Iranian American Political Action Committee

From KeyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Iranian American Political Action Committee

Origins/Iranian front

Iranian emigre dissident Hassan Daioleslam, who beat a defamation lawsuit brought by the Iran Lobby after he exposed them and their activities, detailed the origins of the IAPAC in 2007:

During the eight years of Rafsanjani’s presidency, which ended in 1997, the Iranian regime had attempted without success to attract the Iranian Diaspora to its cause. Khatami’s presidency recharged Tehran’s efforts. With the Supreme Leader’s direct involvement, the High Council for Iranian Compatriots Overseas was created in 2000 under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry. The President heads the Council, and the Foreign Minister serves as its deputy director. The Ministry of Intelligence and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance collaborate to implement the decisions of the council. The objective was to create a network of organizations to infiltrate and seemingly represent the Iranian community abroad, and promote policies favorable to the Iranian government. Tehran anticipated that this strategy would neutralize opposition activities abroad and legitimize the new lobby.

Daioleslam wrote that, in a 2006 interview with a government-controlled newspaper, regime official Sadegh Kharazi praised Trita Parsi, the Swedish-Iranian head of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and stated that “there is actually an existing Iranian lobby in US.”

In 1999, Parsi and his wealthy companion in Iran, Siamak Namazi, “presented a joint paper titled, ‘Iranian-Americans: The bridge between two nations,’ at the DAPIA conference organized by the Iranian government in Cyprus.” Daioleslam explained:

This report comprises the manifesto and roadmap of the new Iranian lobby in the US. In this paper, the authors suggest that: “an Iranian-American lobby is needed in order to create a balance between the competing Middle Eastern lobbies. Without it, Iran-bashing may become popular in Congress again.” The “competing lobby” was AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee). The pillars of the road map were:

  • To have the appearance of a citizen’s lobby.
  • To mimic the Jewish lobby in the US.
  • To impede Iranian opposition activities.
  • To infiltrate the US political system.
  • To break the taboo of working with Iran’s cleric rulers for the Iranian Diaspora.
  • To improve the image of the Iran’s government abroad.

In their desire to mimic the “Jewish Lobby” they created IAPAC (Iranian American Political Action Committee).

Daioleslam reports:

Trita Parsi has been reciting this comparison to the Israeli lobby since the late 1990’s, about the time that the High Council was formed. At the beginning his tone was more contentious and resembled the mullah’s usual rhetoric. While he has toned down his anti-Israeli remarks in his English communiqués, the governmental newspaper Aftab published on December 28, 2006 an interview with Trita Parsi. In his introduction, the reporter underlined the role of Parsi’s lobby on behalf of the Iranian regime. The article’s title is interesting: “The Iranian Lobby Becomes Active.”

The conflict between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear file has entered a critical state. The government must now utilize all the possible resources to defend the national interest. In this, we have not paid enough attention to the potentially significant influence of the Iranian American society in moderating the extremist policies of the White House. In comparison of this untouched potential to the influence of the Jewish lobby in directing the policies of Washington in supporting Israel, we see the difference between what is and what could be.[1]

IAPAC Kickoff event

The newly created Iranian American Political Action Committee held a kickoff reception July 22 2003, at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The reception was a huge success, attracting well over one hundred attendees. The crowd was so large that the room in which the reception was held was filled to overflowing. The reception was attended by three United States Senators-Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Tom Carper of Delaware, as well as by distinguished Iranian Americans from many sectors of American society.

The program began with introductory remarks by Hassan Nemazee, the founder of IAPAC. Mr. Nemazee, who is also the Chairman and CEO of Nemazee Capital Corporation, emphasized the accomplishments of Iranian Americans in most areas of American life. He noted, however, that in politics, Iranian Americans have yet to assume a prominent role. Mr. Nemazee stated that IAPAC's foremost purpose is to ensure that Americans of Iranian descent have an influential voice and presence in the American electoral process by promoting and supporting the election of candidates for federal, state and local office, regardless of their party affiliation who are attuned to the domestic needs of the Iranian American community. Mr. Nemazee also emphasized that "IAPAC is a political action committee focused on the needs of our community in the United States and is not focused on U.S. policy towards Iran, establishing ties with or legitimizing the government of Iran."

Also representing IAPAC was Morad Ghorban, who serves as the political director of IAPAC. Mr. Ghorban, who immigrated to the United States from Shiraz as a child, emphasized his American patriotism, while noting that"...there will always be a little piece of Shiraz in my heart." In discussing IAPAC, Mr. Ghorban noted the importance of PACs in the American electoral system. He also emphasized that IAPAC will work to promote the interests of Iranian Americans in a non-partisan manner by making financial contributions to both Republican and Democratic candidates running for political office. Among the chief issues of concern to IAPAC, Mr. Ghorban said, are immigration reform and civil liberties.

Senator Kennedy spoke of his strong efforts to combat hate crimes against Iranian and other Americans. The Senator also emphasized his personal ties to the Middle East, noting the Lebanese heritage of his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, and the ascent of his wife's family to prosperity. Senator Carper spoke warmly of his associations with Iranian Americans and his commitment to work with the Iranian American community. Senator Schumer noted that with the formal inauguration of IAPAC, Iranian Americans are following a pattern of entry into American political life that is common for most immigrant groups. Senator Schumer also spoke of his commitment to work with and engage Iranian Americans in the political process and the need to combat racism in American society.[2]

Founding

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the American-Iranian community has been "startled by a crackdown on Middle Eastern visitors and a flurry of job-discrimination cases involving Iranian Americans. In response, the immigrants are venturing into the one area of American life that had remained out of their realm: politics".

"There came a realization that without actively engaging in the American civic and electoral process, our voices were not going to be heard," said Morad Ghorban, political director of the new Iranian American Political Action Committee.

While they are a relatively small group -- estimates of the nationwide population range from 340,000 to a half-million or more -- Iranian Americans are working the system to maximize their influence. Activists have registered hundreds to vote. The Iranian American PAC has distributed about $30,000 to congressional and local candidates on Tuesday's ballot. And the Iranian American Bar Association has taken the community's civil-liberties complaints to dozens of congressional staffers.

"Iranian Americans realize that, 'Okay, I may be CEO of my own company, but I still can't bring my grandmother here without her being humiliated in the airport,' " said Dokhi Fassihian, executive director of the National Iranian American Council, a two-year-old organization based in Adams Morgan that organized the voter registration drive.[3]

"Unity campaign"

Washington, DC – The Iranian-American Bar Association (IABA) launched its Unity Campaign on November 21 2002 with a presentation called "Impact of Pending Immigration Laws and Opportunities for Civic Engagement," a first in an expected series of events aimed at bringing together Iranian-Americans as a formidable, influential force on civic life, as well as facilitating educational panel discussions between Iranian-Americans and non-Iranian Americans.

IABA had invited two other prominent Iranian-American groups to speak at the event as a show of unity, the President of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) Mr. Hassan Nemazee and the President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Trita Parsi.

One of the key topics of the evening was the broad language of Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. The Act, signed into law by President Bush earlier this year, was created in direct response to the tragic events of September 11th in order to secure US borders, improve visa entry systems, and thwart future terrorist attacks.

However, Sec. 306 assumes that nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas from countries listed as state-sponsors of international terrorism all pose as a security threat to the U.S. unless determined otherwise by the Secretary of State. The Department currently lists Iran as one of the state-sponsored terrorist nations.

Another debated topic was Section 811 of the Gekas Bill, legislation that would ban all visas to Iranians.

"The political influence of Iranian-Americans is virtually non-existent," Babak Hoghooghi, IABA President, said.

One of the major supporters of Sec. 306 was Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) from California, a state populated with close to a million "highly successful and politically inactive" Iranian-Americans, Hoghooghi said.

IABA also drafted a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and James Ziglar, Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization Service, expressing the concern of Iranian-Americans over Sec. 306, calling it "unfair" and "discriminatory." Hoghooghi also wrote in the letter that "matters such as family visitation and emergency medical care may become surpassingly difficult" with the new law.

Nemazee paralleled the strength in numbers of Cuban-Americans in Florida with the population of Iranians in California, the main difference standing that Cuban-Americans have successfully integrated their community within the political arena as well as with issues concerning the American community at large.

He advised that voting in elections for candidates who will listen and educate is important, as "some may argue it is one's duty to vote." IAPAC focuses on contributing money to the campaigns of pro-Iranian-American candidates.

Parsi pointed out that the Iranian-American community's first challenge is to understand how the system works.

"Unity may be necessary, but it is not sufficient. We have been united on many issues without managing to translate that unity into influence. The problem is that after two decades of not having participated in American politics, we no longer know how to participate, Parsi explained. He continued by stating that NIAC was created to fill in the knowledge gap that Iranian-Americans face when it comes to civic participation and serve as "the eyes and ears on Capitol Hill."

NIAC and IABA organized a two-hour telephone campaign a few weeks ago encouraging people to call their delegation and express concern over the SAFER Act. Parsi said that NIAC's legislative Action Center received 8,000 hits and more than 4,500 letters were sent to representatives around the country.

"We're starting to establish in our community a habit of contacting representatives," Parsi said.

NIAC has held meetings with the members of the Subcommittee on Immigration in the House of Representatives and explained the viewpoints of the Iranian-American community on Section 811 of the Gekas Bill.

"We have established good relationships with key staffers and key members in key committees," Parsi explained.

Some audience members expressed concern over how long it actually takes before the community is able to appreciate solid results.

"We want overnight solutions but there are none," Hoghooghi explained.

Eric Sklar, a former staff member of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) offered his perspective on the road ahead for Iranian-Americans, pointing out that it takes years to rise as an influential community.

Sklar also said that strong financial resources, like PACs, will give enormous access in building a powerful and significant presence in civic life. "Pick Congress-people and Senators who are going to be your champions," Sklar said.

Hoghooghi said that the IABA Unity Campaign seeks to empower Iranian-Americans with patience, perseverance, vision, and conviction.

"Begin by convincing yourself that this is a worthy cause," said Hoghooghi.[4]

NIAC Collaborates with ACLU Coalition, IAPAC

Washington, D.C. June 2005 – The National Iranian American Council is working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International USA, the Iranian American Bar Association, the Iranian American Political Action Committee, and the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement (NLSCA), to promote broad based education of civil rights among the Iranian-American community.

Since its August 2004 Civil Liberties Alert, NIAC has been documenting alleged reports of discrimination against Iranian Americans and referring individuals to civil rights organizations, legal referral services, and government agencies where they can receive assistance. With the explicit permission of individuals, NIAC has also referred selected cases to the media.

Of the alleged cases of discrimination and rights abuses reported by Iranian Americans to NIAC between August 2004 and today, an estimated 59 percent were workplace-related incidents, of which 36 percent were related directly to security clearance denials and revocations. An additional 20 percent of cases involved immigration-related discrimination, including application delays for citizenship and green cards, the revocation of valid visas, and security check delays. Finally, 15 percent of the discrimination cases reported to NIAC were community-based discrimination or hate crimes, and 7 percent were government-related discrimination, including disproportionate enforcement of the law and FBI interrogations or surveillance.

In February 2005, NIAC launched its Anti-Discrimination Center, a bilingual resource center which provides information about various forms of discrimination, including hate crimes, defamation in the media, employment and immigration discrimination. The site also provides valuable Know Your Rights information in English and Persian, links to civil rights organizations, and resources to help find low cost and pro-bono legal assistance, including Persian-language lawyers.

NIAC participated in a Los Angeles press briefing on June 2 to launch the Iranian-American Know Your Rights Campaign. The campaign seeks to empower Iranian Americans with knowledge about their rights and provide them the tools they need to overcome discrimination.

NIAC’s role in the Know Your Rights campaign will be to further raise civil rights awareness among Iranian Americans and defend the rights of our community against broad scale discrimination.[5]

References