War leaves no consolation prize

Results of a poll conducted by NIAC


War leaves no consolation prize
by Ari Siletz

A couple of weeks ago, I received the results of a poll conducted by NIAC asking what to advocate on behalf of the membership in the aftermath of recent upheavals in Iran. Almost five hundred NIAC members responded to the poll. Below are the reported results with some commentary by me [see footnote]. The number below each italicized statements is the percentage of responders who agreed with that statement.


The US government should not pursue diplomacy with the Iranian government.


The Enchanted Sulk Principle (ESP): ignoring someone magically compels him to do what you want.

The US government should pursue diplomacy with the current government in Iran at the earliest possible opportunity.


This is how I voted. How can a Green supporter want diplomacy with a government he considers illegitimate? Go figure. Yet this same Green supporter favored strong participation in the last election, when there was a danger the vote could help legitimize the regime’s policies. As we saw, the election actually dealt a blow to the status quo. Engaging a political opponent without hesitation is a show of confidence, sometimes a show of force, but never a concession.

As a matter of routine housekeeping, Iran needs some sort of government to carry out affairs of state with foreign nations. As a recent example, when unauthorized foreigners strayed across our borders into Kurdistan, who could we go to for a national response? So while Ahmadinejad is an election-stealing demagogue to me an Iranian, he better be Mr. President to foreign leaders until our nation reaches a consensus to say otherwise

The US government should put diplomacy on hold until the election process in Iran has reached a conclusion.


By a large majority vote this is the NIAC position. Not the best outcome in my mind, but certainly not wrong enough to make me sent nasty letters to NIAC canceling my membership. Putting off talking to any powers in Iran, waiting for some uncertain and undetermined event is sloppy politics. What if it takes too long for Iranians to topple the hardliners, and a war happens as a result of this “temporary” non-engagement?


NIAC should support war with or military strike against Iran


I urge responders in this category to go fight the IRI on their own. Don’t expect Americans to lose their lives for your interests. If American lives are risked, it is only fair that there should be a reward in it for Americans. What chunk of Iran were you planning to offer as that reward?

NIAC should continue to oppose war with or military strike against Iran


Absolutely! War is the ultimate human rights violator, by a wide numeric and moral margin.


The US should impose broad and comprehensive sanctions affecting the entire economy and population.


Place a siege on Castle Iran, and the starving masses will overthrow the tyrant. A theory functioning at 2.9% efficiency.

The US should not impose any additional economic or political sanctions against Iran


This is how I voted. And you may ask, “Don’t we want IRI’s repressive policies to go away?” The response is, sanctions may or may not impact Iran’s nuclear policies, but where did we get the idea that this has anything to do with Iran’s internal state of political repression? It is a near certainty that the moment the US gets concessions on the nuclear issue, she will defer to the Regime any survival measures to stay in power and deliver on the deal. Risk the dealmaker, risk the deal.

Does this contradict my position regarding diplomatically engaging Iran right away? Wouldn’t we be assuring the dealmaker’s longevity? The answer is “yes” only in the mindset where a foreign country’s support for an Iranian regime is deemed important. That is not my mindset. So my answer is, “No. Whatever regime the US supports or does not support is helpless to stop the democratic system slowly being willed into existence by Iranians themselves.

The US should impose additional targeted sanctions, such as: I) freezing international bank accounts current political leadership of Iran, II) placing international travel restrictions on individual representatives of the current government, III) placing restrictions on companies that sell supplies, equipment and/or services that monitor, restrict or disrupt communications and invade the privacy of Iranian citizens


By a slight majority vote, this is the NIAC position. It’s not objectionable enough to break ranks over, but here’s some discussion on the matter: The worst targeted sanction in the list is placing international travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats. Anything to disrupt communication risks misunderstandings and a possible war. Another targeted sanction, freezing the bank accounts of IRI leaders, is a good idea if the funds are held as collateral for human rights improvements. Are they? Or will the funds be released as soon as the nuclear issue is favorably settled? The devil is in the details. NIAC should make sure to securely piggyback human rights concerns on the Machiavellian agendas.

As for boycotting companies that sell tattletale cell phones, NIAC should make sure this couldn’t be used as a toehold for citizen boycotts of other goods and services to Iranians. Once Nokia takes a hit, other providers of goods and services will become responsive to citizen boycotts. Manipulated by mass media oblivious to the suffering of ordinary Iranians, loose cannon citizen boycotts may indulge in racism or religious bigotry, and attempt to choke off essentials like food and medicine.

Should NIAC advocate for the lifting of sanctions restricting exchanges, communications and interaction between ordinary Iranians and Americans?

No: 2.5%

Yes: 97.5%

I know a lot of ordinary Iranians--business people, academics, members of philanthropic organizations—who would benefit from this aspect of NIAC’s advocacy.


NIAC should extend its involvement on human rights to also influence US policy towards human rights violations in Iran and ensure the inclusion of human rights in any US-Iran negotiation.

42.5 %

To be safest from human rights violations, the rights of Iranians should primarily be protected by Iranian institutions, and only as an emergency backup by international organizations, or foreign power mediation. The website for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center contains a useful thought: “…the removal of an authoritarian regime does not necessarily lead to an improved human rights situation if institutions and civil society are weak, or if a culture of human rights and democratic governance has not been cultivated.” Since our embryonic local human rights institutions are under attack at the moment, I am very thankful to the global humanitarian support system. As I stated before in the case of the freezing of IRI private assets, NIAC should advocate piggybacking human rights concerns onto the un-freezing negotiations. This is an example of “…inclusion of human rights in any US-Iran negotiations.”

Deleting the word “any” in this proposal to extend the NIAC mandate may have gotten it the majority votes, and my vote. I balked at the word “any” because it can interfere with some indirect actions with longer-term positive yields. An example would be advocating for easier US visa procedures for Iranians. NIAC could hardly make such issues conditional to the improvement of human rights behavior of the IRI.

NIAC should continue its current policy and activities to condemn human rights violations in Iran, working to educate legislators on overall human rights trends and conditions and working in coalition with leading human rights organizations including Amnesty [International]


I’m perfectly in line with this original NIAC mandate also. Human rights advocacy is hard work. For NIAC to be effective in these goals, I assume the organization is going to need more resources. I would be happy to lend an extra hand and/or Dollar here. In this way human rights activists among the membership can democratically influence the organization to press harder on human rights issues. As it turns out, NIAC has lumped the two categories together as 42.5 + 46.6= 89.1 (higher decimals rounded up to 89.2) percent on its website, taking on the extended mandate anyway. The poll analyzers may have realized that nitpicky members like me would have voted for the extended mandate if it had been phrased with more care.

NIAC should not involve itself in the human rights situation in Iran or the US policy response to it.

10.9 %

As war is the biggest human rights issue everywhere and forever, NIAC’s anti-war position already had a significant component in this direction, with or without an explicit human rights assertion.

To overview NIAC’s US-Iran advocacy, there are places for compromise, and places where the line should be held. I would compromise on the sanction issues because the sanction glass can be seen as half full. For example economic boycotts could urge Iran towards self-sufficiency. This is a less macho way of saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” After years of neglecting Iran’s capacity for gasoline production, finally the threat of a refined petroleum sanction is forcing the government take this critical issue seriously. Iran may emerge from sanctions like a spoiled brat from boot camp. But war leaves no consolation prize for those who suffer it. Ultimately, anti-war advocacy is the line NIAC should hold.


A comment on volunteer survey responses in general:

The sample population will be biased because it has not been selected at random. As an example, consider a volunteer survey wanting to know if traffic fines are fair in California. The self-selected sample population will include a higher proportion of fast drivers than a randomly selected population. Attempts can be made to account for these statistical biases in the NIAC membership poll, but the anti-war and anti-sanction numbers are so overwhelming that the gist of the results can’t be reasonably doubted.


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more from Ari Siletz
maziar 58

paternity dues.........

by maziar 58 on

ex pc; america did created these thughs so ....one way or other has the obligation to pay alimony by their own laws to those S.O.B  who's ARE AMERICAN.     Maziar

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

 This hypothetical sequence of events may clarify the decoupling I'm suggesting:

1- Partly due to NIAC advocacy and information, Iran and the US seriously engange each other diplomatically.

2- As a result of this engagement, the US and Iran agree to a level of IAEA inspections that prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but allows the civilian energy program. The US and Iran now have good relations. The entire Middle East is relieved. NIAC gets "I told you so" credits for advocating negotaions and providing useful information.

3- Iranians go ahead and topple the IRI anyway, because an IAEA deal (or no deal) has nothing to do with internal social or political issues like free press, equality for women, child exectuions, stoning, torture, free elections, etc. 

Iranians' relationship with foreigners does not determine their relationship with each other.  This is the decoupling I'm positing. I'm not suggesting a decoupling between US-IRI negotiations and positive international results.


ex programmer craig

Ari (again)

by ex programmer craig on

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but on that last note: I would also ask what purpose diplomacy between two countries with such intense hostility between them might serve, if (as you say) it doesn't really matter? Why should the US help to legitimize that regime, if the regime is not going to budge from it's currently unacceptable positions?

ex programmer craig


by ex programmer craig on

In my mindset, there is no need to explain because the Regime will
change--or perish-- as a result of the democratic will of Iranians
themselves, not because foreign countries did or didn't give it

Can you explain the purpose of NIAC then? If changes in US policy don't have any impact on the IRI one way or another, what is NIAC's reason for existing?


نه هر که آینه سازد سکندری داند


Since you are taking the high road by crassly dismissing the posed inconvenient questions, then perhaps NIAC lobby and it members should not be so modest. With likewise being a little unsociable, NIAC lobby’s grand strategy of the regime changing or perishing is obtuse. The kind of scratching you are talking about in the form of unshackling the regime from all that which weakens it is more in line with NIAC lobby scratching the wrong back.  Take care. 

Ari Siletz

Fred, کس نخارد پشت من جز ناخن انگشت من

Ari Siletz

Perhaps a little unsociable, but often in the past, when Iran has turned her back to outsiders for a scractch, instead of a nakhoon she got a dagger.     The regime will change or perish because Iranians, on their own, are actively struggling against its policies.


خودش خشک میشه میافته



No offense taken, too thick-skinned even if it were intentional. But the copout in the form of:

 “Aside from routine civility and hepfulness, I assign no importance to how foreigners view my country. This statement from Fred suggests the rival mindset: "They also need to explain why in the world would the ruling Islamists ever want to change when they see their current policies gets them to be treated on a par with the civilized world of democracies?"       

 In my mindset, there is no need to explain because the Regime will change--or perish-- as a result of the democratic will of Iranians themselves, not because foreign countries did or didn't give it respect.”


Is not only unbecoming, it is contrary to the same cited routine civility and helpfulness.

Aside from the law of nature that all orders eventually become disordered and perish, why would the regime perish? Why so nonchalantly dismissive of valid questions? Couldn’t your whole “mindset” be at best described as khodesh-khosk meesheh meeofteh?

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

I am in the 31.2% NIAC membership minority that thinks a pause is a weak idea. I have cited one of my reasons in the article: no clear criteria are spelled out as to when to unpause.


However, in democratic teamwork, it is par for the course for team members to run into debates with each other. The minority continues to support the team and no one takes his/her ball and go home because the majority vote didn't go their way. While supporting the organization, the minority continues to make the case for their view. If the case is strong enough, the majority will either shift or strengthen their case. Healthy democracy! In this case, the minority opinion may actually improve NIAC's pause idea by drawing attention to the need for clear unpause criteria.

To satisfy your question though, here's some sympathy for the majority pause vote. In the light of the recent horrific violence by the Regime, it is emotionally hard not to have some sort of response. Trita's argument notwithstanding, I think the majority needed to voice their humane emotions, perhaps hoping that the "private" channels you mentioned would continue diplomacy in the interim . 


As for opposition to NIAC from other Iranians, I have included the germ of a response in the article. It is a matter of having different mindsets as to how we perceive our national character. Aside from routine civility and hepfulness, I assign no importance to how foreigners view my country. This statement from Fred suggests the rival mindset: "They also need to explain why in the world would the ruling Islamists ever want to change when they see their current policies gets them to be treated on a par with the civilized world of democracies?"     

 In my mindset, there is no need to explain because the Regime will change--or perish-- as a result of the democratic will of Iranians themselves, not because foreign countries did or didn't give it respect.

(Fred: I apologize for the indirect response; the comment flow just worked out this way)


Wrong Questions by NIAC

by Ahura on



The poem recited in Farsi reads much better 

خانه از پای بست ویران است     خواجه در بند نقش ایوان است


Wrong Questions by NIAC

by Ahura on

Obviously, no responsible Iranian advocates war with IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran), and the present American Administration is committed to renewed diplomacy initiatives. The main concern of US and Israel is the active and continued pursuit of nuclear arms by IRI and its policy to destabilize the middle east region.  A more realistic question would have been on the surgical military strike to remove the related installations in case that IRI continues to stall talks, does not accept rigorous IAEA inspections, pursues a policy of “taghieh –lies”, and the subsequent sanctions do not yield the desired outcome.

May be NIAC should ask the following questions from its 500 member and nonmember (I, as a nonmember, was solicited to complete the questionnaire) respondents:

1. Do you advocate the separation of religion and state in Iran?

2. Do you support administering Sharia laws in Iran?

3. Do you believe that supreme leader in Iran is the viceroy of God?

4. Do you want a totalitarian or a democratic government for Iran?

5. Do you think that men and women should have equal legal rights in Iran?

With the connections that NIAC has in IRI they may be able to arrange a clandestine or open scientific poll from people inside Iran and publish their findings.  They could then make appropriate recommendations to US congress and administration on the right course of action towards IRI.

In the absence of such scientific findings, we can rely on the known IRI performance during the past thirty years highlighted by sacrificing an additional half a million Iranians in prolonging the war of vengeance with Iraq, executing thousands of political opponents, assassinating scores of Iranians inside Iran and abroad, rape and torture of prisoners to death, looting Iran through  covert and overt mafia network, pursuing a maligned foreign policy of confrontation with USA and threat to Israel, supporting international terrorism,  and continuing to rule by terror through their Sepahi and Basiji thugs.  No solution to IRI problem is possible short of their removal by Iranian people themselves.  USA and other civilized governments can support the freedom movement in Iran by minimal interaction with IRI in achieving their political objectives, by insisting that IRI adhere to UN human rights guidelines, by not guaranteeing the security of IRI regime, and by keeping the pressure on IRI through smart diplomacy and effective sanctions.  

Those who advocate normalcy of relations between USA and IRI are in denial of the brutal nature of IRI regime, and need to recall the paraphrased poem that,

“The house rests on a ruined foundation; The master contemplates painting the veranda.”

maziar 58

polls ?

by maziar 58 on

Mr.  varjavand that was surely short ,right clever and correct respons.

the war is BARAKAT for them thugs (as said by khomeini)

the sanction  will hurt middle and lower-class of Iran

the wait and see approach  also prolong IRI existance

 so in any scenarios Iranian are the losers and westerners laughing their way to the bank every day.           

for a FREE IRAN   AMEN    Maziar


I'm not sure where NIAC is going with this...

by Ostaad on

As a non-member supporter of NIAC, I'm quite perplexed about the notion of the "pause", which has become a focus of the organization's direction regarding the US-Iran negotiations that are undoubtedly underway using "private" channels.

Mr. Siletz,

Can you please elaborate on the desirability and effectiveness of the "pause" policy in furthering and facilitating the rapprochement between the Iran and the US from a member's point of view? I am quite aware of Trita's argument in favor of the "pause", and I have expressed my opposition to it on this web site, but I am very interested in your reason(s) for supporting it.

I also wish to read your response to the amen corner's choirboy, and AIPAC tea-and-crumpet server, remarks about NIAC and CASMII.


Why change?

by Fred on

Knowing that one cannot be in total agreement on fundamental strategic issues and yet “advocate” meaningful changes that contradict those strategic principles, Perhaps for once the NIAC lobby can enumerate where exactly it differs on strategic issues with the Islamist Rapist Republic?

Talking about human rights issue, belatedly at that, or opposing war is fine and kudos to NIAC lobby for doing so. But “advocating” or the more realistic and appropriate term, lobbying, for total unfettered commercial, diplomatic relationship including access to world bank loans, WTO membership and alike with the Islamist Rapist Republic sounds like reading from IRI’s wish list.

 If it is the contention of NIAC lobby and its conjoined twin CASMII lobby that full economic and diplomatic relationship with the Islamist Rapist Republic is the best way to “eventually” moderate the Islamist cutthroats and steer them to a semi-civilized behavior, then it is on the twin lobbies to spell out how. 

They need to cite historical precedence for such barbaric regime responding to goodies with loosening their stranglehold on their enslaved population. They also need to explain why in the world would the ruling Islamists ever want to change when they see their current policies gets them to be treated on a par with the civilized world of democracies? Why would they want to change that which works for them?

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

1. Correct! As specified in the opening paragraph, this is an opinion poll on NIAC members. The purpose is to determine what direction the members would like their organization to take. No claim is made that the stats represent any other respondent pool.


2. The inclusion of "strongly disagree" questions are logical because if they were'nt there, the poll would be vulnerable to the criticism that strong disagreement was not permitted. They also serve the important purpose of informing the members which basic positions we continue to strongly share after the Iran equation changed. Continued likemindedness could by no means be taken for granted on all issues. As you can see the diplomacy position is now 2:1 in favor of a pause, and aspects of the sanctions issue now contain two almost evenly split sides of a debate.





Mr. Siletz

by varjavand on

Mr. Siltez;


Your analyses of the responses are clever. Can I ask your input on two points: First, the respondents are all the members of NIAC members with similar political persuasion. Therefore, their responses do not reflect the opinions of the Iranian community at large. Second, the responses to most questions seem predictably either strongly agree or strongly disagree reminding me of this expression that the dumbest question you can ask someone is the one to which you know the answer.