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Iran In Context
 

Iran In Context

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Background on Iran, US-Iran relations and the Iranian-American perspective on Iran's nuclear program.

Background on Iran, US-Iran relations and the Iranian-American perspective on Iran's nuclear program.

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    Iran In Context Iran In Context Presentation Transcript

    • Iran in Context National Iranian American Council www.niacouncil.org
    • Topics
      • Iran 101: Geography, key stats, historical highlights
      • The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)
      • A nuclear Iran
      • Discussion and Q&A
      • Other topics?
    • Iran Quiz
      • To which ethnic group do the majority of Iranians belong?
      • What is Iran’s official language?
      • What is the predominant religion?
      • How old is the democracy movement in Iran?
      • What % of students seeking higher education are Women?
      • [easy] Which Mid Eastern country boasts the second highest Jewish population after Israel?
      • What % of Iranians want normal relations with West?
      • Persian (not Arab - neither good nor bad)
      • Persian (farsi), Indo-Iranian language. Linguistically closer to Swedish than to Arabic
      • Muslim Shia, strong Zoroastrian influence
      • Over 100 years
      • 65%.
      • Iran. Indeed.
      • According to 2007 survey, 70% of Iranians said they favor normal relations with the West 1
      1. “What do Iranians Really Think,” Ken Ballen, Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2007
    • About Iran
      • Population: 70M (~2.6 times the pop. of Iraq)
      • Area: 650K sq miles (~3.7 times the size of Iraq)
    • Key Facts and Figures
      • One of the oldest countries in the world and a former empire, thus a strong sense of national pride;
      • Many ‘firsts’ including first declaration of human rights by Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C. (Cyrus freed 50,000 Jewish slaves in Babylon and appears in the Old Testament);
      • Over 100 years of struggle to gain Democracy – Constitutional revolution in 1906;
      • A refuge for many (in 1990’s Iran hosted the largest refuge population in the world – 4.5 million of the 17.5 million refugees WW)
      • Role of Women- Women have a very complex role that cannot be characterized in a sound bite.
        • Severe social restrictions, yet women fully participate in all aspects of society
        • For instance, at one point, more women in Iranian parliament than U.S. Senate
      • Highly educated population: 80% literacy rate roughly equal among men/women. Highest literacy rate in the Middle East.
    • Complex Relationship with U.S.
      • In 1953 -- CIA coup ousted democratic government. Profound impact on national psyche.
        • Imagine Kennedy assassinated by the U.K. and replaced with Q. Elizabeth (very hard to imagine for us, but analogous to what the U.S. did in Iran)
      • Iran ‘hostages’ were a reaction to U.S. meddling
      • Nevertheless, a very favorable view of US, especially among young and Iranian middle class;
    • About IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran)
      • 61% of Iranians openly admitted that they oppose Iran’s system of government over the phone to American pollsters
      • IRI is a supporter of anti-Israel (but not anti-American) terrorist organizations
      • President Ahmadinejad’s outrageous comments about Israel and the Holocaust not reflective of Iranian popular opinion
      • Iran is not a democracy and the President is not Commander-In-Chief
      • Iranian policy posture is Anti-Israel, not anti-Jew
    • Exaggerated Dangers of Iran with Nuclear Weapons
      • Fallacy of the Mad-mullah argument (using nukes against US or Israel)
        • The Iranian regime acts rationally in pursuit of it primary interest– namely its own survival. It is highly unlikely for IRI regime to commit suicide by instigating an attack
        • U.S. intelligence community also believes Iran is a rational actor per 2007 NIE report
      • Giving nukes to terror groups that may use them against U.S. or Israel
        • If used, nuclear material can easily be traced to where they were made
        • Again, very unlikely IRI would commit such suicide unless provoked
    • More Realistic Dangers of a Nuclear Armed Iran
      • It is about energy not weapons
      • Will put U.S. in a less favorable bargaining/negotiating position
      • May upset the balance of power in the location of the world's largest oil reserves
      • May accelerate an arms race in ME
    • Other Important Points
      • Iran is well-within Non-nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations which gives all signatories the right to peaceful nuclear energy including uranium enrichment
      • US National Intelligence Estimate indicates that nuclear weapons program was stopped several years ago
      • Iran had absolutely no involvement in 9/11 attacks and considers Al Qaeda to be an enemy (sound familiar?)
      • Unlike Al Qaeda, neither the Iranian regime nor people are interested in killing Americans. An American attack is likely to change this as it did for many Sunni Iraqis.
      • Once again, hawk elements claim Iranian people would welcome US attacks (could not be further from reality)
      • There is a diplomatic solution: Iran made an overture in 2003 by offering a comprehensive solution. Bush administration completely ignored the opportunity to negotiate.
    • Impacts of Bush Admin.’s Iran Foreign Policy
      • Took out 2 of the worst enemies of the Iranian regime: Taliban and Saddam. Destabilized the Middle East by putting Israel and Iran on a collision course
      • Has virtually urged the regime to pursue nukes by creating a credible threat -- The Axis-of-Evil talk
      • Has helped popularity of that regime inside and outside Iran by continuing to play to its strength (e.g. the nuclear issue and the war rhetoric)
      • Other policies such as $70M “Democracy Fund” has devastated the pro-democracy movement inside Iran
    • Dangers of Attacking Iran
      • Economic: Very likely to send the world economy into a depression
      • Iranian Regime: Likely to consolidate their power. Iranians will rally around their flag (even if they don’t support their leaders today)
      • US Security: Distraction from US war on terror
      • Create brand new sworn enemies of US where there isn’t one today (as in the case of Iraq) and fuel existing Islamic rage
      • Possibility of creating or accelerating Iran’s nuclear weapons program (recall Iraq in 1982)
      • A wounded regime would be far more unpredictable and dangerous; a range of non-conventional and destabilizing retaliatory responses available to Iranian regime
      • Humanitarian: An attack is estimated to result in loss of life in the millions and catastrophic damage to infrastructure
      • UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES??? REMEMBER 1953
    • Beware of Iranian Versions of Ahmed Chalabi
      • MEK (Mojahedin-E Khalgh): anti-IRI group designated by State Dept. as a terrorist organization
        • Attractive to neoconservatives
        • Richard Perle at MEK fundraiser
        • Fox News use of MEK members as political commentators
        • Numerous front groups in the US
      • Pro-Shah groups/individuals
        • The May/06 made-up story about the Iranian regime requiring Jews & Christians to wear colored badges!
        • Numerous Persian satellite TV Channels in US
    • What should U.S. do?
      • Stop playing to IRI’s strength (e.g. the nuclear issue)
      • Start playing to IRI’s weaknesses (such as human rights and democratization)
      • Call off the very credible US & Israeli threats
      • Genuine diplomacy -- as opposed to the pretence of it
      • Stay away from any action that would weaken the Iranian middle class (such as blanket sanctions) -- Middle class is the engine of any democracy
      • Be mindful of Iranians’ strong sense of nationalism (ex: Bush’s message to Iranian people on June 19, 06)
    • What can you do?
      • Write or meet with Congressman Larsen and Senators Cantwell and Murray with the following points:
        • TRUE Diplomacy has not been tried despite the stated policy. We must remove pre-conditions and engage in dialogue
        • Without real diplomacy, we are on a path to war with Iran
        • Now is the time to engage is real diplomacy given the NIE report that indicates Iranians put their weapons program on hold
        • The majority of the Iranian population is pro-American, we need to change our policies and our rhetoric to stop benefiting the regime
        • A diplomatic solution exists but it requires time and the willingness to talk to people we may not like (like we did with the USSR)
      • Finally, ask them to support ”Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act” (H.R. 5056) introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) requiring assignment of a senior envoy to Iran and good faith diplomacy
    • Slideshow
    • References
      • Lack of specific evidence of Iranian clandestine nuclear weapons program; Intelligence cherry picking by President Bush ( LAST STAND , by Seymour Hersh – July 3, 2006):
        • http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060710fa_fact
      • Jews in Iran Describe a Life of Freedom
        • http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/1998/02/03/intl/intl.3.html
        • http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2004/s1202811.htm
      • Richard Perle at fundraising event linked to MEK, anti-IRI group designated by State Department as a terrorist organization:
        • http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A58296-2004Jan28?language=printer
      • MEK lobbying efforts in US:
        • http://www.iranian.com/Pourzal/2006/June/MEK/index.html
      • MEK member, a Foreign Affairs Analyst for Fox News:
        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alireza_Jafarzadeh
    • References - continued
      • Disinformation campaign against Iranian regime in May 2006 (Note: Amir Taheri was editor of Keyhan, Shah’s main paper before the 1979 revolution, with links to Richard Perle as noted in this article):
        • Yellow journalism and chicken hawks
        • http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HE24Ak03.html
      • Bush Comments Boosted Hard-Line Votes (in Iran’s 2005 presidential elections):
        • http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,160070,00.html
      • Iran requested to talk to US government in 2003 (with everything on the table) - Burnt Offering:
        • http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=11539
      • President Bush’s message to Iranian People on 6/19/06 (a positive example of being mindful of Iranians’ sense of nationalism):
        • http://www.acronym.org.uk/docs/0606/doc06.htm
      • Vafa, Omid. &quot;Refugees in Iran and International Security&quot;  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA, 2006-03-22 <Not Available>. 2008-02-09