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.
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.
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/