NIAC Requests U.S. Government Issue Exemption to Allow Mail to Iran

Washington, D.C. – With many Iranian Americans finding in recent months that their mail to family in Iran is being returned to them with obscure instructions from the U.S. Postal Service, NIAC has taken formal action to call on the U.S. government to once again allow Americans to send mail to Iran.

Americans have been free to send mail to Iran via the U.S. Postal Service for years despite a U.S. embargo against the country. For the past several months, NIAC has been in contact with relevant agencies to determine why Iranian Americans were having their envelopes and packages to Iran returned. Through that process, NIAC learned that the Trump Administration quietly began enforcing a prohibition blocking such deliveries to Iran beginning in August of 2017. The prohibition requires that individuals sending mail to Iran must go through the process of filing an “Electronic Export Information” (EEI) form – even for letters or gifts under $100.

In a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Customs and Border Protection Agency, NIAC is now requesting that an exemption be issued to allow Americans to once against send mail to Iran without an EEI. The requirement to obtain an EEI authorization has technically been U.S. policy for years but has been superseded by other U.S. policies – including a General License issued by the Treasury Department to allow most personal mail to Iran.

The agencies NIAC has contacted have the authority to issue exceptions to the policy if it causes undue burden, which appears self-evident given the inability of many Iranian Americans or Americans with friends and family in Iran to successfully send mail and packages. NIAC will continue its efforts to press the agencies for a solution until our members’ problems have been resolved.

The full text of the letter is here.

Pompeo Is Not Going To Save The Iran Deal

As Mike Pompeo’s confirmation vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee teeters on the brink of rejection, hawks eager to salvage his confirmation on the Senate floor are pushing an interesting argument: that only Pompeo can “save” the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). This is like arguing that only the hamburglar can protect your Big Mac.

How could we expect Pompeo to save the Iran deal as secretary of state when he already worked to sabotage the deal as CIA director, a position supposed to be non-political? Contrary to promises of objectivity during his nomination hearing, as CIA Director Pompeo pushed the president to de-certify the Iran nuclear deal despite Iran’s continued compliance. According to a Foreign Policy report in July:

Although most of Trump’s deputies endorsed certifying that Iran was abiding by the deal, one senior figure has emerged in favor of a more aggressive approach—CIA Director Mike Pompeo. At White House deliberations, the former lawmaker opposed certifying Iran while suggesting Congress weigh in on the issue, officials and sources close to the administration said.

Pompeo was forced to acknowledge Iran’s compliance when, despite the full resources of the CIA at his disposal, he failed to find any evidence that Iran was not abiding by the deal. As he stated in his confirmation hearing last week, “I’ve seen no evidence that they’re not in compliance” with their obligations under the nuclear accord. That means that Pompeo was urging Trump to make a political decision to undermine American compliance with the nuclear accord and push the U.S. government to exit the deal, which was widely denounced by all other parties to the agreement. There’s no reason to expect Pompeo to change if he becomes secretary of state.

Furthermore, Pompeo has refused to assure senators that he would stand in the way of Trump walking away from the accord if an agreement with the Europeans is not forthcoming in less than a month. Many have fixated on Pompeo’s promise to try to “fix” the accord by May 12 in line with Trump’s directives. Yet, when pressed on what he would advise if an agreement is not forthcoming by the deadline—an increasingly likely scenario—Pompeo affirmed that he would let Trump snap back sanctions to kill the deal and then work for a “better deal.” Of course, the notion that there is a “better deal” coming after Trump abrogates the current deal and alienates U.S. negotiating partners is ridiculous. Pompeo would be letting the deal he hates die, not putting himself on the line to save it.

Then there’s Pompeo’s record as a member of Congress. Pompeo pushed 2,000 bombing sorties on Iran as an alternative to nuclear negotiations in 2014, routinely asserted that there were no benefits to the nuclear accord whatsoever, and suggested that the U.S. pursue regime change in Iran. That record has rightfully raised concerns among lawmakers questioning Pompeo’s record.

Yet, similar to his peddling of conspiracy theories over the Benghazi tragedy, Pompeo distinguished himself by launching disingenuous attacks on the nuclear deal along with his buddy Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). In summer 2015, Pompeo and Cotton met with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Austria for briefings on a confidential, technical implementation plan to resolve an inquiry into Iran’s past nuclear activities with possible military dimensions. Such inspection plans are routinely kept confidential to protect state confidentiality and preserve the IAEA’s reputation as a neutral arbiter. Rather than educate their fellow lawmakers, Pompeo and Cotton spun the plan as a “secret side deal” that Obama was withholding from the American public. The House of Representatives even passed legislation authored by Pompeo alleging that Obama had broken the law by failing to turn over the confidential plan and that the JCPOA was therefore void. Interestingly, a recent White House news clip cites an op-ed listing the side-deal episode as a reason to support Pompeo, rather than as a sign that he is politically toxic and has a history of playing loose with the facts.

Pompeo’s primary qualification for secretary of state is that he has Trump’s ear and that, because of his good working relationship with the president, his word will carry weight. But Pompeo won’t likely reverse years of advocacy against the Iran nuclear deal, particularly absent any serious assurances from the man himself.

Pompeo is an ideologue who has already encouraged Trump’s worst instincts and appears eager to risk a war with Iran. If senators vote to confirm Pompeo, they won’t be affirming a secret ally who will work a diplomatic miracle with Iran. They’ll be voting for a man who encourages the president’s worst instincts and aims to oversee the death of the nuclear deal.

Originally published in Lobe Log

NIAC Statement on Syria Strikes

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Research Director Reza Marashi released the following statement:

“The situation in Syria is tremendously dangerous, and President Trump risks throwing fuel on the regional fire. Given that Iranian and Russian forces are closely embedded with the Syrian government, there is a significant risk that any strikes will trigger retaliation and a bloodier, wider war with few discernible ways to deescalate the conflict. 

“The American people do not want to start new wars. There is no Congressional authorization or UN Security Council resolution for such an action. Upholding the important principle that there is no place in this world for chemical weapons must not come at the expense of ignoring the principles of the Constitution and the United Nations.

“A large part of the reason that Syria is in ruins today is because nearly all actors have pursued military solutions instead of diplomacy aimed at halting the bloodshed. An eye for an eye approach will not bring justice or peace to Syria, and there is no moral high ground for those who respond to abhorrent violence with more violence.

“Just as the United States should abstain from reckless escalation, Assad’s primary backers in Russia and Iran have a duty to rein in their patron. This is particularly true for Iran, one of the biggest victims of chemical warfare, which should exert real pressure to halt the butchery of the Syrian people via both chemical and conventional weapons.”

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NIAC Sues Trump Administration for Failing to Provide Information on Backdoor Muslim Ban

Washington, D.C. – Early this morning, the National Iranian American Council filed National Iranian American Council v. United States Department of State to compel the Trump Administration to turn over requested documents which would provide vital information about how the ‘extreme vetting’ policy is being implemented, how information is being gathered through the DS-5535 form, and the impact that this policy is having on Iranian nationals, as well as nationals from the five other designated predominantly-Muslim countries.

“NIAC fully intends on getting to the truth of how ‘extreme vetting’ is being interpreted, implemented, and enforced,” Shayan Modarres, NIAC legal counsel said. “If the records obtained confirm that the Trump administration is indeed imposing a backdoor Muslim ban through administrative measures imposing an administrative Muslim ban through ‘extreme vetting’ and DS-5535 forms, NIAC will pursue all available legal remedies to protect the Iranian-American and other impacted communities.”

Last June, NIAC sent its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department seeking a variety of relevant documents which could confirm suspicions – and available data – that the Trump Administration is using ‘extreme vetting’ to deny visa requests on constitutionally impermissible grounds.

Data seems to show that President Donald Trump has found a backdoor to fulfilling his campaign promise of banning Muslims from entering the United States. Prior to unveiling Muslim Ban 3.0, President Trump tweeted in June about his desire to abandon the “watered down” revised Muslim ban and return back to the original, more discriminatory and unconstitutional, Muslim ban. Trump then noted that despite the court orders, the administration is pursuing ‘extreme vetting.’

“As the Supreme Court prepares to consider whether Trump’s Muslim ban can move forward, we also must be fighting against the backdoor ban policies like ‘extreme vetting’ and any other, discriminatory and constitutionally offensive policies,” said Modarres. “We look forward to our day in court to compel the production of these critically important documents.”

  • Read a copy of our complaint by clicking here
  • Read a copy of our FOIA request by clicking here

NIAC Hiring Digital Communications Manager

NIAC is seeking a Digital Communications Manager for immediate hire to work at our Washington, DC headquarters. The Digital Communications Manager is responsible for leading and managing NIAC’s digital communications, including its websites, social media, printed materials, and videos. S/he works with the Outreach Director and senior leadership to devise NIAC’s overarching marketing strategy. The Communications Manager reports to the Outreach Director. Specific responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Develop, in consultation with the Outreach Director and senior leadership, and execute NIAC’s digital marketing strategy.
  2. Publish and disseminate NIAC’s content on the website and social media accounts, utilizing best practices to maximize distribution and effectiveness.
  3. Manage NIAC’s social media presence, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
  4. Prepare and send all NIAC emails using Mailchimp.
  5. Manage NIAC websites, including design, banner images, and quality control.
  6. Measure and assess the effectiveness of NIAC’s online marketing activities utilizing Google Analytics, Mailchimp, and other relevant tools. Develop recommendations for new strategies and tactics to increase reach and effectiveness of NIAC’s digital communications to meet organizational goals.
  7. Create and manage NIAC’s Google Adwords and social media advertising campaigns.
  8. Oversee graphics, video and social media work of interns, including any dedicated digital communications interns.
  9. Design and create (or manage the creation by an outside designer) NIAC’s digital and printed marketing content (graphics, videos, designed layouts for marketing materials, online landing pages, etc.) that inform, strengthen NIAC’s brand, advance NIAC’s goals, and/or advertise upcoming events.
  10. Create (or manage the creation by an outside designer) NIAC’s visual branding for all events (logos, flyers, website design, email design, etc) in consultation with the Outreach Director.
  11. Monitor communications challenges and opportunities, taking the initiative and working with the relevant departments to address these as needed.  

Desired Experience:

  • Two plus years of digital communications experience
  • Undergraduate degree. Marketing, communications, political science, international relations, or related field preferred.
  • Experience with HTML, Google Analytics, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, WordPress, and Mailchimp
  • 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, U.S. Iran relations, and the Iranian American community preferred
  • Persian language knowledge a plus

Qualities that will thrive in this position:

  • The selected candidate may not have all of the desired experiences and skills, but must be willing to learn new skills and tackle new challenges
  • Strong self-starter, entrepreneurial; eager to present new ideas to the team
  • 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 resume and cover letter to Mahsa Payesteh at mpayesteh@niacouncil.org with the subject line “Digital Communications Manager”.

Salary & Benefits: Salary range is $40,000 to $50,000, depending on 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
  • Paid family leave
  • Tax-advantaged commuter benefits program
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

About NIAC

The National Iranian American Council 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 advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community.

NIAC Hiring Southern California Field Organizer

Los Angeles Area (LA, Irvine, OC, etc.)
Full Time/Exempt

NIAC, the largest Iranian-American organization representing Iranian Americans, seeks a Southern California Field Organizer with organizing experience who is passionate about mobilizing the Iranian American community around issues including protecting civil rights and preventing war.  The Field Organizer is responsible for organizing and executing the work of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and NIAC Action grassroots members and teams in the greater Los Angeles area and Southern California.  They will coordinate and collaborate with NIAC’s Washington, DC staff to deliver messaging, training and resources to volunteers, district captains, donors and interested community members.  The Field Organizer is responsible for increasing and mobilizing NIAC’s support base within Southern California to create and support a cohesive, strategic, and effective approach to achieving NIAC’s goals. They are also responsible for organizing NIAC Action’s field program for the 2018 election in Orange County. The Field Organizer will also manage relations with coalition partners in the region. They will report to NIAC’s National Organizing Manager.

Responsibilities

Grassroots & Grasstops Mobilization & Capacity Building – Helps maximize the political representation of the Iranian-American community by identifying and cultivating grassroots and grasstops leaders. Provide support and motivation through field visits and remote management to grow, educate and mobilize NIAC supporters. Develop local volunteers into NIAC Congressional Captains.  Guide and train NIAC members in advance of Congressional in-district meetings. Implement grassroots legislative advocacy strategies, in collaboration with NIAC’s policy team.

Promote NIAC campaigns to supporters and the broader community, work with district captains and other local volunteers to develop and implement actions and events, work in collaboration with policy and development staff; develop expertise on NIAC’s focus areas and relevant actions, and serve as a regional public representative of NIAC.

Organize around NIAC Action’s 2018 election plan to increase Iranian-American voter participation in Orange County. This entails working with a volunteer team to register voters and execute a number of voter contact tactics. This will require the Field Organizer to spend the vast majority of their time based in Irvine, CA.

Grow Regional Membership – Leads regional efforts to recruit and engage new members and supporters through special events, campaigns and other incentives. Supports Development Director’s efforts to identify and cultivate new and existing donors.  Must be able to work with and manage relations with major donors in the region.

Work with the Organizing Manager and Development Director to develop and implement strategies to grow and diversify membership throughout the assigned region in tangible, innovative and goal-oriented ways.

Maintain accurate records of volunteer engagement, prepare reports and evaluate outcomes of community engagements.

Engage Community Through Local Events – Organizes (directly and/or indirectly through volunteers) local events to grow and mobilize the membership, including private meet-n-greets at private homes and venues; supports day of community service events; events of interest to the community such as local film screenings and book signings; and more to create well-attended and impactful local events and regional meetings that match organizational goals.

Develop/Increase Local Presence:

Initiate and steward relationships with local organizations to connect and integrate the work of NIAC campaigns and members to local needs and opportunities. Assist National Organizing Manager in staffing and overseeing local Regional Council.

Support of Member Groups and Volunteers:

Ensure materials are provided to NIAC members, activists and local partners; track and report on local group activities and needs; serve as link between member activists and NIAC’s Washington staff.

Other duties as assigned

 

Requirements

Education
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent education plus experience is required.

Experience
Requires 1+ years’ relevant experience. Experience and training with grassroots organizing, including election campaign work, is highly preferred.

Skills or Related Knowledge

  • Teambuilding, organizing and excellent presentation and facilitation skills are required.
  • Familiarity with the Iranian-American community in Southern California preferred.
  • Must have some experience collecting signatures, registering voters, phonebanking, or canvassing.
  • Must be organized, entrepreneurial, and self-driven with excellent time management skills for work that requires both significant independence and close collaboration with DC staff
  • Must be familiar with the policy issues NIAC works on and the political landscape
  • Must be committed to advancing NIAC’s goals and mission
  • Ability to speak Farsi (Persian) is strongly preferred.
  • Must be able to travel in and work on weekends and evenings as needed. Periodic travel to Washington, DC headquarters required, including for orientation and training shortly after hire.

Salary & Benefits
Salary Range: $45,760 to $49,000, depending on 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
  • Paid family leave
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

How to Apply
Send resume and cover letter to Donna Farvard (dfarvard@niacouncil.org) with the subject line “Southern California Field Organizer”

About NIAC and NIAC Action
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. NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. Selected candidate will be a shared employee for both NIAC and NIAC Action.

Blame Trump When Iran Races for the Bomb

The nuclear deal with Iran hangs by a thread. The appointment of John Bolton — an unapologetic proponent of war with Iran — as U.S. national security advisor has prompted celebrations among Iran deal detractors. The announcement that nuclear talks with North Korea will be held around the same time that U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether to keep or kill the Iran deal has further complicated the picture. Yet few in Washington understand how Trump’s gamble with Pyongyang may impact Tehran’s nuclear calculations.

Conventional wisdom declares that Trump would be foolish to kill the Iran deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) if he genuinely seeks to reach an agreement with the North Koreans. If Trump shows that he does not honor America’s agreements, why would Pyongyang strike a deal with him?

But Trump is anything but conventional. His logic runs in the opposite direction, and Bolton will be more than happy to enable Trump’s worst instincts. By killing the JCPOA, Trump thinks he’ll signal to the North Koreans that they should have no doubt that he is ready to walk away from the talks if he doesn’t get what he wants. After all, walking away from ongoing negotiations is much easier than killing an existing deal.

Trump may know bluster, be he does not know diplomacy. Strong-arming subcontractors may work in the Manhattan real estate market, but it won’t work in international diplomacy. Sovereign states don’t react like jilted architects and electricians.

How will Iran react if Trump pursues this path? For Tehran, the JCPOA was never just about the nuclear issue. It was a test to see if the West could come to terms with the Islamic Republic and accept Iran as a regional power. By testing this proposition, the talks became a defining showdown between the two dominant schools of thought within the Iranian elite.

The first school, dominated by conservative elements in the government and military, argues that the United States — pressured by Israel and Saudi Arabia — is inherently hostile to Iran and will never recognize the country as a regional power or come to terms with its regime, regardless of Iran’s policies or the compromises it offers. The inclusion Tehran seeks can only be achieved by forcing the United States and its allies to accept the reality of Iran’s power. The hard-liners’ skepticism of diplomacy and resistance to compromise is partly rooted in their belief that no Iranian compromise can change Washington’s hostility to Tehran.

Iran’s second, more moderate group of policy-makers recognizes both that the country’s own actions have contributed to infectious conflict and that the United States has legitimate concerns about Iranian policies. An American acceptance of Iran’s inclusion in the regional security architecture can be obtained, they argue, through diplomacy and a genuine give-and-take. If Iran compromises, so will the West, the logic goes.

Up until the nuclear negotiations began in earnest, the debate between these two schools was theoretical. Though Tehran had made many diplomatic overtures in the past, America’s willingness to come to terms with Iran had never been tested through a mutual compromise that both sides had signed on to.

Until, that is, the JCPOA.

The Iran nuclear deal was the first time the United States and Iran had agreed to a significant exchange of concessions that not only eliminated Iran’s pathways to a bomb and lifted sanctions, but also put an end to almost four decades of American efforts to completely isolate Iran. It signaled that America, 36 years after the Iranian revolution, was coming to terms with Iran.

Both sides agreed to painful concessions, both faced fierce domestic political opposition, and both recognized that the agreement signaled a major break with past policies. America was coming to terms with Iran. And the Islamic Republic was speaking of the United States not as the Great Satan, but as a negotiation partner.

It was a major victory for the second school of thought in Iran — at least for the moment.

But increasingly, the JCPOA has become a victory for the hard-liners. Despite Iran’s concessions and its adherence to the deal (confirmed by 10 reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency), Trump, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have clearly rejected Iran’s regional integration under any circumstance. Changes in Iran’s policies proved insufficient, so nothing short of Iran’s complete capitulation can seemingly satisfy Trump’s allies.

This conclusion will be unavoidable in Tehran if Trump kills the JCPOA to make a deal with Pyongyang. It will strengthen the Iranian hard-line narrative that Tehran’s mistake was that it only obtained enrichment capabilities — but not a bomb — before it agreed to seriously negotiate. Had it built a bomb — like the North Koreans — then the United States would have no choice but to show Iran respect, strike a deal with it — and honor that deal. Trump will essentially incentivize Iran to go nuclear.

Ultimately, Trump’s bluster won’t work. He lacks a properly staffed State Department with the capacity to negotiate, and his new national security advisor ideologically opposes diplomacy. By killing the Iran deal to impress Pyongyang, Trump will destroy one functioning arms deal without securing a new one. And in the process, he will tilt the balance in favor of those in Tehran who have argued all along that America only understands the language of force.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

With Bolton Pick, Trump is Assembling an Iran War Cabinet

Washington, DC – Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement regarding the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor:

“Donald Trump may have just effectively declared war on Iran. With the appointment of John Bolton, and nomination of Mike Pompeo at State, Trump is clearly putting together a war cabinet. As the world awaits Trump’s May 12 decision as to whether he will abandon the Iran nuclear deal, all of the signs now point to a decision to move to war footing.

“Bolton is an unhinged advocate for waging World War III. He has explicitly called for bombing Iran for the past ten years and has suggested the U.S. engage in nuclear first strikes in North Korea. Bolton’s first order of business will be to convince Trump to exit the Iran nuclear deal and lay the groundwork for the war he has urged over the past decade. Additionally, he has has called for ending all visas for Iranians, shipping bunker busting weapons to Israel, and supporting the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist organization and other separatist groups inside of Iran. The Iranian-American community and our pro-peace, pro-human rights allies will organize to stop Bolton’s plans from becoming a reality.

“Congress must do everything in its power to convince Trump to reconsider this decision and exert maximal pressure to constrain Bolton’s ability to impose irreparable harm to the U.S. and global security. To begin with, the Senate must block Mike Pompeo from becoming Secretary of State.

“Bolton now represents the greatest threat to the United States. This is a dangerous time for our country and a slap in the face even to Trump’s supporters who thought he would break from waging disastrous foreign wars and military occupations.“Bolton was a key player in the march to the disastrous war in Iraq that Trump has criticized as a major foreign policy blunder. He famously demonstrated that he was a ‘kiss-up, kick-down sorta guy’ who dismissed intelligence on Iraq’s WMD program that didn’t fit his predetermined policy preference. The fact that one of Trump’s key advisers is likely to stroke the President’s ego while blocking key intelligence or intimidating any objective analysts that might be underneath him is of deep concern. Of further concern, Bolton fails to acknowledge that the Iraq war was a mistake and only regrets that the Bush administration didn’t overthrow more countries while it was in office.

“Bolton’s ties to the cultish MEK should also immediately disqualify him. Bolton routinely meets with and accepts payments from the group – which has murdered Iranians and American service members alike and is deeply unpopular among ordinary Iranians. Yet, Bolton sees this illegitimate group that commits human rights abuses against its own members as a ‘viable opposition’ that he wants to use to overthrow the Iranian government. Bolton promised an MEK crowd last July, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!’”

NIAC Mourns the Passing of Former Board Chair Ali Youssefi 

NIAC joins a broad community of family, friends and fans who are grieving the recent passing of Ali Youssefi. Ali passed away on March 10 at the age of 35 following a several month battle with cancer. 

Ali was born in Sacramento, a city he cherished, championed and transformed with innovative development projects that brought renewed attention to California’s state capital. He had a strong vision and philosophy on Sacramento’s urban renaissance, sharing, “If we embrace the idea of building mixed-income neighborhoods, Sacramento will be an even more diverse and integrated city than it is today.” Ali, a graduate of Dartmouth, was part of the proud ownership group of the Sacramento Kings, a team he cherished. Ali made a lasting impact on the future of the city he loved. Sacramento’s Mayor Darryl Steinberg shared, “The loss of Ali Youssefi is a terrible blow to our city. Ali was a friend whose generosity, vision, and determination helped shape Sacramento into the vibrant and inclusive community it is today.”

In addition to being a leader in his local community, Ali was also an active philanthropist and civic leader who believed in elevating the participation of the Iranian-American community in American civic life. He was an adamant advocate of diplomacy and peace and the supporter of many organizations including NIAC and Ploughshares Fund. “Whether it’s an issue related to development or civil rights or Iranian American affairs, I have a voice and am able to communicate with our representatives to raise issues that are important to us,” he recently said. As former NIAC Board Chair, Ali used his voice to consistently and bravely advocate for our entire community.

“Ali was an outstanding philanthropist, a brilliant developer, and a compassionate leader,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said. “But he was much more than that. He was an amazing human being whose courage and strength lifted up everyone around him. Ali joined NIAC at a time when our fight for diplomacy and a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis could not have looked any dimmer. To most, it was an impossible to fight. To Ali, it was a necessary fight. His courage, strength and laser sharp focus helped guide us though those difficulties and towords victory. It has been an honor and privilege having gotten to know and work with Ali. The Iranian-American community could not have lost a more beautiful soul.”

“In losing Ali, we have lost not only a fierce advocate for our community, but one of the most good and compassionate people I have been honored to know. Ali lived a life of purpose and deep meaning, with a commitment to service and a love for the Iranian-American community that was truly awe-inspiring. The entire NIAC family mourns his loss and stands committed to continuing the work that he advocated and the values he exemplified,” shares Shokooh Miry, NIAC Board Chair.

NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi shares, “Ali may have been young, but he leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire all of us who worked with him. His passing is a reminder of the good we can do and a challenge for all of us to do better. He believed in the community he was a part of. He not only worked to literally build the city around him, he also fought for and defended the values he believed were core to our Iranian-American community. I will forever think of Ali – how he was methodical but passionate, practical but idealistic, successful but always modest – and work to honor him and his legacy in everything we do.”

Ali Youssefi was so much more than the sum of his remarkable accomplishments. He was the funniest, kindest and most humble person in nearly any setting he was a part of. He took his work extremely seriously without taking himself too seriously. His desire to make an impact on grand challenges and causes came down to people. He cherished working alongside good people to make a meaningful difference. Despite his intense schedule and responsibilities, Ali somehow made time for everyone from close friends to those he had just met. It has been a common refrain across the outpouring of condolences from those who met Ali only once to those whose relationship with him spanned decades to say that Ali was the best person they had ever known. All of us at NIAC agree. Ali Youssefi is no longer with us in person, but the aspirational idea of Ali will live on in untold ways. Our organization, our community and our world are infinitely better because Ali was here. We miss him dearly. 

Ali is survived by his wife, parents and sister, who have asked for time and privacy as they make memorial arrangements and plans for the causes Ali so passionately championed. We offer our heartfelt condolences to them and all who knew Ali as our community mourns this tragic and untimely loss. 

To read more about Ali’s remarkable life, see:
http://www.sacbee.com/latest- news/article204569169.html
http://www.sacbee.com/news/ local/news-columns-blogs/ marcos-breton/ article177634921.html
https://iranian.com/2017/05/ 10/ali-youssefi-reinventing- the-urban-lifestyle/
 

Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

NIAC Outraged By Revelation of Non-Existent Waiver Process Under Muslim Ban

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council is appalled by the revelation that, despite the Trump Administration’s claims that there is a “waiver” process to ensure his Muslim ban does not target family members of Americans, only two such waivers had been issued by Feb. 15 – out of 8,406 visa applications from “banned” countries. NIAC applauds the efforts of Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Van Hollen, who uncovered this information as part of an inquiry to the State Department.

“This would be laughable if it didn’t impact so many families in the U.S. and around the world,” said NIAC Vice President for Policy Jamal Abdi. “Trump is carrying out his Muslim ban with zero Congressional oversight and the failure of his so-called ‘waiver’ process is likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

Following several court orders blocking previous versions of the Muslim ban, the Trump administration instituted an indefinite ban in October. To mollify critics – and address an decision from the Supreme Court that the administration could not bar family members of Americans and other applicants with “bona fide” relations in the U.S. – President Trump issued Proclamation 9645. The updated ban indicates that a waiver can be granted to visa applicants from targeted countries if certain criteria are met – and even referenced the entry of family members as one example of when a waiver could be issued.

As indicated in the State Department response, the decision to issue waivers is left up to the discretion of individual consular officers. According to the State Department letter, out of more than 6,000 applicants whose applications were not refused for issues unrelated to the Proclamation, only 2 were ultimately approved for a waiver as of February 15. The State Department now says that 100 waivers have since been issued – meaning still less than one tenth of one percent of applicants have received the waivers.

“The Trump administration has not won a single court decision on the merits of its ban, yet the policy has been allowed to continue in large part because Congress has failed to vote on the ban or conduct oversight over its implementation,” said Abdi. “If Congress lacks the political will to repeal the ban, the least they can do is build on the efforts of Senators Flake and Van Hollen to conduct serious oversight to ensure there aren’t even more egregious abuses.”

Muslims Are Seen as a Threat in the US – but the Florida Shooter Wasn’t. Why?

Last week’s horrific school shooting reminded us that Donald Trump has made America less safe. While mass shootings predate Trump, he has done something his predecessors did not: domestically, he’s shifted our focus towards immigrants and Muslims as threats, while willfully neglecting the threat posed by racists and rightwing extremists.

Internationally, he’s imposed a Muslim ban that targets citizens of countries with no history of engaging in terrorism on US soil, at the expense of far more accurate predictors of violence.

There were many signs that Nikolas Cruz posed a severe threat. He wrote on social media that he was going to be a professional school shooter. He talked about killing animals. According to his fellow students, he held racist views, degrading black people, Latinos and Muslims.

“[H]e would degrade Islamic people as terrorists and bombers. I’ve seen him wear a Trump hat,” Ocean Parodie, a student at the school, told the Daily Beast.

“He would always talk about how he felt whites were a bit higher than everyone,” another student added.

But despite his classmates predicting that he’d shoot up a school, despite local police paying 39 visits to his house since 2011, and despite the FBI receiving at least two warnings about him, no investigation took place and Cruz could easily buy an arsenal of weapons.

Because Cruz did not match Trump’s definition of a threat: immigrants, African American youth, and Muslims – that is, non-white people.

Neither did the 17-year-old alleged neo-Nazi in Virginia who is charged with killing Scott and Buckley Fricker right before Christmas – parents of my son’s soccer teammate.

The teen’s neighbors said he mowed a swastika about 40ft across into the grass of a community field. They raised the issue with his parents, but they never called the police. A few weeks later, he was charged with murdering Scott and Buckley.

Would the neighbors have called the police had the 17-year-old mowed 40ft Isis logos? Or would they just have complained to his parents? Had the FBI received reports that Cruz was a dangerous Isis sympathizer, would they have failed to investigate?

We may never know. But much indicates that law enforcement would diligently follow up on any tips regarding Isis terrorists for a very simple reason: the political signal is that they are the priority – and everything else is not. It is a signal even ordinary people feel, people who would probably report an Isis sympathiser, but not an alleged neo-Nazi.

This Trumpian signal is not rooted in a neutral threat assessment. Rather, it is itself motivated by politics: Trump apparently considers neo-Nazis, white supremacists and those motivated by racial and cultural anxiety as his constituency. Depicting them as a threat counters his interests while depicting those whom they hate as dangerous serves his agenda. The more immigrants and Muslims are seen as threats, the more America’s racists are compelled to back Trump.

This makes Americans less safe. Not just because it turns Americans against Americans, but because Trump further shifts our focus away from the threat of rightwing extremists and racists even though they are at least as dangerous as Isis extremists. (Between 12 September 2001 and 31 December 2016, far-right elements committed 62 acts of terror, while Islamic extremists committed 23, though the latter group is responsible for more deaths, 119 to 106.)

But Trump is not only jeopardizing America’s security domestically. His Muslim ban follows the same pattern of shifting our focus towards politically convenient threats at the expense of real and existing threats. According to the Cato Institute, citizens of the seven countries included in Trump’s initial ban accounted for zero terrorist-related deaths in the United States.

More than 94% of all American terrorist-related deaths between 1975 and 2015 were perpetrated by citizens of three US allies who were not included in the ban. But more importantly, a homeland security report concluded that citizenship was “likely an unreliable indicator” of terrorist activity – undermining the very basis of Trump’s ban.

Isis-inspired terrorists obviously do constitute a threat. But instead of addressing them – which would entail pressuring US allies who fund the terrorist network – Trump chose the politically convenient path of targeting Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were less geopolitically costly to ban.

That way he could perpetuate the idea that immigrants and Muslims constitute a central threat, appease his base by imposing a ban, while willfully neglecting terror-supporting governments his administration considers allies.

As willfully neglected rightwing extremists perpetuate more massacres, Americans are starting to recognize how Trump is playing politics with their security. Hopefully, the American public will also recognize that he is doing the same with their border security.

Originally published in The Guardian

NIAC Applauds Unanimous Supreme Court Ruling Rejecting Seizure of Ancient Iranian Artifacts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Trita Parsi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: tparsi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. — The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) applauds today’s unanimous decision in the Supreme Court of the United States rejecting the seizure of ancient Iranian antiquities, ending an over decade-long legal battle.

NIAC has argued that victims of terror deserve to be heard – that they deserve justice. But in NIAC’s view, the artifacts do not belong to the government of Iran, but the people of Iran, and as a result they cannot be confiscated to compensate victims of terror. Depriving millions of Iranians across the globe – who have no ties to terrorism, and unequivocally condemn terrorism – access to these precious artifacts by selling off their history and heritage to the highest bidder is itself an unjust act. These artifacts have always belonged to the people, and now, after an 8-0 ruling by the Supreme Court, they can continue to be appreciated by the people.

Since 2006, NIAC has supported the opposition to the seizure of the Persepolis tablets — clay tablets written in Aramaic and other ancient languages dating back to the fifth century BC that contain important clues about the religion, administration, society, and economy inside the ancient Persian empire.

The Persepolis tablets have been under threat of seizure for years following a deadly 1997 attack by Hamas suicide bombers in a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. Victims of the attack and their families filed suit against the government of Iran for providing support to Hamas, and won a default judgment of $71.5 million. Iran did not pay, and the Plaintiffs have been trying to seize the Persepolis tablets, which they alleged were the property of Iran, to satisfy their judgement by auctioning off the artifacts on display at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

NIAC helped the University of Chicago fight against the seizure of the Persepolis tablets in court, by filing a 2008 amicus brief with the federal appellate court, fought in the halls of Congress, and even fought in the White House. After a hard fought ten years by the University, we are relieved that the Persepolis tablets are finally safe.