Shawn Amoei

Oklahoma Politicians Stand Up for Iranian People

 

Jett & Boren

Rep. Dan Boren (L) & State Rep. Shane Jett (R)

Washington, DC – What’s happening in Oklahoma? That’s the question many Iranian Americans might be asking themselves after a number of Oklahoman politicians recently stepped up to advocate for policies that would support the Iranian people by relieving unintended pressure placed on them by U.S. sanctions.

In May, the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1090, a resolution encouraging the U.S. Congress to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people by lifting certain sanctions on Iran that had unintentionally hindered the Iranian people’s ability to access the Internet and communications services. An advocate and cosponsor of H.R. 1090, state representative Shane Jett (R- Tecumseh), is now seeking to bring this perspective to the U.S. Congress.

The United States “must be mindful of the impact” that sanctions have on ordinary Iranians, Jett argues. Sanctions should target Iran’s leadership and “protect to the maximum extent possible the interests of the Iranian people,” Jett says in his Iran policy paper. “The United States has a vital interest in working to ensure that its policies do not unintentionally aid in the repressive policies of the Government of Iran by hindering the Iranian people’s basic rights and freedoms.”

Jett is not the only elected official from the panhandle state who is taking a stand. A group of NIAC members in Oklahoma recently held a Mehmoonak to write their representative in the U.S. Congress, Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK), and urged him to support the Stand With the Iranian People Act (SWIPA). Shortly after the Mehmoonak, Congressman Boren became a cosponsor of SWIPA, a bill that works to focus sanctions on the Iranian government while lessening the harm they cause the Iranian people. One Mehmoonak participant event even received a phone call by the Congressman’s political director to thank him for making the Congressman aware of the legislation.

Together, Jett and Boren show that bipartisan support for helping the Iranian people exists, even in one of the more politically conservative parts of the United States.

Jett’s first test as a candidate to Represent Oklahoma’s 5th district comes on July 27th in the state’s Republican Primary. Boren also faces a primary challenge in Oklahoma’s 2nd district Democratic primary. For more information on Jett’s campaign, visit www.jettforcongress.com. For more information on Boren’s campaign, visit www.tkvw.com/boren2010/.

 

 

 

Treasury Expands Iran Blacklist Amid Sanctions Push

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Washington, DC – The US Treasury Department updated its sanctions blacklist yesterday as a first step in implementing the recently passed fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran. The blacklist targets groups and entities working with or supporting Iran’s nuclear or missile programs, as well as its energy sector and leaders of the Revolutionary Guards.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner explained “Our actions today are designed to deter other governments and foreign financial institutions from dealing with these entities and thereby supporting Iran’s illicit activities.” The measure targets Iranian banks, front companies, ships, several individuals and entities associated with the IRGC, as well as petroleum, energy, and insurance companies inside and outside of Iran belonging to the Iranian government.

US officials say the move will be accompanied by measures against Iran by US allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. “To be truly effective in ending Iran’s proliferation activities and Iran’s support for terrorism, we need to have in place a concerted, international approach,” Tim Geithner said. “We have been working behind the scenes building support among finance ministries. We expect to see additional actions announced by other governments soon.”

The move bars US entities from doing business with the designated Iranian groups and individuals and is aimed at discouraging other countries from doing the same. California Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lauded the Treasury’s announcement, saying the new sanctions would go a long way in “persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program.”

The sanctions are part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to put pressure on the Iranian government. “In the coming weeks we will continue to increase the financial pressure,” Secretary Geithner said.”We will continue to target Iran’s support for terrorist organizations.”

 

 

 

 

America’s Future Partners: Turkey and Iran?

Washington, DC – “The only thing new in this world is the history that you don’t know,” Stephen Kinzer said, reciting the famous Harry Truman quote. A veteran foreign correspondent and author of the new book Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, Kinzer spoke Monday at the New America Foundation to shed some light on the history of Turkey and Iran that most people don’t know, and with that foundation offer his vision for a strategic realignment in the Middle East. Kinzer believes that Turkey and Iran are the “two logical partners of the United States” in the 21st century. In contrast to their Arab neighbors, both have a democratic tradition going back over a century, and large masses in both countries are educated and have strong democratic ideals. In the case of Iran, the Green Movement was a testimony to Iranians’ desire for democracy, Kinzer said. Such a popular movement would be unimaginable anywhere in the Arab world where elections don’t regularly take place or are expected to be rigged when they do. According to Kinzer, the long-term prospects for democracy in Iran are good; one day, Iran will likely even surpass Turkey, he said. For the first time in its history, Turkey also has the ability to project significant influence in the region. Having embraced its Islamic identity and being perceived as independent, Turkey can now play a major role in the region and among the Muslim world. The US, Kinzer argues, must deal with the world as it is and not “as we wish it to be” — meaning the so-called “middle powers” like Turkey must be embraced as a positive and powerful force in the international arena. According to Kinzer the problem with American policy in the region is that it is largely stuck in the Cold War paradigm in which Israel and Saudi Arabia were perceived to have had the greatest strategic value. But today, Iran and Turkey carry the most strategic weight. Turkey is strategically located, has a large economy, and can set an example for the rest of the Muslim world. Turkey has a powerful networking ability in the region and the trust of regional actors. Similarly, Iranian interests seem to be aligned with American interests in their opposition to radical Sunni groups, need for the free flow of oil, and desire for long-term stability in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kinzer argues that Iran is the key to resolving these issues. The reality has changed since the Cold War, but we have not changed our policies to adapt to this changing reality. “We are facing a new era,” Kinzer declared. “But we haven’t been able to get out of the quicksand of our 20th century policies.” Kinzer rejects the argument that engaging Iran would make it into a significant regional power, arguing that that is already the case Kinzer said US policy reminds him of a well-known quote about Katharine Hepburn: “she runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.” Oftentimes in the US, it seems that is also the limit of Iran policy options. US policy makers need to break out of their narrow consensus, Kinzer says, and think creatively in order to advance American interests. We cannot continue to wait for the right time to engage Iran because we may wait forever, he said. Instead, the time for engagement is now, and so he asks US policymakers to heed Rumi’s words when he asks, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”

 

   

 

Fmr. Bush Adm. Officials Argue Iran Strike May Be Necessary

Washington, DC – “Containment is an illusion,” declared Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations during a panel discussion on Tuesday hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). Abrams spoke alongside former Bush State Department official Nicholas Burns as the two unveiled a new report on whether an Iran armed with nuclear weapons could be contained.

The discussion largely boiled down to a disagreement on the rationality of the Iranian government. Abrams took the position that because Iran’s leaders have a “messianic” worldview, containment simply is not possible. “We have been unable to deter Iran … when it didn’t have nuclear weapons,” he said, concluding that it is unlikely that the US could contain a nuclear Iran.

The US, according to Abrams, has a credibility issue with Iran. America has backed up its redlines with words only — not by using force — while Iran has gotten away with killing Americans, Abrams said. He continued, “You want to threaten the Iranians; you want them to be afraid.”

While Burns’ agreed with much of Abrams’ analysis, he believes the Iranian government has behaved rationally — at least since the early years of the Iran-Iraq war — and therefore the US should pursue a variety of policies toward Iran simultaneously, including sanctions and engagement. “This is a highly rational, if despicable regime.”

Both men, who were involved in the shaping of the first three rounds of UN sanctions against Iran, expressed deep disappointment at the international community for what they perceived to be a lack of understanding of the Iran threat. While Burns argued that a combination of options should be pursued for one or two more years before a decision on force or containment is made, Abrams stressed that the threat is far more urgent and disagreed with the notion that the US has that much time.

In wrapping up the discussion, Abrams emphasized what he believes are two prevalent fallacies about a military strike on Iran. First, there would be no serious Iranian response, according to Abrams, because that would be suicidal for Iran. Second, Abrams argued there would not be a rallying around the flag effect in the event of an attack.

The wild card in the nuclear standoff is the Green Movement, according to the panelists, who both agreed that the Iranian government’s days are numbered. Abrams believes this only strengthens the argument for a military option since, he asserted, a military attack could set back Iran’s nuclear program about five years, and the Greens may topple the regime within that time.