Congress Sees the Light After Busy Week on Iran

Kerry sanctions hearingWashington, DC – Plans in the House to pass a resolution, backed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), opposing the interim Iran nuclear deal and calling for new sanctions have been defeated, according to Congressional sources. The resolution will not come up this week, which is the last week the House will be in session this year.  The Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) apparently withdrew his support for the measure on Thursday morning.

Further, plans to force a vote on new sanctions in the Senate appear increasingly unlikely, with key lawmakers rallying in support of the nuclear agreement in Iran and the administration mounting a strong defense.  

Despite representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) flying in this week to lobby Congress for new sanctions on Iran, it appears that Congress will conclude its business for the year without passing new sanctions or any rebuke of the historic nuclear agreement struck last month.

With sanctions blocked, at least temporarily, there will likely be a push in the weeks ahead for non-binding resolutions to define the endgame with Iran.  Additionally, any final deal with Iran will require sanctions to be lifted, which will likely require Congressional support.

Sanctions Stall in the Senate

Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew held a closed-door briefing with Senators yesterday warning them against new sanctions.  Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department, also testified before the Banking Committee on the nuclear deal.

During the Banking Committee hearing, Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) announced that he has a sanctions bill ready but will not move forward with it unless Iran violates the terms of the agreement. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) had threatened to force a vote on their own sanctions bill that would bypass the normal committee process, but that scenario appears unlikely as more Senators speak out against new sanctions and in cautious support of the interim deal.  Sen. Menendez announced he was concerned about the administration’s thinking on the endgame and that he would consider moving forward with a non-binding resolution clarifying the Senate’s expectations for a final deal.

Noting that the President has said that new sanctions would not enhance his leverage for a final diplomatic deal, Chairman Johnson warned that “this may well be the last best chance to resolve this crisis by diplomacy.”  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also weighed in in support of the deal, arguing that it is a “promising first step” to further U.S. goals in the region.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate yesterday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) delivered a strong defense of the deal and warned that new sanctions would threaten the deal and our ability to resolve the issue diplomatically.  Rockefeller asked his colleagues, “If there is any chance at all that new sanctions right now might disrupt that agreement, or jeopardize a future agreement – why on earth would we risk it?” 

Secretary Kerry Testifies in the House

Speaking before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Secretary Kerry defended the deal in front of skeptical committee members, stating, “We’re at a crossroads, really hinge points, in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international community’s’ concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict—and I don’t have to tell you that these are high stakes.” 

Kerry rejected the notion that new sanctions would provide the U.S. more leverage in negotiations, saying it would threaten international unity and was unnecessary. “They know that if this fails, sanctions will be increased. We’ve said it 100 times. And you all have said it 100 times. And they know you’re yearning to go do it. But you don’t need to do it. It is actually gratuitous in the context of this situation, because you can do it in a week.” But, Kerry said, he doesn’t “want to threaten the unity we have with respect to this [diplomatic] approach, particularly when it doesn’t cost us a thing to go through this process knowing that we could put sanctions in place additionally in a week — and we would be there with you seeking to do it.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) both criticized the deal for not calling on Iran to abandon enrichment. But Kerry, who in the past criticized the Bush Administration’s “zero-enrichment” demand as “bombastic diplomacy,” explained that enrichment was not the issue. The U.S., he said, would secure “the best comprehensive agreement that absolutely guarantees that the program, whatever it is to be, is peaceful, and that we have expanded by an enormous amount the breakout time.” 

Kerry also indicated that negotiating for any further concessions would have meant that Iran’s nuclear program would continued to progress. The interim deal, he noted, “halts the progress and rolls it back in certain places for the first time in 10 years” and that “Iran will not be able to commission the Arak reactor during the course of this interim first-step agreement.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) questioned why Congress could not pass additional sanctions at this time that would be triggered at a later date, which Kerry said would violate the interim agreement and fracture international efforts regarding Iran. “ Even if the sanctions are not imposed, it implies a lack of faith in the process and an unwillingness to play by the rules that our partners are playing by,” Kerry said. 

Representatives Ros Lehtinen, Ted Poe (R-TX), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also brought up the status of Mujaheddin-E Khalq, who are residing in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq. Just as in previous hearings on Iran sanctions, members of the MEK were in the audience in their moniker matching yellow jackets. Rohrabacher said he is introducing legislation to allow MEK members to seek asylum in the United States. It is technically illegal for many MEK members to come to the U.S. because the group was designated as a terrorist organization, and attempts to resettle the individuals in third countries has been blocked in part because MEK leadership will not allow the group to be split up or for individuals to participate in the UN resettlement process.

A day after the hearing, a number of representatives took to the floor to defend the nuclear deal and warn against new sanctions, including Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), David Price (D-NC), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

 

 

 

Iran Nuclear Talks Media Advisory: NIAC Experts Available for Analysis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:Trita Parsi, President – 202.386.6325tparsi@niacouncil.org
Reza Marashi, Research Director – 202.379.1639rmarashi@niacouncil.org
Jamal Abdi, Policy Director – 202.386.6408jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC and Geneva – Experts from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) will be available to media during and after nuclear negotiations between the United States, other members of the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva.

There are strong expectations that diplomats will strike a historic interim deal that would be a key step toward resolving the nuclear standoff. Now Congress must support rather than undercut U.S. negotiators. Despite President Obama’s call for Congress not to ratchet up sanctions yesterday, many in Congress are still pushing new sanctions that would undermine the President’s ability to strike a deal. 

NIAC analysts available in Washington, DC:

Jamal Abdi is the Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). He leads NIAC’s advocacy and education efforts in support of non-military solutions to the U.S.-Iran standoff, advancing human rights in Iran, and protecting civil rights in the U.S. on behalf of the Iranian-American community. He monitors U.S. Government policy and is in close contact with the Administration and Congress. 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 TimesCNNForeign PolicyThe HillThe Progressive and Public Service Europe, and blogs at The Huffington Post.  He is a frequent guest contributer in print, radio, and television, including appearances on Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC News and RT America. Follow Jamal on Twitter: @jabdi 

Trita Parsi, PhD 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 US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press 2007), for which he conducted more than 130 interviews with senior Israeli, Iranian and American decision-makers. Treacherous Alliance is the silver medal winner of the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Parsi’s new book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press) was released early 2012. He interviewed 70 high-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil—including the top American and Iranian negotiators—for this book. Parsi uncovers the previously unknown story of American and Iranian negotiations during Obama’s early years as president, the calculations behind the two nations’ dealings, and the real reasons for their current stalemate.

Parsi’s articles on Middle East affairs have been published in the Wall Street JournalNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesFinancial TimesJane’s Intelligence Review, the Nation,The American Conservative, the Jerusalem PostThe 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

NIAC analysts available in Geneva:

Reza Marashi is the Research Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and is on the ground for negotiations in Geneva.  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 TimesForeign PolicyThe Atlantic, and the National Interest, among other publications.  He has been a guest contributor to CNN, NPR, the BBC, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times, among other broadcast outlets.  Follow Reza on Twitter: @rezamarashi 

Recent NIAC publications and media appearances:

“Iran Talks: Do We Want a Deal or a War?” CNN, November 8, 2013

“Serious Progress and a Familiar Road Map at Iran Nuclear Talks,” Al Jazeera, October 16, 2013

“Pushing Peace: How Israel Can Help the United States Strike a Deal With Iran – And Why It Should,” Foreign Affairs, October 1, 2013

About NIAC

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. NIAC’s mission is focused on promoting an active and engaged Iranian-American community, supporting aspirations for human rights and democracy in Iran, opposing war between the US and Iran, and celebrating our community’s deep cultural heritage.  NIAC accomplishes its mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

For more information, please visit niacouncil.org.

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State Department Advises Senate to Hold Off Iran Sanctions Until After Negotiations

Wendy Sherman

Washington, DC – The top U.S. nuclear negotiator in UN Security Council negotiations with Iran urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to hold off on further sanctions until new negotiations commence. Wendy Sherman, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said delaying sanctions ahead of talks scheduled for October 15 and 16 in Geneva would give Iran the opportunity to to take “real actions” at the Geneva meeting. 

Many on the committee appeared skeptical and indicated they planned to consider new crippling sanctions despite positive signals from Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was largely dismissive of Rouhani’s gestures, though he indicated he hopes concrete action will take place in Geneva. As for further sanctions, Menendez maintained that “as long as Iran is actively pursuing its nuclear program, we must actively work to increase the pressure.”

However, while the House passed a sanctions bill ahead of Rouhani’s inauguration in August, the Senate has yet to introduce its own version of the bill. It is all but certain that, given the government shutdown, new sanctions will not be introduced or considered before the Geneva talks. 

Some Senators were dismissive of any new negotiations. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Sherman that the U.S. must not negotiate with “evil liars.”  He challenged Sherman on what a deal with Iran would look like and whether the U.S. could “ever agree to ease sanctions in any negotiation that does not require Iran to abandon its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.” Sherman refused to rule out a deal in which Iran retains enrichment—a point that many experts believe will be key to securing a verifiable solution but which is notably opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The position of the U.S. on enrichment is unclear—under President Bush, the U.S. refused to negotiate directly with Iran unless the enrichment program was first suspended. Secretary of State John Kerry, as a Senator in 2009, called the Bush position requiring zero enrichment, “ridiculous” and said Iran has “a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.” In 2011, then Secretary of State , Hillary Clinton signaled a shift from the Bush approach when she stated “[Iranians] can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations.”  

According to Sherman, a deal with Iran would realistically include limitations on the “pace and scope” of enrichment and greater transparency with regard to Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium. If Iran does not pass the “Geneva test”, she said, they should expect harsher sanctions—something Sherman says she and Secretary of State Kerry made clear to the Iranians following the U.N. general assembly. In terms of what a deal would look like, Sherman said that “the onus is on Iran” to clarify how far they are willing to go.

At least two dozen supporters of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) filled the hearing room, sitting behind the panel in matching yellow jackets emblazoned with pro-MEK slogans. Senator John McCain advocated for the MEK’s safety in Iraq, criticizing the U.S. for not protecting MEK members from deadly attacks that occurred in Iraq’s Camp Ashraf. Sherman expressed concern but also noted that the MEK’s leadership in Paris was obstructing the process to resettle MEK members. A key demand of the MEK’s leadership is that the group’s members be allowed to relocate together as a single unit, rather than to be relocated individually to different countries. Menendez interjected and told Sherman that the MEK should be invited to relocate to the United States.

 

 

 

Iran Elections Media Advisory: NIAC Experts Available for Analysis

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Contact:
Trita Parsi, President – 202.386.6325, tparsi@niacouncil.org
Reza Marashi, Research Director – 202.379.1639rmarashi@niacouncil.org
Jamal Abdi, Policy Director – 202.386.6408jabdi@niacouncil.org 
 
 
Washington, DC – Experts from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) will be available to media before, during and after Iran’s presidential election for analysis of the internal political dynamics inside Iran; the implications for Iran’s pro-democracy and human rights movement; the considerations of policymakers inside the U.S. and implications for the nuclear issue; and the reaction of the Iranian-American community.  
 
 
 
 
On Friday, June 14, Iran will hold presidential elections that will have major implications for its domestic politics and relations with the outside world – including the nuclear standoff with the United States. Iran’s 2009 vote saw the mobilization of the pro-democracy “green movement” and massive demonstrations that plunged the country into chaos for months after allegations of a fraudulent Ahmadinejad victory. This year, authorities do not appear to be taking any chances, clamping down on dissent and disqualifying prominent pro-reform candidates. But Iran’s election promises to be full of surprises and shifting dynamics that will shape decision-making inside Tehran, as well as Washington’s calculations and options going forward.

Available NIAC analysts:

 
Jamal Abdi is the Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). He leads NIAC’s advocacy and education efforts in support of non-military solutions to the U.S.-Iran standoff, advancing human rights in Iran, and protecting civil rights in the U.S. on behalf of the Iranian-American community. He monitors U.S. Government policy and is in close contact with the Administration and Congress. 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 TimesCNNForeign PolicyThe HillThe Progressive and Public Service Europe, and blogs at The Huffington Post.  He is a frequent guest contributer in print, radio, and television, including appearances on Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC News and RT America. Follow Jamal on Twitter: @jabdi 

Reza Marashi is the Research Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).  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 TimesForeign PolicyThe Atlantic, and the National Interest, among other publications.  He has been a guest contributor to CNN, NPR, the BBC, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times, among other broadcast outlets.  Follow Reza on Twitter: @rezamarashi 

 
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 US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press 2007), for which he conducted more than 130 interviews with senior Israeli, Iranian and American decision-makers. Treacherous Alliance is the silver medal winner of the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Parsi’s new book Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press) was released early 2012. He interviewed 70 high-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil—including the top American and Iranian negotiators—for this book. Parsi uncovers the previously unknown story of American and Iranian negotiations during Obama’s early years as president, the calculations behind the two nations’ dealings, and the real reasons for their current stalemate.

Parsi’s articles on Middle East affairs have been published in the Wall Street JournalNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesFinancial TimesJane’s Intelligence Review, the Nation,The American Conservative, the Jerusalem PostThe 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 NIAC publications and media appearances:
 
 
 
 
 

 

About NIAC

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. NIAC’s mission is focused on promoting an active and engaged Iranian-American community, supporting aspirations for human rights and democracy in Iran, opposing war between the US and Iran, and celebrating our community’s deep cultural heritage.  NIAC accomplishes its mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

For more information, please visit niacouncil.org.

###

 

 

 

 

Congress Debates War, Sanctions, Diplomacy and MEK with Top Obama Officials

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, the House and Senate held hearings on Iran policy with top administration officials Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of Political Affairs at the U.S. State Department, and David S. Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department.  

Most legislators participating in the hearings called for maximal sanctions, increased military threats, and even cutting off negotiations entirely.  Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there is still time for diplomacy, but the United States needs to look closely at enhancing “military pressure” on Iran, while seeking to “convince the Supreme Leader that his continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is threatening the very existence of his regime.”  Menendez later seemed to back away from those comments, indicating that one of our major challenges is to convince the Supreme Leader that this is a legitimate, global effort to change Iran’s behavior, not Iran’s regime. 

For his part, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), warned of the limitations of sanctions and the need for smarter diplomacy, saying policymakers should “derive some lessons” from the history of when sanctions have worked in the past. ”Iran is not likely to back away from a nuclear program because the U.S. sanctions were so successful that [they] were forced to do it,” he said. “Backing away for that kind of reason would mean a complete loss of internal political legitimacy.  So they have to have a reason to back away from a nuclear program other than ‘O.K., the U.S. beat us.’” 

“If it’s a game of arm wrestling,” Kaine argued, “they’re not going to admit that they lost.” Kaine asked Amb. Sherman ”how creative are you being about not just, ‘we’ll let up on the sanctions’, but other things that would enable internal face-saving?” He pointed out that a critical part of any negotiation is not to “completely paint your opponent into a corner from which they have nothing to do but aggressively come out fighting.”

Sherman defended the current approach, pointing out that at the last meeting Iran had readily acknowledged that they wanted significant sanctions relief in a nuclear deal.  However, she said the sanctions relief that was offered by the U.S. and its partners could be described as “not significant, but meaningful.”

Increasing Sanctions

In the House, where a new sanctions bill will be considered next week by the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) called repeatedly for “pedal to the metal” sanctions. He argued that the U.S. could sanction Iran while negotiating, but oddly cited the U.S. sanctions approach to Germany during World War I that presaged the rise to power of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. “In 1918, we negotiated with the Kaiser’s Germany while not only sanctioning but also waging all-out war.”  

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking Democrat of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed that there must be some point where the U.S. abandons diplomacy, a point echoed by many others who appeared concerned that talks could be used as a delaying tactic for Iran to advance its nuclear program.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) questioned the administration’s stance that all options remain on the table, and asked if the United States would be willing to attack Iran with nuclear weapons or to execute an Iraq-style ground invasion.  Amb. Sherman demurred. However, under the current U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the United States would consider a first-strike nuclear attack on nations that are not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or are in violation of its terms.

Humanitarian Blockage

Secretary Cohen attempted to defend the sanctions from criticism that they are blocking humanitarian goods, including food and medicine, from reaching the Iranian people despite exemptions for those goods.  Cohen placed sole blame on Iran’s government for medical shortages in the country.  His statement did not acknowledge criticism from experts at the Wilson Center and Atlantic Council that have found that sanctions on all of Iran’s international banks, and their chilling effect on third party banks, are a major source of medical shortages in Iran. 

According to Cohen, “[w]hatever shortages may exist, and whatever reluctance foreign banks may have to process transactions, the root cause is not our sanctions programs, it is the actions of the Iranian government.” Cohen said that the U.S. has a sanctions exemption for medicine, but due to Iranian subterfuge on its financial transactions, it is “entirely understandable that foreign banks that maintain relationships with Iranian banks may nonetheless be wary about facilitating otherwise permissible transactions.”   Cohen thus appeared aware that the banking channel for humanitarian transactions are disrupted by sanctions, but proposed no changes to ensure that humanitarian goods can reach Iran.

MEK

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) conveyed his support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) a group, which is widely opposed by Iranians and viewed by human rights organizations as a cult. The group has been actively lobbying the House to pressure the administration to move MEK members back to the group’s paramilitary base at Camp Ashraf, Iraq.  Late last year, as part of what was widely viewed as a deal with the State Department to get the group removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, the MEK agreed to leave the base and relocate to Camp Liberty, also in Iraq, where they would then work with the UN to repatriate members in third countries. In a heated exchange with Rep. Rohrabacher, who called for the U.S. to support the MEK, Amb. Sherman expressed her concern that the people at Camp Liberty were being exploited by the MEK’s leadership. “There are opportunities for the people of Camp Liberty to resettle.  There have been offers made by countries like Albania to take many of them,” she said.  “And to be very frank Congressman, the leadership of the MEK, both in Camp Liberty and in Paris, have kept the people of Camp Liberty from knowing what their options are.  And I so care about their lives, and the threat to their lives in the camp, that I hope the leadership of the MEK will allow them to know their options.” 

This follows on the heels of testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry in April indicating that MEK members in Camp Liberty had ceased participating in interviews with officials to determine where best to relocate them. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented human rights abuses inflicted by MEK leadership against members who questioned their authority or sought to leave the camps.

 

 

 

You’re Invited: Dallas Women for World Peace Panel & Iranian-Israeli Peace Dialogue

Please join NIAC’s Dallas Ambassadors for two exciting upcoming events this Saturday, May 4:

“A World of Women for World Peace” 

Featured Panelists:Nazanin Boniadi, Actress, Official Spokesperson for Amnesty International USARonny Edry, Israeli Peace Activist, Graphic Designer, teacherDr. Hind Jarrah, Executive Director of Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation

Hosted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Saturday, May 4, 2013 10am-12:30pm Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas 2200 N. Pearl Street Dallas, TX 75201

RSVP Required: Shirin.Tavakoli@mail.house.gov or (214)922-8885 

“Advancing Peace Between Iranians and Israelis”

A Lecture by Ronny Edry, Israeli Graphic Designer, Peace Activist, and Founder of Israel <3 Iran

Hosted by NIAC’s Dallas Ambassadors, Iranians for Peace and Justice (IPJ), and SMU Amnesty International (AI)

Saturday, May 4, 20136:30 – 7:30 PM

Southern Methodist University (SMU)Hughes Trigg Auditorium3140 Dyer Street Dallas, TX 75205

Questions? Please email Morteza “Tony” Saki at tonysaki@gmail.com

ronny.jpg

Please click here to see Ronny Edry’s TED talk.


 

مردم ایران و اسرائیل دوستان یکدیگرند

با هم در گفتمان “رادنی ادری” شهروند اسرائیل و دوست مردم ایران

شرکت کنیم. سخنی از صلح و دوستی، در این زمانه که سیاست مداران بر طبل جنگ میکوبند

Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Hughes Trigg Auditorium- 3140 Dyer Street Dallas, TX 75205

شورای ملی ایرانیان آمریکا (نایاک)، سازمان عفو بین الملل، انجمن ایرانیان صلح دوست

 

 

 

 

Congressman Urges U.S. to Foment Ethnic Tension in Iran

 

Rohrabacher RajaviYesterday, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), introduced a new resolution redoubling his efforts to promote ethnic separatism in Iran.

The idea of fomenting ethnic tensions in Iran as a means to destabilize the country is not a new one. Rohrabacher, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, has never been shy about promoting ethnic separatism and supporting violent groups as a way to pressure Iran. In addition to his support for groups like Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), he has championed resolutions promoting Azeri and Balochi ethnic separatism in Iran.

His new resolution, H.Res.183, would push the Broadcasting Board of Governors to beam news broadcasts in Azeri and Baloch languages into Iran and its border regions with Pakistan to promote ethnic tensions.

Rohrabacher’s intentions are clear. Last year he sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which he stated that, “Aiding the legitimate aspirations of the Azeri people for independence is a worthy cause in and of itself. Yet, it also poses a greater danger to the Iranian tyrants than the threat of bombing its underground nuclear research bunkers.”

>>Take Action: Tell Congress to Oppose H.Res.183

According to reports, the intended purpose of this letter was to capitalize on the opportunity provided by news stories at the time concerning a budding military cooperation between Israel and the Azerbaijan Republic. “It would be wise for the United States to encourage such cooperation, as the aggressive dictatorship in Tehran is our enemy as well as theirs,” Rohrabacher wrote to Clinton.

He is also one of the top supporters of the MEK, and detractor of the Green Movement. He was a major driver of the effort to remove the mujaheddin from the terror list, while acknowledging their use of violence to achieve political goals. “I will have to admit, the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight,” Rohrabacher said ahead of the MEK’s delisting. “It won’t just be pacifists.”

There are other violent movements, such as the Sunni militant Jundallah – designated in 2010 as a Foreign Terrorism Organization by the United States – which will undoubtedly benefit from this type of continued effort Rohrabacher is championing to foment ethnic tensions in Iran, particularly in the volatile Sistan-Baluchistan regions bordering Pakistan, which is the intended purpose of Congressman Rohrabacher’s latest resolution.

It should also be noted that Mr. Rohrabacher does not fail to mention, as an added incentive to support H.Res.183, the vast natural resources and the strategic importance of the border region between Iran and Pakistan. “Whereas it is believed the area inhabited by the Baloch people holds a large reserve of oil, natural gas, gold, and other minerals and comprises 1,000 miles of strategically significant coast line from the Persian Gulf and along the Arabian Sea.”

>>Send a letter to your Representative to tell them to oppose this resolution

 

 

 

RT: Analyzing Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly

An Iranian group called MEK has been removed from the US government’s terrorist list. The group is responsible for killing several US military personnel and US civilians in the 1970s and it has also been linked to using terroristic violence against Iran. So why isn’t this group considered a terrorist one anymore? NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi joins RT’s Kristine Frazao to talk more about the State Department decision.

 

 

 

HuffPost Live: Iranian Group Will Be Taken Off Watch List

The State Department announced they will remove the Iranian dissident group MEK from their list of terrorist organizations. Has the group abandoned their violent past? HuffPost Live discusses the MEK’s delisting with Hooman Majd, NIAC’s Nobar Elmi, and other analysts.

The State Department announced they will remove the Iranian dissident group MEK from their list of terrorist organizations. Has the group abandoned their violent past?  HuffPost Live discusses the removal with Hooman Majd, NIAC’s Nobar Elmi, and other analysts.

 

 

 

RT: Iranian MEK Group Off Terrorist List

 

An Iranian group called MEK has been removed from the US government’s terrorist list. The group is responsible for killing several US military personnel and US civilians in the 1970s and it has also been linked to using terroristic violence against Iran. So why isn’t this group considered a terrorist one anymore? NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi joins RT’s Kristine Frazao to talk more about the State Department decision.

 

 

 

MEK Delisting is a Gift to the Regime, a Disaster for the Iranian People and the U.S.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) deplores the decision to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The decision opens the door to Congressional funding of the MEK to conduct terrorist attacks in Iran, makes war with Iran far more likely, and will seriously damage Iran’s peaceful pro-democracy movement as well as America’s standing among ordinary Iranians.

“The biggest winner today is the Iranian regime, which has claimed for a long time that the U.S. is out to destroy Iran and is the enemy of the Iranian people. This decision will be portrayed as proof that the U.S. is cozying up with a reviled terrorist group and will create greater receptivity for that false argument,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi.

Members of Iran’s democratic opposition, Iran experts, human rights defenders, and former U.S. officials have warned that delisting the MEK “will have harmful consequences on the legitimate, indigenous Iranian opposition.” Kaleme, a leading pro-democracy newspaper in Iran run by supporters of the opposition Green Movement, has warned that support for the MEK strengthens the Iranian regime. According to the opposition paper, “there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation.”

In addition, a recent NBC News report raises serious questions about whether the MEK has truly given up terrorism. Citing senior U.S. officials, NBC reported that the Mujahedin is behind the assassinations of Iranian scientists and that it has previously worked with the mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

“Given that U.S. officials have recently acknowledged that the MEK is still conducting terrorism in Iran, where is the evidence MEK has abandoned terrorism?” asked Abdi. “The multi-million dollar lobbying campaign undertaken by the MEK and its supporters seems to have paid off.”

Prominent former U.S. officials have been paid up to $100,000 to speak on behalf of the MEK, as part of the lobbying campaign aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to delist the group. The activities, organized through a network of MEK-associated organizations in the U.S. with no oversight of the funding sources, also raise serious questions about the selective enforcement of anti-terror laws by the U.S. government.

Supporters of the MEK have called for using the group to conduct attacks in Iran and have praised its use of violence.

“Even though they have no support in Iran, the MEK will now follow the playbook of Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who pushed the U.S. into war in an attempt to gain power,” said Abdi. “Congressional backers may also try to fund and re-arm this group to carry out terrorist attacks in Iran, which could also quickly escalate into war.”

However, the administration should be commended for successfully relocating the residents of the MEK’s paramilitary base to Camp Liberty and thus avoiding a humanitarian disaster. The Iraqi military had threatened to forcibly close the camp, and the MEK leadership had hinted that it might order a mass-suicide.

Nevertheless, a majority of the residents at Ashraf were prisoners, held against their own wishes, according to RAND. Measures must be taken now to ensure that this decision does not lead to continued entrapment of the residents by the MEK cult and its leaders. This is a critical humanitarian aspect of this issue that should not be neglected.

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The Truth. The Whole Truth. And, Nothing but the Truth.

Washington, DC – As the Director of Community Outreach & Programming at the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization, I have the pleasure of regularly meeting and speaking with Iranian Americans from across the country.  These conversations leave me proud of our culture and appreciative of our diversity.  However, these interactions have also shed some light on one issue I find particularly painful, which is the fact that our community often falls prey to the rumor mill and conspiracy theories.  This may be due to historical reasons.  Regardless of the reasons, it prevents our growth and advancement. 

We at NIAC have fallen victim to such rumors and lies.  For example, over the last few days there have been several pieces published about the recent court case in which NIAC sued Hassan Daieoleslam for defamation for falsely claiming that NIAC and NIAC’s President Trita Parsi are agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  One article in particular, published in a pro-war, neoconservative opinion paper stated that theruling lent some credence to the charge that Parsi is an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

What bothers me about this false claim is, well, the fact that it’s false!  So, here’s my pledge to you … to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to this court case.  Why am I emphasizing the word “truth” so much? Because it’s sorely lacking in all the commentary posted by Daieoleslam and his fellow neoconservatives.

The truth, according to the Judge’s own words is that: “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as a finding that [Daieoleslam]’s articles were true. [Daieoleslam] did not move for summary judgment on that ground.” When someone is being sued for defamation, the obvious defense would be to prove that what he/she said was, in fact, true.  After pouring over thousands of NIAC’s emails and documents, it became crystal clear that Daieoleslam could not use truth as his defense. Rather, he switched gears.  His case solely focused on proving that he didn’t know he was spreading lies. According to him, he thought he was telling the truth.

Since NIAC and Trita Parsi are considered to be public figures, the onus was on us to prove that Daieoleslam’s defamation was done intentionally and with malice. Unfortunately, the Judge did not feel we were able to prove this point.  Of course, we are disappointed with this assertion and couldn’t disagree more.  Throughout the case, we showed how Daieoleslam systematically cut up quotes and haphazardly put them together to mislead the public.  Here’s a simple example of how this is done:

Sentence 1:  I like rainbows.

Sentence 2:  The NYPD is working hard to stop sex trafficking.

Combined sentence:  I like sex trafficking.                    

You can see how this is not only misleading, but it also takes effort to slice and dice my sentences in order to make me look like a pervert. This is precisely the kind of activity that Daieoleslam used to mislead the Iranian Diaspora time and time again that NIAC is lobbying for the Iranian government.

Another truth I find particularly interesting is about Hassan Daieoleslam himself.  Perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from him, considering his past run-ins with the law in France, his admitted family ties to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and his past stint as a street salesman of stolen perfume.  (Don’t believe me? Check the court documents where disclosure of police records and employment are required.)   But, since he is regularly appearing in news outlets and publishing pieces, I believe he should be held to the same standards as actual journalists, pundits, etc.  Otherwise, he is adding to the rumor and only causing confusion among our community.

The last – and very important – point I’d like to make about this case is the funding source and its motives.  Imagine the line-up.  In one corner, we have NIAC – a non-profit organization with limited funds and a small legal team.  In the other corner, we have Hassan Daieoleslam who, thanks to the financial backing of Daniel Pipes, founder and director of the Middle East Forum, had one of the world’s largest law firms (Sidley Austin) on his side.  Who is Daniel Pipes, you may ask?  Well, if you read the Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto, you’d know him, considering he was cited by the Norwegian mass murderer on several occasions as an inspiration for his terrorist act. Or, perhaps its best to read some of Daniel Pipe’s own writings in order to better understand his positions and possible motives for supporting Hassan Daieoleslam. For example, in his article entitled “Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam,” you’d see that according to Pipes, “this matters” because Democratic presidential candidate Obama “is now what Islamic law calls a murtadd (apostate), an ex-Muslim converted to another religion who must be executed,” and as president this would have “large potential implications for his relationship with the Muslim world.”  In another article Pipes penned entitled “Unleash the Iranian Opposition, [the Mujahedeen-e Khalq]” he advocated that the U.S. “unleash” the MEK against Iran.  And, one final article by Pipes worth noting is entitled “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran,” where the title pretty much sums up his message to our President.

So, it was no surprise to us when, through the legal process of discovery, we found email communications where Hassan Daieoleslam writes that “destroying [Trita Parsi] … is an integral part of any attack on Clinton and Obama.“ (The email was sent during the Democratic primaries, when it was not yet clear who would be the Democratic nominee.) 

There you have it folks.   You have a defendant (Daieoleslam) who is pro-war, anti-Obama with MEK tendencies being backed by a group (Middle East Forum) that is pro-war, anti-Obama with MEK tendencies. 

I’m proud of the work NIAC has done throughout the years to promote civic engagement among the Iranian-American community, defend human rights in Iran, fight against the repression of the Iranian government against its people, prevent a U.S./Iran war, and promote our beautiful heritage and culture, among other things.  I’m proud of our grassroots support.  And, I’ve had enough of the lies spread by Hassan Daieoleslam and the other neocon elements.  I’ll leave you all with one last question … if Daieoleslam really cared about our community, how come he spends all his time causing confusion and no time producing actual, tangible results?  You want to see our results? Just click here. As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words.