May 18, 2017

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Experts Available to Discuss Iranian Elections & Trump’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

Trita Parsi, President – 202.386.2303, [email protected]
Reza Marashi, Research Director, 206.383.9173, [email protected]
Jamal Abdi, Policy Director – 206.369.2069, [email protected]

Experts from the National Iranian American Council are available to discuss tomorrow’s May 19th Iranian elections and their results, as well as Trump’s first trip abroad as President to Saudi Arabia which coincides with the elections. The next week will be vital to determining the future of U.S. policy toward Iran, with elections determining the balance of power within Iran’s political elite and Trump’s visits to the Saudi kingdom and Israel influencing the administration’s still amorphous strategy toward Iran.

Iranian presidential elections matter. Despite formidable checks on the power of the President, recent history reveals that an Iranian president can change the direction of the country. A win for President Hassan Rouhani will be seen as a victory for the JCPOA and he could use a renewed mandate to try to deliver on many of his social and human rights promises. Further, Rouhani’s floating of efforts to remove all remaining sanctions on Iran opens the door to future talks on non-nuclear issues with the U.S., including regional security, if it gains the support of the Supreme Leader and Washington is willing to reciprocate.

Rouhani’s main challenger, Ebrahim Raisi, is a hardline candidate who is following in the footsteps of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by promising cash handouts to the poor and rallying around a foreign policy of resistance to the West. He has capitalized on perceptions that the nuclear deal hasn’t provided the relief that was anticipated in order to attack Rouhani. Which candidate triumphs will determine whether Iranian politics swings in a hardline direction once again, and will also greatly impact the internal jockeying over who becomes the eventual successor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

On the same day as Iran’s elections, President Trump will visit Saudi Arabia for a series of bilateral meetings with King Salman. Like Iran, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record remains dismal yet the kingdom’s record is often overlooked given longstanding geopolitical ties between Riyadh and Washington. According to a 2016 report by Freedom House “writers and activists critical of the Saudi regime continued to face harsh punitive measures in 2015, something that remains unchanged despite changes wrought by the death of King Abdullah and the accession of King Salman.” Meanwhile significant concerns remains about Saudi support for extremist groups in the region. This summit will likely not focus on either of those issues but instead concentrate on trade and isolating Iran in the region. As such it will have enormous implications on U.S. foreign policy and counterterrorism missions in the Middle East. With Saudi-Iran relations at their lowest point in years, this conference is very much designed to influence the future of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran.

The following experts at the National Iranian American Council are available to provide clear and nuanced analysis of tomorrow’s elections and their results, as well as the policy discussions that occur at the Riyadh Summit 2017:

Trita Parsi, is the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on civil rights and US-Iranian relations. He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press 2007), A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press 2012), and Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press 2017).

Parsi’s articles have been published in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Jane’s Intelligence Review, The Nation, The American Conservative, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and others. He is a frequent guest on CNN, PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, NPR, the BBC, and Al Jazeera. Follow Trita on Twitter: @tparsi

Recent analysis:

– The Kingmaker in Iran’s Presidential Election,  Foreign Affairs
– The Coming Crisis with Iran, New York Times
– Will Trump and Netanyahu Continue to Misread Iran?, Haaretz

Reza Marashi joined NIAC in 2010 as the organization’s first Research Director. He came to NIAC after four years in the Office of Iranian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to his tenure at the State Department, he was an analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) covering China-Middle East issues, and a Tehran-based private strategic consultant on Iranian political and economic risk. Marashi is frequently consulted by Western governments on Iran-related matters. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He has been a guest contributor to CNN, NPR, BBC, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times, among other broadcast outlets.

Recent analysis:

– Iran’s 2017 Presidential Elections: What to Watch For, NIAC memo
– Does Iran’s Khamenei really have a preferred candidate?, Al Monitor
– What Future Will Iran Choose?, The Huffington Post

Jamal Abdi is the Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the Executive Director of NIAC Action. He leads NIAC’s advocacy and education on civil rights and immigration issues, as well as diplomacy with Iran. He formerly served as Policy Advisor on foreign affairs, immigration, and defense issues in the U.S. Congress. Abdi has written for The New York Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, and blogs at The Huffington Post.  He is a frequent guest contributor in print, radio, and television, including appearances on Al Jazeera, NPR, and BBC News. Follow Jamal on Twitter: @jabdi

Recent Analysis:

– Why Give Trump The Keys To War With Iran?, The Huffington Post


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.

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