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Impossible promises
IAPAC is creating false hopes and making impossible promises

By Ladan Afrasiabi
May 27, 2004

IAPAC -- the Iranian American Political Action Committee -- came to existence in 2003 following what seemed to be more of a "coup" inside American Iranian Council, when three of AIC board members, Hassan Nemazee, Akbar Ghahari and Faraj Aaalei collectively resigned from AIC and formed this well funded organization. Tapping into the financial and intellectual wealth of successful Iranians in the US and banking on their political ambitions, IAPAC is claiming to be the voice of the Iranian American diaspora in the US.

The backgrounds of IAPAC's three founders are as contradictory as the organizations' vague mission statement. Hassan Nemazee is a NY investor whose political career with the Democratic Party during Clinton era ended when White House withdrew his nomination as the Ambassador of Argentina, following a publication of the Forbes magazine article about his shabby business dealings and even falsifying his identity as Cuban and Indian.

On the other hand Mr. Ghahari is a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist whose open, warm and long time relations with the Iranian officials, including Kamal Kharazi, has raised eyebrows even among his colleagues at IAPAC. As for Aalaie, he is known as the New Kid On the Block -- a political novice and a protégé of Kamran Elahian, the well-known pro-Israel venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

A look at IAPAC organization reveals that this colorful mosaic of founders and key players has manifested itself in an identity crisis for the organization, while creating false hopes and making impossible promises to many enthusiastic Iranian Americans.

" ... IAPAC focuses exclusively on domestic policy issues such as civil rights, immigration and civil liberties, and encourages Americans of Iranian descent to actively participate in the electoral process, to vote and run for political office. In forming IAPAC, the twenty-two founding trustees agreed that in order to provide a voice on domestic issues that unify our community, IAPAC's bylaws would exclude the organization from engaging on issues pertaining to U.S. foreign policy towards Iran."

Historically, the successful lobby groups representing the diaspora are those that have very clear cut relations with their respective motherland, as in the case of Israelis and Cubans; with unconditional support for the State of Israel and Anti-Castro Cuban hardliners.

However, in the case of Iranians, we are deeply divided in our stand about the government of Iran. We differ on the very notion of dialogue with Iranian officials. Some go as far as promoting harsher sanction laws against Iran and some are waiting for American "angels" to march into Tehran, etc. In this complicated and controversial political landscape, IAPAC claims to be bi-partisan and is promising to magically fly above the very obstacles it intends to remove.

Aren't we forgetting that all cases of discrimination against Iranian immigrants are based on the poor state of US-Iran relations? Would Iranians and their parents have any visa issues if relations between the two countries were normal? Isn't it true that the only reason scientists and students are not allowed to publish their papers in the U.S. is because their country of origin is a member of the "Axis of Evil"?

What are the "other civic and domestic policies" that are specific to Iranians and NOT related to the US-Iran relations? Case in point is Libya. When Libya decided to stop WMD production, the U.S. lifted all restrictions applied to Libya, including travel and investment.

Therefore, IAPAC needs to explain how it can possibly succeed in removing the visa ban on Iranian students or change the fingerprinting procedures without having to engage and address, one way or another, the root cause of these laws, namely the US foreign policy toward Iran and vice-versa.

The "non political" status of IAPAC is a contradiction of terms and the upcoming IAPAC Gala in Washington is a manifestation of this inherent dichotomy. The sight of Goli Ameri and Shirin Ebadi participating together in this event is simply an eye sore. Ameri, a hard line Republican, an advocate of American invasion of Iraq who recently wrote an open letter to Powel demanding harsher sanctions on Iran would be sitting next to Ebadi, a nationalist Muslim, a human rights activists who has spoken loudly against the US war in Iraq and is promoting dialogue with Iran?

Do we really think that Ameri, as accomplished as she may be, if elected to U.S. Congress, would vote differently on the very same issues, regardless of how many Iranians have contributed to her campaign? The elitist composition of IAPAC comes at a cost of genuine hope, trust and enthusiasm of Iranians who want to create a dent in the anti Iran policies and the discriminating laws in the US, but are faced with lack of any better alternative.

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