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Dear Mr. President
How should the U.S. respond to demonstrations in Tehran?

June 20, 2003
The Iranian

Anti-government protests have continued for the ninth consecutive night across Iran amid a heated debate in Washington on its policy toward Tehran. According to the Washington Post and Financial Times, the Bush administration is deeply divided between those who support "regime change" and those who oppose active intervention and advocate a diplomatic approach toward Tehran.

To demonstrate the point, Senator Sam Brownback signaled Wednesday that he had high-level support in the Pentagon to support possible covert operations to destabilize the Iranian government.

The same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed support for the student demonstrations, but held open the possibility of restarting talks with Iranian officials. Powell also denied the U.S. had incited the anti-government demonstrations as alleged by Tehran.

As the U.S. focuses its attention on Iran, Europe and the United Nations have also begun reevaluating their own policies on Iran. France this week enforced a crackdown on the Iranian opposition group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, while the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report stating that Iran had not fulfilled its nuclear safeguard obligations. The wording of the IAEA's statement was milder than the Bush administration had hoped.

The U.S. had called for strong international condemnation of Iran's alleged violations but faced resistance by some countries. On Wednesday, President Bush warned Tehran that world leaders would not tolerate Iran's development of a nuclear weapon. He also urged Iranian officials to treat student protestors, who he described as "brave souls", with utmost respect.

In its statement, the IAEA called on Iran to allow stricter inspections of its nuclear facilities through the adoption of an additional protocol, something Iran immediately rejected.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami Thursday defended the rights of students to protest, but condemned violence. He vowed zero tolerance toward vigilantes and pressure groups that have attacked the protesters in recent days. Khatami also criticized the United States and the Western media for exaggerating recent unrest in the country.

With all eyes on Iran, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) believes it is highly critical that Iranian-Americans express their viewpoints to U.S. representatives and lawmakers. In the past, no objective measurement of Iranian-American public opinion on U.S.-Iran relations existed.

In such an environment, many groups were able to claim that they were representative of Iranian-Americans. It is the mission of NIAC to enable Iranian-Americans to have their individual voices - whatever they choose it to be - heard in Washington.

To ensure that our community is accurately represented in the foreign policy community, it is essential that as many Iranian-Americans as possible communicate their views with their lawmakers. Write your letter today, and encourage all Iranian-Americans to do the same!

NIAC offers you the opportunity to express YOUR views about what America's policy should be to the President, to the Vice President, to your lawmakers and to Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld. NIAC has prepared three letters taking three different positions. Choose the one that you agree with the most OR draft your own letter:

Letter One
Support the Iranian students and regime change in Iran

The first letter argues that the President should support the students in Iran by increasing the pressure on Iran and by declaring the US's support for regime change in Iran. The rational behind this position is that the Islamic government is unreformable and incapable of being democratized. Freedom can only come to Iran through the dismantling of the mullah's regime, and America's help is needed, advocates of this position argue. Send this letter
to President Bush and your.

Letter Two
Support the Iranian students from a distance

The second letter urges the President to support the students from a distance and to allow the Iranians to maintain their independence in their struggle for democracy. The rational for this letter is that US support for the student movement can be counterproductive and end up undermining the domestic movement for democracy. The Iranian democracy must be independent and homegrown, it argues. The letter urges the President to express moral support for the aspirations of the people, but not for any political faction or any specific form of government. Send this letter to President Bush and your lawmakers.

Letter Three
Support the Iranian students to decide their own future

The third letter urges the President not to interfere in internal Iranian affairs, period. This letter argues that any direct American involvement in Iranian affairs will discredit the domestic democracy movement and evaporate the pro-American sentiments of the Iranian people. The Iranian democracy movement should be supported by America's absence. Send this letter to President Bush and your lawmakers.

Tell all your friends and family to send a letter as well!

To learn more about the work of NIAC, please visit www.niacouncil.org.

Author

Dokhi Fassihian (M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, Maryland) is a political analyst in Washington DC and member of NIAC. This article first appeared on NIAC's website.

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