On July 14, 2015, the American Iranian Council (AIC) celebrated the signing of the JCPOA as an important day for diplomacy and the international community – a day that demonstrated how diplomacy could achieve what threats and coercion could not. Today, as an organization that has worked for nearly thirty years to promote understanding and dialogue between the US and Iran, the American Iranian Council strongly rejects the Trump administration’s decision to refuse to re-certify the JCPOA. The AIC further expresses its deep concern that the Trump administration’s decision will be a “black eye” for diplomacy and the US’s reputation around the world. We oppose this action for a variety of reasons, including:
1. The fact that Iran has complied with the terms of the JCPOA. The IAEA has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the deal, including as recently as August 2017. Top US military and State Department officials have also confirmed that Iran is complying with the deal;
The American Iranian Council strongly rejects the Trump administration’s new executive order banning nearly all immigration to the United States from Iran and six other countries. Under President Trump’s latest order, the ban on immigration from Iran will be indefinite with exceptions only for students, exchange scholars, and individuals with existing valid visas. Even individuals who have “bona fide connections” to the United States, including close family members of US citizens, will no longer be able to enter the country. The American Iranian Council believes that such a blanket ban on the immigration of Iranians will be neither effective in reducing the risk of terrorism against the United States, nor successful in promoting American interests.
First, this ban, like its prior version, does not target countries with citizens who have a history of terrorist attacks on the United States (e.g., the terrorists of September 11). Moreover, Iran’s continued inclusion in the ban strains credulity as not a single Iranian has ever committed an act of terror against Americans on the US homeland.
The American Iranian Council joins the world community in mourning the loss of Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani, the award-winning mathematician, professor at Stanford, and Tehran-native, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 40 after a four-year battle with breast cancer. AIC extends its condolences to her husband, daughter, extended family and colleagues.
AIC also celebrates Dr. Mirzakhani’s many contributions to mathematics and women’s equality. A pioneer in her field, Mirzakhani specialized in the geometric properties of curved surfaces and became the first and only woman, as well as the first Iranian, to receive the Fields Medal, often called “the mathematician’s Nobel Prize.” Upon her passing, President Rouhani reflected that Mirzakhani “made Iran’s name resonate in the world’s scientific forums,” and that her work “was a turning point in showing the great will of Iranian women and young people on the path towards reaching the peaks of glory.”
Unless you are a space geek like me, you might not be aware that the U.S. will experience a total solar eclipse next month -- the first one to occur over the continental U.S. in over 38 years! If you are in its path (or traveling to see it), I wish you clear skies!
For me, a total solar eclipse elicits memories of my first trip to Iran in 1999 when I traveled there to view the last total solar eclipse of the millennium with a group organized by Search for Common Ground. The group was comprised of distinguished astronomers, diplomats, and myself – a sixteen-year-old aspiring scientist. At the time, I thought the trip would propel me to a career at NASA; instead, it led me here, to the American Iranian Council. During that trip I fell in love with the country of Iran and its people; and now, as Director of Operations at AIC, I believe that my experience demonstrates how intercultural understanding obtained early in life can have an impact years later.
As you were informed in April, I took a leave from the AIC to work on my campaign for President of Iran this May. I was successful in officially registering my candidacy with the Interior Ministry but did not receive approval from the Guardian Council to stand for the vote. I believe if I had been given that chance, I would have won the election. I take this opportunity to congratulate President Hassan Rouhani for winning a second term.
During my absence, Mr. Michael Caridi, my great friend and a Board Member of the Council, served as Acting President. Now that I am back, he wishes me to return to the job and I am accepting his kind request. I remain deeply appreciative of Michael’s hard and strategic work during my absence. This transition has the approval of our Chairman, Senator J. Bennett Johnston.
The American Iranian Council joins the global community in strongly condemning the horrifying terrorist attacks perpetrated today in Tehran at the Parliament building and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. The AIC also sends its deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who died or were injured in the attacks.
We appreciate the fact that the US State Department has joined in condemning these murderous acts and has expressed sympathies for the Iranian people. During this difficult time, we also urge the government of Iran to be patient and perform a careful review of the evidence before making unproductive accusations against other countries in the region. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Tehran, and the focus now should be on countering these radical extremists and on improving the safety and security of the Iranian people.
I am excited to announce that AIC is partnering with the award-winning educational non-profit, ProjectExplorer.org, to send a small film crew to Iran in Spring 2018 to produce a series of short, high-quality, educational videos about everyday life in Iran.
These videos will be distributed free of charge to classrooms and educators in the US and around the world so that students can learn about Iran as part of their standard curriculum. ProjectExplorer.org content currently reaches over 6 million students (ages 8-18) annually. Additionally, we plan to share the Iran Series widely on social media and with a major television broadcast partner that has millions of viewers.
Dr. Rouhani has won a second term in the 2017 Presidential Election in Iran. Nearly 70% of Iranian voters turned out on May 19 to cast their ballots for the next President. Vote tallies placed incumbent President Hassan Rouhani as the winner with 23 million votes, overshadowing the runner-up, Mr. Ebrahim Raisi who received 15.7 million. With the support of 57% of voters, President Rouhani will have a strong mandate to continue his moderate policies and outreach to the West.
The American Iranian Council congratulates President Rouhani on his victory, wishes him luck in his second term, and hopes that he will be able to effectively lead the country towards prosperity in this turbulent time. President Rouhani must now move beyond the competition and become the President for all Iranians, defending their rights and solving their problems. We also urge his competitors in this election to accept the result and cooperate with President Rouhani towards a better Iran.
In the wake of the Trump administration's travel ban, many people asked themselves what they could do to help. One such person is the talented graphic designer, Kristina Filler, who contacted AIC and offered to create a "Heart Iran" pin so that Americans could show their support for the Iranian people.
The design of the pin - fittingly about the size of a flag pin at 3/4" wide - was partially inspired by the social media hashtag #lovebeyondflags that has gained popularity among Americans and Iranians alike. The hashtag has been used to emphasize shared experiences, promote dialogue, and express hope for improved relations.
I am writing to inform you that I will be taking a temporary leave of absence as President of the American Iranian Council during the period of the Presidential election in Iran. As many of you are aware, I have previously run for President of Iran. This year, I have again announced my candidacy:
My leave will begin on April 10 and last at least through the Presidential election season. The American Iranian Council is proud to be a non-partisan organization with nearly three decades of achievement in US-Iran relations. My leave will ensure that the organization remains non-partisan and that there is no conflict of interest or association between my political activities and statements and those of the organization.
On behalf of everyone here at the American Iranian Council, we wish you a warm Nowruz greetings! Nowruz is the first day of spring and also the first day of the new Iranian calendar year, which will be 1396 on March 21 (2017). Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3000 years, and Iranians of all religious and ethnic orientations share in the joys and prosperity it promises. We sincerely hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.
The closure of 1395 was admittedly a rocky period in US-Iran relations, with increased rhetoric on both sides, the imposition of a blanket travel ban on Iranians, ballistic missile testing by the Iranian government, and the new Trump administration putting Iran “on notice.” Of course, rocky times are not new. As a long-standing organization with nearly three decades of experience in this field, we recognize that US-Iran relations have always been challenging. And yet, with time and effort, real progress has been made in the past and can be made moving forward.
If you support this message please add your signature by leaving a comment below the Persian translation of this letter.
Open Letter to the People of Iran:
We, the American People who disavow President Trump’s executive order denying you entry into our country, are writing to say that we stand with you.
We, who oppose this order, are American citizens of all backgrounds, races, religions and creeds. We are old and young, rich and poor, and work in all professions. We are government officials who are refusing to implement this order. We are lawyers who are contesting this order in court. We are journalists who are sharing the stories of those affected. We are ordinary citizens protesting on the streets. We are Americans who believe in democracy and the values enshrined in our Constitution, and we stand with you.
President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order this week banning immigration to the US from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries. The American Iranian Council considers this order as inappropriate and ineffective in the fight against terror. It is only unfortunate that a very small minority among the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world should be engaged in terrorism, giving Islam a tarnished name. While we must protect our people and the Council is fully for acts that improve our national security, we believe targeting entire countries for the action of a few is unjust and counterproductive to U.S. interests and the “America First” directive of the new administration.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a cleric who served as president of Iran from 1989 to 1997, died on January 8, 2017, at age 82, in a hospital in northern Tehran after suffering a heart attack. A US State Department official described Rafsanjani as a "prominent figure" and said in a statement, "We send our condolences to his family and loved ones."
Rafsanjani was a towering figure in Iranian post-revolutionary politics. In addition to serving as the Islamic Republic’s president, he was a former speaker of the Parliament, chairman of the Assembly of Experts, chairman of the Expediency Council, and head of Iran’s military forces during the Iran-Iraq war.
Let us begin by sending you a warm New Year greetings from everyone at the American Iranian Council. As we predicted back in April in a statement entitled “Staying Ahead of the Curve," and given the expected composition of President-Elect Trump’s upcoming cabinet, US-Iran relations could deteriorate in the months ahead despite the fact that Iran has implemented its commitments in the JCPOA (the nuclear deal). Even more daunting are the challenges that come with a new US Administration, the upcoming Presidential elections in Iran, and a Middle East in serious disarray.
However, and notwithstanding this concern for a possible decay in US-Iran relations, we strongly believe that, with your support, we can make 2017 a year of substantive achievements.
On this #GivingTuesday I want to thank you for your support and engagement with AIC over the years. Now more than ever, AIC needs your help to improve intercultural understanding and dialogue between the U.S. and Iran.
My travels there are always a powerful combination of heartwarming and heartbreaking: Heartwarming due to the overwhelming outpouring of enthusiasm and love that the Iranian people express towards Americans, and heartbreaking because I know that this enthusiasm and openness is not understood or reciprocated by many Americans back home.
The American Iranian Council congratulates Donald John Trump for winning the historic election and becoming the 45th President of the United States.
As a long-standing non-profit, non-partisan and educational organization, AIC has nearly three decades of experience working with administrations on both sides of the political aisle. We are well-positioned and well-prepared to work with the new Trump Administration to achieve meaningful results towards improved understanding and better U.S.-Iran relations.
The election of a new American president is always a crucial juncture in foreign relations. AIC was established in 1990 just after President Bill Clinton took office, and our very first conference, U.S.-Iran Relations in the Clinton Administration, addressed some of the challenges ahead for the two countries, and offered AIC's recommendations moving forward. In 2009, shortly after President Obama had taken office, Congressman Dennis Kucinich delivered AIC’s 2009 White Paper to the President. Many of the recommendations put forward in that White Paper were ultimately implemented.
The American Iranian Council is deeply saddened to announce the passing of its Honorary Board Member, Professor Ruhi Ramazani.
Dr. Ramazani joined AIC at its inception, first as a Board Member, and later becoming a member of our Honorary Board. Dr. Ramazani was a strong advocate of improved relations between the United States and Iran and spoke passionately at many AIC conferences. He is widely credited for being "The Dean" of Iran's foreign policy and for training numerous scholars and diplomats who have served the United States government, universities and private think tanks in the U.S. and throughout the world. While clear-eyed about the challenges in overcoming years of animosity between the two nations, he was convinced that rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran was instrumental to resolving many of the Middle East’s outstanding regional issues.
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!
Essentially, The Equal Protection in Travel Act would remove the clause that bars nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Iran from participating in the visa waiver program. Notably, it would not remove the clauses that target individuals who have traveled to those four countries in the past five years.
The American Iranian Council welcomes the removal of the targeting on the basis of nationality, but continues to object to the unfair targeting of tourists, businesspeople, and visitors wishing to see their families in Iran. Moreover, the Council remains concerned about the impediment this poses for trade and economic relations with Iran. Indeed, according to the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the EU, its member states, and the US were to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.” This clause targeting travelers effectively disincentivizes businesspeople from visiting Iran and engaging in trade and economic relations with the country in a post-JCPOA era.
Let us be direct in this letter: unless current trends change, a disastrous shift in US policy towards Iran is a real possibility. Given this, complacency and procrastination are no options if we want to see a better US-Iran relationship. Thus, we are seeking your active and full-fledged support now. Please also share this message widely with your friends and family.
The nuclear accord raised hopes that the direction set would lead to further opening on both sides for more cordial relations. Unfortunately this has not been the case. In Iran, the Islamic regime has toughened its position vis-à-vis the US, hoping to prove its autonomy and revolutionary legitimacy in the wake of an unequal deal with the US, which Tehran continues to call its “enemy.” Iran’s only reason for accepting the deal was to have sanctions lifted, but it now finds that the situation with the sanctions has not substantially changed
The US Senate recently confirmed the appointment of the first Iranian-American US ambassador. Amb. Azita Raji was confirmed as ambassador to Sweden in February. Raji was born in Tehran, then became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, at the age of 27. Raji will be welcomed by Sweden’s 63,828 Swedish-Iranians, one of the country’s most successful immigrant groups.
The United States Department of State just issued a memo announcing that implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program would begin today. The American Iranian Council has strongly opposed these changes in their current form on the grounds that they are both discriminatory and will not improve national security.
On the heels of good news about a prisoner swap, today the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to begin implementation of the nuclear accord. The AIC welcomes “Implementation Day”, and will continue to support and push for dutiful implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by both the US and Iran. Specifically, the sanctions outlined in the JCPOA must be dutifully lifted, economic relations with Iran must be normalized, and Iran’s relationship with the IAEA must be normalized
The American Iranian Council welcomes the announcement of a pending prisoner swap between the United States and Iran, set to free detained Iranian-Americans Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsari in exchange for seven Iranians being held by the US on sanctions violations. Fars News reported that the Iranians due to be released include Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosro Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golastaneh, and Ali Sabonchi. While these long detainments should not have occurred in the first place, the reciprocal pardons are a significant step and a validation of diplomacy’s efficacy
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.
On behalf of the American Iranian Council, I am writing to express my deep concern about the discriminatory consequences of a bill that is currently being considered in the Congress, and is set to be bundled into the Omnibus spending bill that will be voted on shortly. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act (H.R.158 in the House and S.2362 in the Senate) could unfairly strip Iranian-Americans and other Americans holding certain dual nationalities of some of their travel rights under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). We respectfully request that you urgently attend to this Act and rectify its discriminatory consequences.
Today was a bad day for equal rights. If the House of Representatives gets its way, Iranian-Americans and others will be relegated to second-class citizens. The bill includes discriminatory clauses that could negatively impact the travel rights of certain groups including Iranian-Americans.
The House just passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158) by a disappointing vote of 407-19. The bill now moves into the Senate for deliberation and voting. We need to mobilize to stop this prejudicial bill in its tracks
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a highly anticipated report today on Iran’s nuclear program. The report, entitled “Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme,” offers the IAEA’s final assessment on the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s civil nuclear program.