June 30, 2008

For all the cynics, contacting your representative WORKS!

In an interview published last Monday, US Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA30), whose district boasts a very large number of Iranian Americans, stated that he’s getting “mixed messages” from our community on how to deal with the Iran situation, but recent polling has shown that on the whole there is very minimal support for military action in the Iranian American community.

It is important for our community to recognize the power it does have in changing and influencing the opinions of their members of Congress. This interview is just the latest clear example that they are listening to us and making judgements, in part, based on our opinions.

Rep. Waxman stressed that it is important to ‘pursue direct discussions,’ but he noted that it would be ‘wishful thinking’ to expect positive results. The threat of war, the Representative stated, must never be taken off the table, because it is ‘something you want on their minds’. He stated that ‘the next administration would need the full range of talks, sanctions, coalitions with the other countries, and the threat of war to resist Iran’s nuclear ambitions.’

The Congressman has endorsed presumptive Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama and has said a future Democratic administration might try to re-open the 2003 ‘Grand Bargain’ proposal from Iran that the United States flatly rejected. When asked why American politicians rejected the offer, Rep. Waxman only stated Democrats would re-visit the proposal, having seen it as a ‘missed opportunity’.

In the interview he was also directly asked about his Iranian American constituency.

IPS: What is the message that you’re getting from the Iranian-American community in your constituency?
HW: I get very mixed messages from my constituents became some say don’t even talk to these guys, we don’t want to work out anything with them — we want a regime change. And then more often than that, I get ‘don’t go to war, don’t use military against Iran, that would be the worst thing to do’. [On the other hand], my Jewish constituents do not like the fact that he [Obama] wants to talk [to Iran].

It is refreshing to see a representative who recognizes the complexity of our community (his constituents) and has taken note of where the majority opinion is.  What is important to recognize is that he is listening and he is and can be influenced by what his constituents tell him.  Although Rep. Waxman’s constituency includes some of the more ‘hawkish’ Iranian Americans, most still prefer a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

In January, UC Berkeley professor Dr. Dariush Zahedi published ‘Political Attitudes and Patterns of Political Participation of Iranian Americans in California’, a scientific poll, which showed that there is minimal support for military action on Iran, and 66% of Iranian Americans favor diplomacy. One can conclude that the views of Iranian Americans across the country is even more anti-war because California’s Iranian American population is seen as relatively more hawkish than the community as a whole.

Indeed, at a NIAC fundraiser in Los Angeles in early March, many Iranian Americans – including a handful from Rep. Waxman’s district – stressed the need for talks between the US and Iran.

With respect to all Americans, a recent Gallup poll shows that 59% of Americans support the US President meeting with the President of Iran, and 67% of Americans support the US engaging with its enemies. This clearly demonstrates the American people’s support of solving the Iranian nuclear puzzle diplomatically rather than militarily.

It is crucial that the silent majority drown out the vocal minority. Iranian Americans must take action and engage in order to make their voices heard. Apathy is not an option. We all live now in a place where we CAN speak out on issues that affect and concern us, and we should not take that for granted. Citizens can easily call or email their representative’s offices to make their views known. Organizations like NIAC are here to serve their communities by expressing these views to members of Congress and their staff.


California’s 30th District includes Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Westlake Village, Westwood, Bel-Air, Pacific Palisades, Topanga, Malibu, and Woodland Hills.

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