGC has been a major beneficiary of broad sanctions on the Iranian economy and rising U.S.-Iran tensions.

Members of Congress should denounce this decision as a needlessly reckless move that serves no purpose other than to increase the risk of conflict in an already turbulent Middle East.

The following is an overview of the potential consequences of an IRGC FTO designation:

Risk to U.S. Servicemen and Bases

  • Designating the military wing of a foreign state an FTO is an unprecedented action that could subject U.S. troops to similar treatment from adversaries and risk withdrawing the legal protections that accompany them in theaters of war. This is one of the major reasons that the Department of Defense and retired military officers have been steadfastly opposed to designating the IRGC an FTO.
  • Designating the IRGC an FTO risks retaliation against American troops in Iraq and Syria, where such troops are in close proximity to the IRGC or its partner militias. Both the Pentagon and the CIA have reportedly warned about the severe consequences to U.S. troops and broader U.S. interests in the Middle East that could accompany this designation.
  • Iranian officials and military commanders have stated than they would reciprocate an IRGC FTO designation with a similar designation against the U.S. military. Over 250 Iranian members of parliament have signed a statement calling for such a reciprocal action, while the head of the IRGC has also vowed a tit-for-tat response and said that U.S. forces in the region will “lose their current status of ease and serenity.”
  • While the U.S. military and the IRGC were on opposite sides in Iraq for years after the 2003 U.S. invasion, the counter-ISIS campaign saw them fight a common enemy. The IRGC was at the center of Iranian efforts to roll back ISIS in Iraq, with U.S. forces operating in close proximity in coordination with the Iraqi army. The fact that the Trump administration has now pocketed Iran’s assistance and turned around and designated the IRGC an FTO will not be forgotten when it comes to deconfliction in future conflicts.

 

Negligible Economic Penalty

  • The legal effect of designating the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization is negligible. The sanctions consequences of an FTO designation are entirely duplicative of existing U.S. sanctions authorities. The IRGC is designated under multiple U.S. sanctions programs, many of which have much more substantial force than an FTO designation. For this reason, designating the IRGC an FTO has nothing to do with exerting more pressure on Iran.
  • Because an FTO designation does not have any additional legal consequences for the IRGC, the intended purpose of this action appears to be to foment a military conflict with Iran. The Trump administration is taking this action not in spite of the risks of a new war in the Middle East but precisely because it embraces those risks and hopes to see them through to fruition.  

Limiting U.S. Diplomatic Options

  • Designating the IRGC an FTO dramatically escalates U.S.-Iran tensions and further negates the possibility for successful diplomacy between the two countries, whether over regional crises, detained Americans in Iran or Iranian nuclear or ballistic missile programs.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to constrain a future President from being able to return the United States to compliance with the JCPOA.  Designating the IRGC is further evidence of this intent. Even if the FTO designation does not lead to an outbreak of conflict with Iran, the Trump administration believes that the designation will deter foreign investment in Iran and will be politically difficult to undo. This move is thus intended to undermine a future President’s efforts to re-enter the JCPOA and comply with U.S. obligations thereto.       
  • The designation also limits U.S. diplomatic and military options across the region in countries where the IRGC has influence, especially in Iraq and Lebanon. In these countries, U.S. military and diplomatic personnel may be prevented from contact with senior Iraqi or Lebanese authorities who have contact with the IRGC. According to reports, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies have raised concerns about this impact of the designation in reducing U.S. regional influence.

NIAC Urges Treasury to Remove Impediments to Iran Flood Relief Aid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON D.C. — NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement on the need for the Treasury Department to take steps to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts for victims of Iranian flooding is not impeded by U.S. sanctions:

“Amid disastrous flooding that has devastated tens of thousands in Iran, we urge the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to take clear steps to ensure that sanctions no longer block assistance to victims of Iranian flooding in their hour of need.

“Over the past two weeks, devastating floods have struck large parts of Iran, killing at least 45 people, displacing tens of thousands, and cutting off many areas of the country from relief efforts. It is clear that many Iranians need assistance right now, and that recovery will take a tremendous amount of time.

“However, amid the massive scale of the unfolding crisis, reports indicate that U.S. sanctions are impeding the flow of relief to the Iranian Red Crescent. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘challenges caused by unilateral sanctions will affect the UN response and the accountability of UN to deliver the appropriate support.’

“The announcement that the U.S. is ready to assist the Iranian Red Crescent in overcoming sanctions complications and contribute to relief efforts is a welcome step that should be followed through on. While criticism of the Iranian government’s handling of these issues is warranted, right now is the time to ensure humanitarian relief is not blocked by US sanctions – not score political points at the expense of the Iranian people.

“If the administration is serious about addressing the crisis, there are several additional steps that the Treasury Department should take, including a public clarification or “comfort letter” indicating that all humanitarian relief efforts and associated services connected to the ongoing floods will be exempt from U.S. sanctions. Furthermore, OFAC should expand the scope of its current humanitarian licenses to allow U.S. persons to donate directly to Iranian non-government organizations engaged in relief efforts related to the ongoing flooding. Finally, OFAC should take steps to license financial institutions to engage in humanitarian transactions with Iranian banks.

“It is imperative that the United States demonstrate that it stands with the Iranian people at this critical time, especially given that this natural disaster comes in the backdrop of crushing U.S. sanctions. Failure to take steps to respond risks both impeding relief efforts on the ground and giving the impression that the U.S. will seek to exploit the tragedy afflicting the Iranian people to further its own geopolitical goals.”

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NIAC Statement on the Devastating Floods Sweeping Iran

WASHINGTON D.C. — The National Iranian American Council wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to all those impacted by the unprecedented flooding sweeping Iran that have left at least 44 dead, injured hundreds, and impacted tens-of-thousands of Iranians across the country. We urge that the U.S. government take all necessary measures to ensure that humanitarian relief is not obstructed by sanctions, as have previous Administrations.

The devastating floods that hit Iran only days after Norooz have destroyed homes and displaced entire communities from the city of Shiraz to the Mazandaran, Golestan, and Kermanshah Provinces—the latter of which is still rebuilding after an enormous earthquake last year that claimed hundreds of lives. The risk of further fatalities and damage remains, unfortunately, as the risks of dams failing and overflow grows—further threatening those living in areas with high risk of flooding.  

The floods are only one more manifestation of the environmental crisis Iran faces today, which is derived both from years of governmental mismanagement and climate change. Importantly, the fact that many of Iran’s environment challenges are not endemic to Iranians serves as a reminder that climate change ravages nations across the globe and necessitates a united, global response.

Organizations across the United States are busy navigating the sanctions red-tape that complicates processing donations for Iranian relief efforts, but two organizations have successfully obtained the necessary OFAC waivers to do so. Donations to relief efforts can be made to Children of Persia or to Moms Against Poverty.

Our thoughts remain squarely with our Iranian friends and families who now need our support to engage in recovery efforts.

Appointment of Ebrahim Raisi to Head Iran’s Judiciary Signals Resurgence of Hardline Elements

For Immediate Release: March 7, 2019
Contact: Mana Mostatabi | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C.—Today, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a decree appointing hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, as head of the country’s Judiciary.

In response to the appointment, Mana Mostatabi, Communications Director at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), noted:

The appointment of Ebrahim Raisi today to head Iran’s Judiciary—a tremendously powerful institution that has overseen countless miscarriages of justice—is deeply concerning. Raisi, a hardliner who was soundly defeated by Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s 2017 presidential elections, brings a shameful track record to the Judiciary—including his involvement in the committee that oversaw the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

In a fair and just system, the appointment of such an individual to head the Judiciary would be impossible. Unfortunately, the Judiciary is among Iran’s unelected institutions that are not accountable to Iran’s civil government and that have long ensured that Iran does not abide by its international human rights obligations.

Raisi’s selection as Judiciary head is yet another grim sign that the same hardliners who faced significant setbacks after the JCPOA was successfully negotiated with Iran are now resurgent following Trump’s abrogation of the nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions. Ultimately, it is the Iranian people who endure the impacts of any U.S. pressure policies—not the hardline forces responsible for human and civil rights abuses.

In the wake of Raisi’s appointment, NIAC reiterates its call for Iran to fully abide by its international human rights obligations and to release all prisoners of conscience unjustly detained.

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Statement of Pro-Diplomacy Groups Regarding U.S. Policy Toward Iran

Pro-diplomacy groups representing millions of American voters urge lawmakers to publicly articulate and support the following principles with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that verifiably blocks each of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and created a much-needed diplomatic relationship between Iran, the United States, and U.S. allies:

  • Support for the JCPOA and returning the United States to compliance with the agreement;
  • Opposition to sanctions that:
    • disrupt any party’s implementation of the JCPOA;
    • prevent the United States from coming back into compliance with the JCPOA in the future;
    • disproportionately impact Iranian civilians rather than regime officials engaged in illicit or destabilizing activities;
    • block necessary humanitarian and medical supplies from reaching the country;
  • Support for good faith diplomacy toward additional agreements as the preferred basis for addressing further concerns about Iranian activity; and
  • Opposition to starting a war of choice with Iran.

Signed:

About Face: Veterans Against the War
American College of National Security Leaders
American Family Voices
Americans for Peace Now
Arab American Institute
Arms Control Association
Beyond the Bomb
Brave New Films
Center for American Progress
Center for International Policy
Citizens for Global Solutions
Common Defense
Council for a Livable World
CREDO Action
Daily Kos
Demand Progress
Federation of American Scientists
Foreign Policy for America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Global Security Institute
Global Zero
Indivisible
International Civil Society Action Network
J Street
Jewish Voice for Peace
Just Foreign Policy
MoveOn
National Iranian American Council
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Open Society Policy Center
Pax Christi International
Peace Action
Peace Corps Iran Association
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ploughshares Fund
RootsAction.org
Sojourners
T’ruah
The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Truman National Security Project
U.S. Labor Against the War
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Church of Christ
United for Peace and Justice
Veterans For Peace
VoteVets
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
World BEYOND War

Foreign Policy Intern

Now accepting Spring & Summer applicants

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is accepting internship applications to work with the foreign policy team at our Washington, D.C. office. Standard internships are full-time positions for a duration of one academic semester (spring, summer or fall) with exceptions possible for applicants who plan to be enrolled in classes during the internship. NIAC will assist in helping students receive credit for their internship. This is an unpaid internship.

About NIAC

NIAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community for peace, democracy, and universal rights. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by lawmakers.

Responsibilities

Interns work with NIAC staff on advocacy and community outreach activities. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Monitor and research Congressional activities
  • Attend and summarize Congressional hearings and policy briefings around Washington, DC
  • Draft analyses and action alerts on issues related to foreign policy, immigration and civil rights
  • Write articles for NIAC’s website, op-eds for NIAC’s blog, NIAC inSight
  • Assist with program implementation, database management, community outreach, event planning, logistical support for staff activities, and other administrative duties
  • Applicants with strong creative skills may assist with graphic design, upkeep and enhancements to NIAC’s website, and/or producing short videos which educate the community and/or highlight NIAC activities
  • Applicants who are fluent in Persian may assist with translating news from Iran for NIAC’s blog, translating NIAC materials to Persian, and maintaining NIAC’s Persian language website

Qualifications

NIAC seeks individuals with a wide range of skills who are highly motivated to support NIAC’s work.
Basic Qualifications:

  • Current Undergraduate/Graduate student or recent graduate
  • Outstanding written and oral communication skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Experience or demonstrated interest in international relations, political science, public policy, law, public relations, social media strategies, marketing, journalism, and/or graphic design
  • Self-motivating and highly versatile

Additional Qualifications:

  • Experience with Congress advocacy campaigns and/or grassroots organizations
  • Proficiency in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, WordPress, and/or other multimedia production tools
  • Experience or interest in fundraising, donor sponsorships and development
  • Fluency in Persian (Farsi)

How to Apply

Please email your resume, cover letter, and a short writing sample to SJ Jackson at sjackson@niacouncil.org 

In your cover letter please specify how many hours you are able to work and what your desired start and end dates are. The duration of the internship will be as follows:

Spring session: April 15th-June 14th
Summer session: June 14th- Aug 23rd
Dates may vary depending on availability.

Write the following in the subject of your email: FP Internship [insert your name]

In the event you are not shortlisted for the Foreign Policy Internship, please indicate whether you’d like to be considered for the Organizing Internship and/or the Graphics & Communications Internship.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. NIAC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Washington D.C. Organizing Intern

Now accepting Spring & Summer applicants

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is accepting internship applications on a rolling basis to work in Washington, D.C. Standard internships are full-time positions for a duration of one academic semester (spring, summer or fall) with exceptions possible for applicants who plan to be enrolled in classes during the internship. NIAC will assist in helping students receive credit for their internship. This is an unpaid internship.

About NIAC

NIAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community for peace, democracy, and universal rights. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by lawmakers.

Responsibilities

Interns work with NIAC staff on grassroots organizing activities. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Monitor and research Congressional activity
  • Draft action alerts on issues related to foreign policy, immigration and civil rights
  • Assist in planning events that will engage both the Iranian-American community and the general public
  • Assist in planning and participate in grassroots actions, such as phonebanks, petition tables, town hall meetings, etc.
  • Assist with program implementation, database management, community outreach, volunteer recruitment, logistical support for staff activities, and other administrative duties
  • Applicants with strong creative skills may assist with graphic design and/or producing short videos which educate the community and/or highlight NIAC activities
  • Applicants who are fluent in Persian may assist with translating translating NIAC materials to Persian.

Qualifications

NIAC seeks individuals with a wide range of skills who are highly motivated to support NIAC’s work.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Current Undergraduate/Graduate student or recent graduate
  • Outstanding written and oral communication skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Experience or demonstrated interest in international relations, political science, grassroots organizing, public policy, law, public relations, social media strategies, marketing, journalism, and/or graphic design
  • Self-motivating and highly versatile

Additional Qualifications:

  • Experience with advocacy campaigns and/or grassroots organizations
  • Proficiency in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, WordPress, and/or other multimedia production tools
  • Experience or interest in developing volunteer leaders
  • Fluency in Persian (Farsi)

How to Apply

Please email your resumecover letter, and a short writing sample to Donna Farvard at dfarvard@niacouncil.org

In your cover letter please specify how many hours you are able to work and what your desired start and end dates are. The duration of this internship will be as follows:

Spring session: April 15th-June 14th
Summer session: June 14th- Aug 23rd
Dates may vary depending on availability.

Write the following in the subject of your email: DCO Internship [insert your name]

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. NIAC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.