Let us begin by sending you a warm New Year greetings from everyone at the American Iranian Council. We also hope that 2016 will usher in improved US-Iran relations, particularly now that a historic nuclear accord is in place and Iran is implementing it, as per its commitment in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In October of 2015, the American Iranian Council turned 25 years old. What a challenging quarter century! Congratulations to all AIC members, sponsors and supporters for the 25th AIC Anniversary, and for our collective tenacity and accomplishments in a hostile and challenging environment.
We began our work in 1990 as US-Iran Conference Inc., before changing our name to American Iranian Council in 1997. When we began dreaming of and preaching for better US-Iran relations, only a small minority of Iranians and Americans were on board. We had entered a highly taboo field that was consuming both Washington and Tehran.
However, we had a grand vision and believed, as we do today, that the common interests of the two nations far outweigh their differences, and that they must and will one day come together in mutual respect and partnership. The fight against ISIL and terrorism is just one such common interest. Stability and economic development in the troubled Middle East is another.
It is no wonder that today we witness a total reversal of what the people in the two countries thought 25 years ago: a large majority now believe that the idea of a better US-Iran relations is a noble one, and that it must be realized soon. What an amazing change! Our world has always been challenged and changed by vision and ideas, and we are pleased to see the shift in ideas in this field taking place.
Even more satisfying is that at the AIC’s 25 anniversary, we may be closer than ever before to a historic breakthrough in US-Iran relations now that a nuclear accord has been adopted. As it is said, dreams come through— but only if you keep dreaming and working hard for their realization! That is what the American Iranian Council has done and will continue to do.
The Council is a community of believers, idea leaders and policy experts. We pioneered the marketplace of ideas for better understanding and unfettered dialogue long before it became fashionable. Throughout the years, we opposed all forms of sanctions, rejected coercive diplomacy and war in any form and for any reason, offered a platform for dialogue, and engaged in shuttle diplomacy.
More importantly, we never wavered in our position, and it is this consistency over a quarter century that sets us apart from the organizations and individuals who today claim to support diplomacy and were propagating the nuclear negotiations. Most of these organizations had supported sanctions and other forms of coercive diplomacy.
We are also unique for our unparalleled accomplishments in US-Iran relations. Indeed, many major developments in US-Iran relations happened at an AIC platform or through its mediation. Notable among them is the historic speech of State Secretary Madeleine Albright in 2000 in which she expressed regret about the CIA-engineered 1953 coup in Iran, and lifted certain sanctions.
AIC has also hosted, through its conferences and private events, many American and Iranian statesmen including Vice President Joe Biden, State Secretary John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, State Secretary Cyrus Vance, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Mehdi Karubi, and many US senators, academics and media personalities.
We have also published helpful policy papers, including the AIC Whitepaper, which became a roadmap for the Obama Administration, 15 books, which now constitute a rich source for the history of US-Iran relations in the past quarter century, and hundreds of AIC Newsletters, Updates and Digests. We also organized many high-level policy conferences.
Let us then celebrate the AIC at 25 and make it work even more effectively. In that direction, we plan to continue as a proactive thinker and policy developer for all involved. As in the past, we will also maintain our non-partisan position and help conceive unifying ideas for the common interests of the two nations as well as the tangled third parties.
However, as in the past, we cannot realize this dream without your help. As the newly-adopted visa waiver regulations demonstrate, US-Iran relations, the JCPOA and Iranian-Americans face serious obstacles. We need to remain vigilant in the face of these complications and seek remedies that will benefit all.
As Professor Amirahmadi wrote in his recent letter to President Obama, Iranian-Americans, a proud community of high-achievers and a bridge between the two nations, remain most vulnerable to difficulties in US-Iran relations and, as such, they should have a direct interest in helping mend problems in the troubled relationship.
Our executive director, Emad Kiyaei, and director of communications, Kayvon Afshari, have in their recent communiques explained what the AIC has achieved in 2015 and what it plans to do in 2016. Let us just single out one project that we believe is critical for Iranian-Americans, the JCPOA, and US-Iran relations, namely the Reviving Iran’s Image Project.
So, please support us in our endeavors to improve Iran’s image by implementing the project as thoroughly as possible. We have specific activities planned for the purpose and we know that our endeavors, given your tax-deductible donation, will succeed. We thank you in advance for your help.
Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Rte.)
Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi