Iran Digest: Week of September 16 - 22

Iran Digest: Week of September 16 - 22

With Boeing Deal, Americans Are coming to Iran

Long before the first newly purchased Boeing airliner lands at Imam Khomeini International Airport, Iran and the United States will have had to come to terms with a new reality: American citizens will once again be taking up residence in Tehran, the first to do so since the Islamic Revolution and subsequent hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980.

When the United States on Wednesday gave the green light for the direct sale of Western planes to Iran, much more than nearly four decades of sanctions on such deals came to an end. Not that the deals approved by the Treasury Department are insignificant: 80 Boeing jets and an initial batch of 17 Airbus planes out of a potential total of 118.

But the sale will have the important effect of ending an era of absolute isolation between the countries. Boeing will almost certainly have to open an administrative office in Tehran, and technicians will have to move here to train their Iranian counterparts in the care and maintenance of the planes. Among them, almost certainly, will be many Americans. (The New York Times)

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Iran Digest: Week of September 9-16, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of September 9-16, 2016

Close encounters with Iran show need for rules of behavior: U.S. Navy

A series of close encounters between the U.S. navy and Iranian combat vessels in the Gulf show the need for Iran and the United States to agree rules of behavior to avoid risky miscalculations, the head of the U.S. Navy said on Monday.

Admiral John Richardson, the U.S. chief of naval operations, said agreements of this type between the United States and Russia and China had helped reduce such risks.

"These are some of these potentially destabilizing things, where a tactical miscalculation, the closer you get to these sorts of things, the margin for error gets smaller and the human error can play a bigger and bigger role," Richardson said. (Reuters)

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What Should Our New President Expect with Iran?

What Should Our New President Expect with Iran?

By Ambassador Thomas Pickering, AIC Honorary Board Member
Originally published in the Tennessean

Our new president will face many tough challenges in devising a strategy to assure America’s future security. But the president who takes office Jan. 20 will be the first since 1979 who will not have to devise immediately a strategy to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

The nuclear agreement reached with Iran last year provides strong assurance that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. Achieving that singular objective brought together China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. to negotiate with Iran the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran without a nuclear weapon is far less threatening.

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Calling Iranians “Descendants of the Magi” Is Actually a Compliment

Calling Iranians “Descendants of the Magi” Is Actually a Compliment

By Shireen Hunter, Former AIC Board Member
Originally published in Lobelog

Recently, the chief mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, said that Iranians are Majus. This is the Arab name for Iran’s Zoroastrians, who were the majority of the people at the time of the Arab invasion of Persia in the 7th century AD. The mufti was implying by this statement that Iranians are not Muslims.

This belief is neither new nor limited to the Saudis or the Wahhabis. However, as far as I can recall, no significant Muslim religious leader had openly called them non-Muslims, although some secular leaders had done so before. For example, during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein regularly referred to the Iranians as Majus, and even worse, as insects that should be sprayed with pesticides. Indeed, he did just that by using chemical weapons against them.

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Iran Digest: Week of September 2-9, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of September 2-9, 2016

Iran vessel 'harasses,' sails close to U.S. Navy ship in Gulf: U.S. officials

A U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after a fast-attack craft from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it in the central Gulf on Sunday, U.S. Defense Department officials said on Tuesday.

It was at least the fourth such incident in less than a month. U.S. officials are concerned that these actions by Iran could lead to mistakes.

Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran in January after a deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. But serious differences still remain over Iran's ballistic missile program, and over conflicts in Syria and Iraq. (Reuters)

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Iran Chat: Interview with Sufi musician Amir Vahab

Iran Chat: Interview with Sufi musician Amir Vahab

The American Iranian Council (AIC) is pleased to announce that we are bringing our interview series, Iran Chat, to audio format with a new podcast.

Our first interview is with Sufi musician, Amir Vahab – one of New York’s most celebrated and distinguished composers and vocalists of Sufi and folk music.  The interview includes a discussion of Mr. Vahab’s background, how he got interested in music, some advice for aspiring musicians, a description of Persian music, as well as a special demonstration of some traditional Persian instruments, which begins about halfway through our conversation.

In addition to speaking with us for this series, Mr. Vahab was also kind enough to provide the music for the podcast, which you will hear at the beginning and end of each episode.  To learn more about Mr. Vahab and his music, or about the Persian instruments featured in this interview, please visit Mr. Vahab’s website www.tanbour.org.

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Now Is the Time To Act

Now Is the Time To Act

By Brayden Zimmerman, AIC Summer Research Associate

Please note that the views expressed in this publication, as with all articles written by AIC interns, do not necessarily represent the views of the American Iranian Council.  

In recent history, the world has seen the harm that can result from instability. As a result, governments around the world must work towards peace, particularly in places where conflict seems so inevitable. One way that America can work towards that goal of promoting peace, and reducing the chance of more unnecessary violence and instability is by working to lock in the benefits and improved relations ushered in by the adoption and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  The next 10-15 years are absolutely critical in this regard. We need to start focusing on doing what it takes to foster a peaceful, mutually beneficial, and trusting relationship with Iran. The risks of following any other path are too great and too real.

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Disappointment with JCPOA Behind Iran’s Closer Ties with Russia

Disappointment with JCPOA Behind Iran’s Closer Ties with Russia

By Dr. Shireen Hunter, Former AIC Board Member

The Iranian public and international observers received with surprise the news that Iran had allowed Russian planes to use an airbase in its Hamedan province for bombing expeditions in Syria. The Islamic government’s emphasis on independence, the Iranian constitution’s ban on granting basing rights to any foreign country, and the Islamist opposition’s use of the presence of American military personnel and advisers as weapon against the Shah during the monarchy all made the granting of permission to Russia highly unusual. Of course, allowing the use of the airbase does not amount to the granting of basing rights, but it still is a significant departure form Iran’s past positions.

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Passing the Foreign Policy Baton

Passing the Foreign Policy Baton

By Amb. Robert Hunter, AIC Board Member

President Barack Obama has 22 weeks left in office. But in practice, his useful mandate will expire on November 9, the day after the presidential election. That does not mean he will be unable to exercise his duties as commander-in-chief for the 72 days remaining in his term. However, given his inclination not to do “stupid stuff,” he is unlikely to leave any poisoned chalices for his successor. That has happened before. In 1961 the outgoing Eisenhower administration and especially the CIA confronted the young and untested President John F. Kennedy with a plan to invade Cuba and rid it of the upstart Fidel Castro, and we all know how well that played out. At least it enabled Kennedy, early in his presidency, to become more skeptical of some of the advice he was being fed (though not skeptical enough to prevent sliding into the Vietnam morass). More recently, following the 1992 election, the outgoing George H.W. Bush administration decided to intervene in Somalia. As only the president-elect, there was not much Bill Clinton could do about that, and he inherited a mess that, with his own inexperience helping it along, led to the tragedy commemorated by Hollywood as Blackhawk Down. That chalice was indeed poisoned.

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Iran Digest Week of August 5-12

Iran Digest Week of August 5-12

Israel minister says Iran has respected nuclear deal

Israel’s energy minister on Sunday criticized a landmark nuclear accord between the Jewish state’s arch-foe Iran and world powers but said Tehran had so far respected the deal.

The agreement, which was signed in July 2015 and came into force in January, saw Tehran accept curbs to its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions by world powers.

“It’s a bad deal but it’s an accomplished fact and during the first year we spotted no significant breach from the Iranians,” said Youval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Al Arabiya)

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Interview with AIC's Emad Kiyaei about film Zero Days

Interview with AIC's Emad Kiyaei about film Zero Days

For more than 30 years, the United States took widely publicized, drastic measures to hinder nuclear development in Iran. But amid sanctions and diplomatic efforts and under pressure from Israel, the U.S. government secretly launched an unprecedented weapon at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“The Iranian nuclear program was a national issue for the Iranian people, and once the industrial sabotage happened, Iran developed a very proactive presence in cyber domain,” says Emad Kiyaei, executive director of the American Iranian Council. He is talking about Stuxnet, a self-replicating computer virus that disrupted 20 percent of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Discovered in 2010, it was the first highly public instance of state-supported cyberwarfare and is one of the subjects of filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary, Zero Days

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Inside the Plan to Undo the Iran Nuclear Deal

Inside the Plan to Undo the Iran Nuclear Deal

Author: Indira A. R. Lakshmanan;  Source: http://www.politico.com

For Barack Obama, July 14, 2015 marked the greatest diplomatic triumph of his presidency: Amid flags and flashbulbs in Vienna, his secretary of State, John Kerry, announced a historic, UN-backed nuclear accord to defuse the global security threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

For Mark Dubowitz, the day was a bitter setback. He and his hawkish policy shop, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, had been fighting what they feared would be a bad deal since negotiations were announced. To blunt the sting, Dubowitz and his staff passed around a bottle of Laphroaig scotch. As they clinked glasses and discussed the next phase of their fight, Dubowitz’s eye landed on a souvenir collected by a colleague on a 1979 trip to Tehran: a commemorative plate bearing the face of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was a spine-stiffening reminder, Dubowitz recalled this week, of "how long Iran has been a sworn enemy of the United States.”

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The Cavalier Crusade for a War With Iran

The Cavalier Crusade for a War With Iran

Author:  Joe Cirincione & Geoff Wilson;  Source: https://warisboring.com

One year ago, opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement blasted the landmark accord as ushering in the Apocalypse. They are still at it.

“After doing everything they could possibly think of to subvert and undermine the nuclear negotiations before their successful conclusion — even an outrageous letter urging Iranian leaders to listen to Republicans instead of our President, the Republicans today continue to refuse to accept peace as the better course to safeguard our families,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) warned during a House floor speech on July 12.

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Transcript: Ambassador Andrew J. Young Speech at AIC Met Event

Transcript: Ambassador Andrew J. Young Speech at AIC Met Event

This speech is something I asked for.  I asked for it because it’s been a concern of mine since the very first days that I went to the United Nations.  Now, Iran was not my business, but I had a classmate from the Harvard Theological Seminary who had lived and worked in that region since I went to Georgia in 1954. He went to the Middle East.  He was fluent in all the languages.

So when I went to the United Nations, I said “look, can’t you send me some of your papers, some of your notes, some of your lectures.”  He happened to be on sabbatical at Harvard. He said, ”You know I don’t have any but why don’t I start trying to write up something.”

He ended up writing 300 pages.  But the first 20 pages were about Iran.  I had been to Iran with a fellow who I consider my mentor George Shultz who was Secretary of Treasury then and we were on the way to Kenya

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"Radical Islam?"

"Radical Islam?"

By Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi

The condemnable terrorist act in Orlando by a radical Muslim, Omar Mateen, has again caused a debate among politicians and others on whether the term “radical” should be used to identify the religion (Islam) of the terrorist or the Muslim person who has committed the murderous act.

President Barack Obama refuses to use the terms “radical Islam” or even “radical Muslim”. Mr. Donald Trump insists that they are the right terms to use. Secretary Hillary Clinton, who until recently refused to use the terms, now says we may use “radical” or “Jihadist Islam and Muslim” interchangeably. They are partly wrong

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AIC Statement on the Orlando Terrorist Attack

AIC Statement on the Orlando Terrorist Attack

The American Iranian Council joins all peace-loving and anti-violence people of the United States and the world in condemning, in strongest possible terms, the horrifying and cowardly terrorist attack on the LGBT night club in Orlando, Florida. The AIC also sends its deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured.  

We also express our deepest regret that the Orlando murderer was a radical and hateful Muslim and that his religious affiliation is used by certain politicians and members of the media  to tarnish Islam, the religion of well over 1.4 billion people around the world, by prefixing it with the word “radical.” The truth is, Islam is neither radical nor moderate; it is just a religion, with one Prophet and one Holy book!

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AIC Accomplishments in "Thought Leadership"

The American Iranian Council is regarded as  "thought leader" in the field of US-Iran relations. What exactly does that mean?

Examples of Thought Leadership:

The public discussion around “normalizing” US-Iran relations began with the AIC. In the 1990, 26 years ago, when we began pursuing our cause, many thought that we were completely naive to be doing so. Iran was seen by the mainstream not only as an enemy of the US but as a country that ought to face years of international isolation and could not be engaged with diplomatically. US-Iran relations was truly a taboo subject. Today, that situation has changed markedly, and increasingly more and more people are coming to view the AIC position as the right one.

You don’t even have to take our word for it! You can watch Vice President Joe Biden, then Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, publicly align himself with the American Iranian Council’s position and praise the AIC by name for its work toward this goal.

>> Watch Joe Biden.

Moreover, our thought leadership throughout the nuclear talks proved to be the right one. While other groups simply served as cheerleaders for any accord, the AIC provided more thoughtful analysis regarding the accord’s expected effects on the Iranian economy, Iranian national security, relations with Arab states and Israel, and other issues. Rather than cheerleading the paltry concessions offered to Iran, we were right to point out that Iran was getting very little economic benefit out of the deal.

Moving forward, we plan on focusing our thought leadership on the issue of what we foresee as the impending “Vietnamization of Iran. The case of post-war Vietnam is elucidating. After the war ended, Asian and European firms entered the Vietnamese marketplace while American firms were still prohibited. By the time the US firms entered, years later, they were relegated to the role of subcontractors to the European and Asian firms.

We don’t want to repeat this fate in the post-JCPOA-era Iran and will be developing ideas and propagating them in the coming months to hopefully prevent the Vietnamization of Iran. Specifically, our thought leadership— to be embodied in our white paper, policy papers, Congressional roundtables, policy conferences, articles, and media appearances— will focus on how isolating Iran and barring American firms from the country will harm both the immediate and long-term US national interests.

Another area of thought leadership we will develop relates to the relative national power of Iran in its region. It is often argued that a weaker Iran is a better Iran for its region and that to achieve this outcome, Iran needs to be sanctioned, isolated and placed under constant threat. It is also said that a less democratic Iran leads to a weaker Iran and therefore support for Iranian nationalistic and democratic movements have to be limited. We want to show that indeed, a weaker Iran is a terrible Iran for its region and beyond and that a stronger Iran is a better Iran, a nation that will pursue peace and democratic development.

 

Examples of Achievements:

1.   The AIC has been three times granted permission by the U.S. government (Treasury OFAC) to open an office in Iran. The AIC is the only U.S.-based peace and conflict resolution NGO to be granted such a license.

2.   AIC helped Iran initiate an offer to the United States, known as the "Grand Bargain." See New York Times on the story here.

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/04/28/irans-proposal-for-a-grand-bargain/?_r=0

3.   Secretary Madeleine Albright gave her historic speech on Iran at an AIC conference when she expressed regret and apologized for 1953 coup and past US policy mistakes, lifted sanctions on carpets and food items, and offered Iran a global settlement (Watch the video here: http://www.us-iran.org/history/).  Years later, Iran's President Mohammad Khatami would characterize this initiative as a "missed opportunity.”

4.   Vice President Joe Biden, State Secretary John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (all senators at the time) as well as the late Secretary Cyrus Vance and many congressmen have spoken at AIC conferences and offered proposals for dialogue between the US Congress and the Iranian Parliament or dialogue between the two governments.

5.   Meeting among Speaker Mehdi Karubi and other members of the Iranian parliament and their American counterparts including the late Senator Arlene Specter in New York City was arranged by the AIC.

6.   AIC mediated President Obama’s humanitarian attention to Iran’s civilian airline tragedies and his Administration’s agreement to entertain a proposal from Iran to purchase spare parts from the United States.

7.   AIC helped in the release of American hikers Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal.

8.   AIC organized a meeting between an Iranian hostage taker (Abbas Abdi) and his American Captive (Barry Rosen) at UNESCO in Paris, in an effort to mitigate the impact of hostage taking on US-Iran relations.

9.   AIC was among the first NGOs to raise the issue of Iranian human rights in its conferences. See this book: published by the AIC in 1994: http://www.us-iran.org/books/tension/

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

AIC Board Member Robert Hunter compares Trump and Clinton's foreign policy

AIC Board Member Robert Hunter compares Trump and Clinton's foreign policy

Originally published in LobeLog

Written by former Amb. Robert Hunter, AIC Board Member

Following Hillary Clinton’s June 2 foreign policy speech in San Diego, California, the whole world knows what she thinks of Donald Trump’s becoming commander-in-chief next January. “[His ideas] are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas—just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.”

Anyone who has any sense of the requirements of US foreign policy and national security must consider his becoming US president a prospect devoutly not to be wished.

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Entering through the Iranian Automotive's Market: Facilities and Infrastructure

Entering through the Iranian Automotive's Market: Facilities and Infrastructure

Author: Nader Vahhab Aghaei, Senior Expert of Aftersales Service (nader.aghaei@outlook.com)

Prior knowledge of the market is the pre-requisite of any organization to enter new markets. Investment in the potential hungry market of Post-sanctions is desirable. So the organizations that are planning to enter the Iranian markets, need to identify features and capabilities of the automotive industry, especially in the area of services so that they could be superior to their competitors.

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Policy and Fundraising Event at The Metropolitan Club Featuring Amb. Andrew J. Young

June 20, 7-11 pm
The Metropolitan Club
1 East 60 Street
New York, NY 10022

Seats are limited. Register today for AIC's Policy and Fundraising Event at The Metropolitan Club featuring Ambassador Andrew J. Young.

Register at www.metclub.us-iran.org
Send inquiries to metclub@us-iran.org

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.