1. SOBHANI’S POSITIONS ON THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN (“ROA”) ARE BORDERLINE ANTI-IRANIAN, & SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY CLARIFIED. IF HE SAYS NOTHING, VOTE AGAINST HIM ON THIS BASIS ALONE.
(a) As a commentator previously noted concerning Sobhani’s views on the government in power in the ROA:
“I am distressed by S. Rob Sobhani‘s Op-Ed (“New chance on the old Silk Road,” Opinion, Dec. 14). The country that Mr. Sobhani holds up as a role model for the Middle East – [Republic of] Azerbaijan – falls so short of the ideal of democracy that it is highly unlikely that any political authority in the United States would take his suggestions seriously. The fact of the matter is that Azerbaijan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world – ranked by Transparency International as more corrupt than almost all Muslim states – including Libya, Syria and Pakistan.”
(b) The ROA of Azerbaijan also has one of the most anti-Iranian records, and actively discriminates against minorities of Iranian descent. Saying nothing about that is not an option if he wants the Iranian vote. (See Iranian Ethnic Groups Under Pressure in Republic of Azerbaijan; and Letter from Iranian bookstore owner from the Republic of Azerbaijan detailing how ‘the autocratic and repressive regime of the the Republic of Azerbaijan wants to destroy Iranian minorities in Azerbaijan.’) If Sobhani, cannot speak clearly and firmly on this issue, Iranians are recommended to vote against him because an Iranian that is complacent about this issue can do far more harm than a non-Iranian with the same views. The ROA has actively been seeking to de-Iranicize ethnic Iranians and to challenge Iran’s share of the Caspian Sea. Sobhani does business with the ROA. (See Endangered Peoples of the Caucasus: تالش زمین Taleshzamin толышыстон.)
(c) It should be noted that the spelling Sobhani uses to describe Northern Iranian is also the Russified form (“Azeri” instead of the correct “Azari”), which may or may not be a small point (He is Iranian and should know the difference). The ROA has for years been encouraging separatists against Iran’s territorial integrity, and Sobhani’s failure to condemn that behavior while being involved in the ROA’s energy sector raises serious concerns. It is unequivocally something Iranians, particularly ones running for public office, must not stay silent on if they want Iranian support. (The same holds true for groups like NIAC and PAAIA, both of whom also have abysmal records on this issue.)
(d) Does Sobhani speak Persian? He indicates he speaks “Azeri” [sic], but not Persian. (Note: In Canada Iranians were duped into voting for an official who passed himself off as a “proud” Iranian, only to later discover his ties to separatist movements hostile to Iran’s territorial integrity, so this is not a small point, particularly given that Sobhani is requesting the assistance of the Iranian-American community. Sobhani’s past written work raises a lot of red-flags.)
(e) Sobhani’s prior assistance to the ROA’s communist part boss Ayaz Mutalibov does not raise a problem because Mutalibov was cooperative in building economic ties with Iran (but the person that replaced him, Elchibey, was an anti-Iranian bigot as is the current President of the ROA). [See Fn 1]
2. SOBHANI NEEDS TO SAY MORE ABOUT WHY HIS PARENTS LEFT IRAN AND WHETHER HE, OR THEY, HAVE BEEN BACK TO VISIT, AND IF NOT WHY.
Sobhani states, his parents “fled Iran due to the upheaval of 1979,” but this is too general and does not reveal much. Some people fled because they did objectively wrong things, and some left for harmless reason. (Were his parents members of the MEK? The Pahlavi government? Or did his father have a job and a house in the US that he was returning to? There are a range of possibilities. Details are required.) There are good and bad reasons to have left Iran. He needs to clarify this point. The US government has done a great disservice to the Iranian people by mixing in unambiguous traitors to the Iranian people, like the MEK, into its population. Has Sobhani said anything about that? Don’t vote for him or support him just because he is Iranian (Massoud Rajavi is also Iranian.)
3. SOBHANI NEEDS TO BETTER DEFINE STANCE ON SOCIAL ISSUES:
Sobhani says he is a “moderate / progressive on social issues,” but what does that mean? More detail is needed.
4. SOBHANI GETS CREDIT FOR REVEALING HIS FAITH, BUT HIS VIEWS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ARE APPALLING (AS JUDGED BY U.S. STANDARDS).
(a) Sobhani says, “I am a member of the Episcopal Church in Potomac and serve as an usher.” He gets points for discussing his faith, because it is common that persons who are not representative of Iranians hide their faith to gain Iranian support (e.g., Bahai’s have been known to do this). Though Sobhani is not from the majority religion in Iran, he does not hide it. He gets credit for that, but his repeated ‘Israel is America’s friend’ rhetoric also makes one wonder if he would be independent minded enough to condemn, for example, the burning down a Church in Israel and writing “Jesus monkey” on its walls.
(b) Here’s where the problem starts, and it is a serious problem. You either believe in religious freedom or you don’t. Sobhani paints a rosy picture of the Republic of Azerbaijan in an opinion piece titled, “American friend.” The Republic of Azerbaijan is an autocratic state with a history of resisting religious freedom. The U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others, have documented Azerbaijan’s shoddy record of violating international human-rights standards regarding religious freedom. Muslim leaders in that state are required to be appointed by the state bureaucracy, and the country is on the brink of revolt because of it. The religious leader of Muslims there is basically an ex-KGB man in a turban (it is just a post-Soviet show), and the people know it. This is a problem: as I said earlier you either believe in religious freedom or you don’t – Sobhani clearly doesn’t and only pays lip service to the ideal. The game of pretend only works when you are 6 years old.
5. SOBHANI GETS CREDIT FOR BEING AGAINST A MILITARY ATTACK ON IRAN BUT MUST CLARIFY WHETHER HE HAS EVER BEEN IN FAVOR OF SANCTIONS: WHERE ARE HIS PUBLIC STATEMENTS ON THIS ISSUE?
Sobhani states, “never in my writings or public appearances have I advocated a military attack on Iran,” which is a good thing, but he says nothing on the issue of sanctions or reveal whether he has ever been in favor of sanctions. (As we know from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, pre-war sanctions against Iraq killed 500,000 children.)
6. SOBHANI COMPLAINS ABOUT RACISM, BUT DOES NOT INDICATE WHETHER HE HAS TAKEN POSITIONS AGAINST ANTI-IRANIAN RACISM IN THE U.S. BEFORE. TIMING IS EVERYTHING HERE.
Regarding attacks against him, Sobhani writes, “Hints of racially and culturally charged attacks have alread[y] raised their unattractive head.” Can Sobhani show us that he raised his voice against those tactics when they were used against the Iranian community before he became a victim of it? Let me give you an example: John Limbert who was one of the hostages in ’79 at the US embassy has come out and said that one of the things holding-back US policy is that the US views Iranians as “inferior.” If Limbert (a former hostage) can speak up, so can Sobhani. A related point is whether he will stand up to the Israeli Lobby. (See Israeli Lobby leader describe Iranians as seeking to spread ‘satanism’ in the US and desiring to blow themselves up because ‘they believe they will go to paradise’; see also Leading Israeli Rabbi and Presidential Advisor Calls for Iran’s Annihilation.) What are Sobhani’s positions regarding the behavior of Israel and the Jewish Lobby towards Iran? If he says nothing, vote against him on that basis alone.
7. SOBHANI’s POSITIONS ON ISRAEL SHOW HIM TO BE SOMEONE THAT CAN BE BOUGHT BY ISRAEL & HIS RHETORIC AGAINST IRANIANS SHOWS HE IS WILLING TO SPREAD UNFAIR ANTI-IRANIAN STEREOTYPES.
“the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah and a threat to the Jewish state.” It is ironic how Sobhani focuses on “threats to the Jewish state,” but does not address threats to Iran’s territorial integrity from the Republic of Azerbaijan, a state that he has had business dealings with (this quirk gives off the odor of a traitor). Moreover, Iran is not the No. 1 sponsor of terrorism (even if you do not like Iran’s government you know this is a lie): Iran did not create the Taliban or Al-Qaeda (the U.S. did; and Hillary Clinton and Ronald Reagan admitted it). Iran also did not kill 500,000 Iraqi kids through sanctions; Iran has not started a war in hundreds of years; Iran did not drop agent orange on heads of Vietnamese so General Motors can have cheaper raw materials. The list of U.S. wars and Israeli acts of terror is endless, and begins long before the Islamic Republic of Iran even came into existence. (See Israeli political leader calls for annihilation of Iranians.)
8. SOBHANI’s PRO-SAUDI STANCE IS OUTRAGEOUS & ANTI-IRANIAN.
Sobhani calls the Saudi king a “peacemaker” and a “visionary” and completely ignores the fact that the King promotes radical Wahabi ideology (which is extremely anti-Iranian) and responsible for numerous Wahabi terror groups. (What rock has Sobhani been living under?) Anything influenced by the Saudi ruling family risks becoming exponentially more dangerous to the world and to Iran. (See Al-Qaeda “Free Syrian Army” with NATO equipment / crucify man .)
9. SOBHANI SUPPORTS THE U.S. POSITION ON BAHRAIN’S MONARCHY, WHICH IS HOLDING A NATION OF PEOPLE HOSTAGE TO SAUDI POLICY.
Baharian is primarily a Shia nation, but is being controlled by a Saudi-style Wahabi autocrat. That is fine with Sobhani because the US has its Navy parked there and has access to Bahrain’s oil. (See British Parliament to Investigate Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Human Rights Abuse . )
Sobhani is Anti-Muslim / Pro-Israel; Sobhani is willing to shill for the Republic of Azerbaijan, mask its atrocious human rights record and Iranophobic polices (and complain about attacks against his ethnicity in U.S. at election time), but Sobhani is not willing speak out about threats to Iran’s territorial integrity from the Republic of Azerbaijan (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the present government of Iran – those threats started during Soviet Era and have continued to this day); Sobhani is Pro-Saudi and unfair to Iran, especially in branding Iran as the world’s greatest terror state and not protective enough of Iran’s interests in the Persian Gulf. (Even if you are against the government of Iran, it should be noted that Sobhani takes views that are hostile towards the Iranian peoples’ interests.) Sobhani’s views are anti-Muslim (except where US interests are involved to excuse Saudi behavior, which is also a prime source of Iranophobia and global terror). As I finished analyzing Sobhani’s views and prior positions, I realized that I answered the question I had as to why his parents probably fled Iran.
An Iranian like this is far more dangerous than a Non-Iranian with same types of views. I cannot recommend for the Iranian community to support Sobhani unless he covers the points raised herein without dodging them.
The first state visit of Ayaz Mutallibov, the first communist president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was to Iran in late 1991. Baku had great expectations from broadening its ties with Iran. Tehran negotiations resulted in consent to use the territory of Iran to maintain links with Nakhchivan, which was blockaded by the Armenians during the war. In addition, agreements were signed on the expansion of economic ties between the two countries and the declaration of Nakhchivan region as a free economic zone in the near future. During the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Baku in early 1992, new agreements were signed on the development of economic and political relations between Iran and Azerbaijan. Heading a large delegation to commemorate the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, President Mutallibov took another step towards establishing closer ties with neighboring Iran. Through its minister the leadership of Azerbaijan stated that it had no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of Iran and that “there is no basis for the creation of a state of united Azerbaijan.”