The Iranian-American Forum (IAF) vs. The National Iranian-American Council (NIAC)
Iranian-American Forum is a platform for thinkers, leading figures, social and political activists from different disciplines and all cross section of society with different backgrounds to achieve the common goal of supporting Iranian peoples’ aspirations for democratic change, human rights, freedom of expression, press, association and assembly, separation of religion and government and the right to social and economic developments.
Posted by Editor
The White House is in the process of fine tuning its Iranian Policy. On the sidelines, various groups are positioning to shape the plan. Front and center is NIAC, the National Iranian American Council, an organization that presents itself as the Iranian-American voice for Iran. On the surface, NIAC’s statements sound very noble. However, if examined closely, NIAC is actually at odds with the majority of the Iranian-American community.
NIAC’s recently published internal documents, which it had to furnish Mr. Hassan Dai, an Iranian expat, who was sued by NIAC for his claim that it is a lobbyist for the Islamic Republic, paints a very disturbing and troublesome picture of the organization. The following information supports these extensive claims:
Representation: NIAC does not represent a large constituency of Iranian-Americans. NIAC internal memos clearly show NIAC overstated the true number of its Iranian American members, altered in-house survey results, and mislead Congressionalmembers. With estimates of one million plus, Iranian-Americans in the U.S., NIAC’s membership, as stated at the time of the documentation, is under five hundred members, a very insignificant number.
IRI as America’s Friend: NIAC sees no fundamental clash of interests between Iran and US. According to Trita Parsi, there is no justification for US hostility toward Iran. Trita believes that the Iranian regime has always been ready to reach an agreement with the US. The main reason behind US hostilities and refusal to engage Iran, Trita Parsi says, is Israel. The problem with Parsi’s assertion is that it contradicts the reality. For thirty years, the IRI has demonstrated a consistent characteristic, a passionate hatred of America. The most popular rallying cry of the Islamic Republic is “Death to America,” through its well financed and highly orchestrated street rallies. America is the “Great Satan” and nurtured enemy of Islamic Republic. It is “the kiss of death” for any Islamic Republic official to show any sign of befriending America. Likewise, seeking mullah’s friendship by the US is naive and foolhardy and worthless.
Dialogue and Diplomacy: Despite NIAC’s assertion that dialogue and diplomacy is the best approach, thirty years of dialogue by various US administrations has shown that the regime is interested in dialogue only to buy itself enough time in order to develop its weapon’s program. IRI uses its proxies within the United States to convince various American officials that the regime is desirous of a dialogue. The radical and irrational nature of the regime, intent on its expansionist ideology, makes any honest and meaningful dialogue with the regime an utter waste of time.
Use of Sanctions: NIAC has maintained that sanctions are counterproductive and ineffective and will inflict pain and suffering on the ordinary Iranians. Effectiveness of sanctions as a tool can be argued both ways. To those that see Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and an International threat to world peace, targeted sanctions are a potent tool. On the other hand, for groups such as NIAC, sanctions are to be avoided at all cost to ensure the regime’s survival. NIAC’s campaign against sanctions is not to protect the ordinary Iranians, as it claims, but is an orchestrated effort by Oil Corporations seeking economic ties between Iran and America. Smart sanctions will hit hardest at the regime, and affect ordinary Iranians only incidentally. Targeted sanctions will deepen the divide between the public and the military-religious dictatorship.
NIAC as IRI Lobby: There is extensive evidence that NIAC engages with Islamic Republic’s top level officials, facilitating meetings between IRI and various US politicians, despite limits imposed on it as a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization. The governmental press in Tehran has called Parsi and his organization NIAC as the “Iranian lobby in Washington“. Indictments of Bob Ney and Hassan Nemazie with close ties to NIAC clearly paint a disturbing picture of the organization. Recently, Senator Jon Kyl requested a full investigation of NIAC’s questionable activities, which if successful it might shed more light on NIAC’s real intentions.
Islamic Republic is Rational and Pragmatic: When Ahmadinejad shoots off test missiles while engaged in uranium enrichment, or makes appalling statements about wiping Israel “off the map,” one wonders how pragmatic and rational Islamic Republic really is?
NIAC as Human Rights Advocate: Despite extreme brutality and crack down and stories of rape, torture and killing, NIAC issued a statement on June 16, 2009 asserting that United States “should not interfere” as its involvement would be counterproductive.” Parsi also took issue with a strong statement of support for the young Iranian freedom fighters expressed by Senator JosephLieberman when he urged the Obama administration to “speak out, loudly and clearly, about what is happening in Iran and unambiguously express its solidarity with the brave Iranians. Trita Parsi, unashamedly, has referred to Iran’s blatant human rights violation as “less than flattering human rights record,” and anticipated “a trend towards the improvement of human rights situation” in Iran. The reality is, human rights violations have gotten progressively worse. Iran is second to China on human rights violations and NIAC has never taken a real strong position in defense of human rights in Iran, except for occasional “feel good” and apologetic statements.
Iran has one of the youngest demographics in the world. Over 70% of the population is under the age of 35. On June 12th, they went to the streets, chanting “Where is my vote?” Demonstrations are getting more organized and are spreading to other parts of Iran to form a truly popular movement.
Today, the protesters no longer are seeking democratic elections; they are demanding regime change. There are cracks appearing almost daily within the regime. About 27 Iranian diplomats have already defected. Many ayatollahs have declared the regime neither republic, nor Islamic. Any US policy towards Iran needs to seek input from a larger more diverse group of Iranians representing current thinking on Iran in order to develop a more robust, effective and sustainable foreign policy towards Iran.
Trita Parsi left Iran when he was four years old. He is not even an Iranian-American which disqualifies him to speak for Iranian Americans. His experience on Iran is rather limited to personalities who are either regime supporters, seek economic ties with Iran, or are Islamic Republic high level officials. Limiting the discussion and input only to NIAC, and monopolization of the discussion by NIAC, and its proxies will have devastating results.
Mullahs are intent on developing nuclear weapons. With a nuclear Iran as a major power in the volatile Middle East and with oil price at 70 to 80 dollars a barrel, the Islamic Republic will expand its presence around the world. In collaboration with allies such as Russia, China and Venezuela, Islamic Republic will flaunt its militarypower in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate its regional dominance and superiority in the Middle East, challenging Israel into a direct and inevitable confrontation. If mullahs are allowed to realize their nuclear aspirations, its pernicious and disastrous impact will be felt far beyond the Middle East.
By supporting Iranian opposition groups, the world community not only can avert a regional and potentially global catastrophe, it will help establish a democratic system of government in the region. If Iranians are successful in shaking off the yoke of theocracy, their success could herald the failure of a political and militant Islam. Helping Iran become a democracy not only is a moral imperative, but should be considered an essential foreign policy priority. On December 7, Iranians demonstrators shouted loudly “Obama are you with us or with them?” It is time for the United States to place itself on the right side of history. President Obama has no logical alternative but to stand with the people of Iran or shoulder the responsibility for dangerous consequences of propping up a dictatorship bent on expansion of a religious and fanatical ideology.
Dr. Arash Irandoost is an Iranian-American researcher and a political activist who believes that Islamic Republic cannot be reformed and advocates for a regime change for Iran. He has been published in numerous magazines and blogs on hakemiat-e-mardom.
He also serves as the international spokesperson for Iranian Students Solidarity Organization.