We invite you to watch the #Live broadcast of @OrgIAC's OIAC Webinar Series | 2022 US Iran Policy: Examining Alternatives & Bridging a Path Forward | Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 12 pm EST#Iran #FreeIran @USABehFarsi @WHNSC @StateDept_NEAhttps://t.co/ldz0RiCs5M— Organization of Iranian American Communities-OIAC (@OrgIAC) December 19, 2021
OIAC Webinar Series Presents:
2022 US Iran Policy
EXAMINING ALTERNATIVES & BRIDGING A PATH FORWARD
Tuesday, December 21, 2021 | 12:00 – 1:15pm EST
Speakers Panel 1
Dr Kazem Kazerounian | Dean & Professor
Dr Siamak Shojaei | Professor & FMR. Dean
Dr Ramesh Sepehrrad | Author & Scholar Practitioner
Dr Majid Sadeghpour | OIAC Political Director
Iranian Americans Outline a Path Forward on Iran Policy for 2022
WASHINGTON, DC– On December 21,2021, the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) hosted an online policy event to examine alternatives and offer a path forward on US policy on Iran. The webinar was titled “Examining Alternatives and Bridging a Path Forward” and featured members of OIAC’s Advisory Board, scholars, and members of OIAC’s Young Professionals and Students Chapter. While the discussion began with the review of the policy recommendations published by OIAC within the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, the focus remained on Iran policy in the context of the first 100 days of the selected-president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi.
The speakers emphasized OIAC’s call for a comprehensive US-Iran policy which includes bipartisan legislations both in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, aimed at preventing Iran and any terrorist or militia groups aligned with Iran from acquiring lethal drones. The speakers also welcomed the recent sanctions by the Biden Administration imposed on the regime in Tehran. The panelists cautioned against a singular focus on nuclear talks with Iran, as such an approach does not go far enough. Placing human rights at the center of US policy, holding Ebrahim Raisi and other regime officials accountable for multiple massacres, and standing with the people of Iran and their organizing opposition movement were offered as key components of a viable U.S. policy on Iran for 2022.
Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, chair of OIAC’s Advisory Board and the moderator of the first panel said, “We believe the world is at an inflection point on the choice between theocracy vs. democracy in Iran because of the ongoing anti regime and nationwide uprisings and protests by brave youth, women and people from all walks of life. Singular focus on nuclear talks when it comes to Iran, does not go far enough. Keeping the policy options locked between diplomacy or war is a false choice and undeserving of the Iranian people and American people.”
Professor Kazem Kazerounian, a senior member of OIAC’s Advisory Board and Dean of School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut, offered a contextual timeline to illustrate how Tehran is playing a cat and mouse game on the nuclear issue. He said, “To avoid sanctions by the UN Security Council, Tehran entered into negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and the Tehran Declaration was reached between Iran and the EU3; Would not be very wrong to call it JCPOA 101. Under that agreement, Iran committed to suspend all uranium enrichment. But in reality, Iran continued – and in fact expanded its nuclear programs leading to another round of negotiations in Paris in 2004- what is known as the Paris Agreement again with the EU… For 7 years, until 2015, the US continued negotiations with Iran- sometimes bilateral, and sometimes with the EU, with Russia and China added…The policy outcome has consistently been to give Iran more time for deception. More time to enrich uranium. More time to get closer to the bomb. More time to develop weapon delivery systems.” Professor Kazerounian offered the outlook for 2022 based on “regime’s attitude and its malign intentions,” adding “Iran of 2022 is different from Iran of 2015. The regime’s inherent weaknesses, political, social, economic, and ideological bankruptcy of this regime is much more evident for the world, thanks to the people of Iran.” He described “the pillars of Raisi’s foreign” as “no different than his predecessors who all served Khamenei’s agenda – which is to accelerate the path to nuclear bomb, arm and fund terrorist groups with killer drones around the world, and intensify oppression at home.” Calling the ongoing protests and continued uprisings in Iran the, “silver lining”, Professor Kazerounian offered specific policy recommendations stressed that we, “must end the cat and mouse game with Tehran on the nuclear talks and look to the people of Iran as the path forward on 2022 US policy.”
Professor Simack Shojai, Professor of Economics and Former Dean of The Cotsakos College of Business at William Paterson University, offered his expert view on the impact of sanctions on the regime. He said, “If imposing sanction, target or goal is to change the behavior of a theocratic brutal regime, like the one which exists in Iran, it seems that as long as, the regime can survive and can have enough economic and financial means to continue its brutality against the population and repression of the people, they do not change their behavior…This regime for the last 40 years has done everything in Iran to prevent a regime change to even the slightest, transfer of power to the true representatives of Iranian people, is not even imaginable, within this regime. And now, the economic sanctions have been very effective in Iran in terms of reducing the sources of foreign exchange. And we know that the regime has not even ratified FATF, which is badly needed for routine banking, activities and transactions globally.” Professor Shojai said, the real issue in Iran is the, “undemocratic nature of the regime” and the economy “inherently” suffers from “corruption” and, “is being run like an organized crime family.” He added, “More than 70% of all the cash that they generate…belongs to institutions which are directly controlled by Khamenei, the supreme leader. According to some estimates, more than 80% of the entire economy is in the hands of foundations, institutions like revolutionary forces [IRGC] and all kinds of economic entities that they have created.” Professor Shojai outlined how the regime’s official utilize various tools, including the sanctions, to redirect the necessities, including food needed by the ordinary Iranians, as non-oil exports to other countries like Turkey to Russia, to Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates. He explained, “We know who is doing the exporting and what happens to the foreign exchange that they receive as a result of direct marketing of these products in those neighboring markets and neighboring countries. So, this has become another source of foreign exchange for them to feed the radical groups in the region.” In looking to 2022, Professor Shojai said, “Regime has come to the conclusion, that they have to be brutal internally, and they have to have a nuclear bomb as soon as they can get their hands on it. They’re not going to change their behavior. The sanctions have been effective in demonstrating to the Iranian people that the outside world is still worried, is concerned and doesn’t approve of the behavior of this regime. Human rights violations of Iranian people, their human rights should be on top agenda of any United States administration, and a transformation of this country [Iran] from this brutal regime to a democracy in my judgment should be a second. My recombination is to stand with Iranian people.”
Dr. Majid Sadeghpour, Political Director of OIAC outlined Ebrahim Raisi’s background and the ongoing crimes against humanity including the, “150 executions within the first 100 days of Raisi in the office.” He described the recent protests in the Province of Esfahan and the ongoing protests by teachers that has expanded to more than 114 cities across Iran as the recognizable sign of, “growing engine of resistance inside Iran that is connecting and coordinating across different cities and provinces. This engine for democratic change in Iran is led by the MEK’s resistance units. These organized units are organic and are driving the nationwide protests.” Dr. Sadeghpour added, “regime has no viable solution for its own ills and for people’s basic demands. It is bankrupt ideologically, economically, morally, and socially.” While highlighting the growing bipartisan momentum in US Congress, he said, “there is an increasing effort globally against the regime on multiple fronts…The path forward should bridge the domestic momentum of anti-regime protests with the international campaign for accountability against Raisi. United States policy must take its cue from the Iranian people and their 4 decades of resistance towards achieving a Secular, Democratic, non-nuclear Republic in Iran. US will not find any measure of success in its effort to address the threats from Tehran for as long as it ignores the just and democratic wishes of the Iranian people and chooses to engage in perpetual and dead-end dialogue with the tyrants who are running that country into ruins.” He said, “It is in this context that maximum pressure with simultaneous support for the Iranian people and their resistance is the right policy on Iran. This sentiment is supported by the United States Congress which has historically sided with democratic aspirations of the Iranian people and sought to empower successive U.S. presidents to limit Ayatollahs malign influences through sanctions or policy guidance legislations.” In preparing for 2022, Dr. Sadeghpour said, “With H.Res.118, congress makes a key distinction that in 1979, the Iranian people were, “deprived of their fundamental freedoms for which reason they rejected monarchic dictatorship and are opposing religious tyranny” today. This is a key distinction, where U.S. highlights that the Iranian people and their resistance have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to make possible a secular, democratic republic and unequivocally reject unelected and self-anointed leaderships – either in the form monarchy of the past (shah) or velayat-e-faqih of the present (sheikh). I believe this is how we can define a reliable and firm policy on Iran and forge a path forward on US policy 2022.”
The second panel by members of OIAC’s Young Professionals and students analyzed the circumstances and dynamics inside Iran. Moderated by Mr. Behrang Borhani, from University of San Francisco, panelists Ms. Hasti Hesami, from University of Texas, Mr. Seena Saiedian, from UC Berkeley, and Ms. Sepideh Zamani from Georgia State University discussed the ongoing waves of protests across Iran, and how the people are calling for ending the tyrannical regime in Tehran. The panel concluded the path forward for US policy on Iran for 2022 should, “Focus on the issue of human rights and people’s call for change in Iran; focus on keeping the pressure on the regime in Iran in a bipartisan way; and focus on the growing role of the organized opposition, especially the resistance units as they are now the change agents in the coming months and will have a growing role in the policy debates of 2022.” The young professionals specifically called on “the international community” to “play a significant role in supporting the people of Iran through moral encouragement by siding with their call for democracy and by recognizing the organized opposition, by officially recognizing Maryam Rajavi’s platform as a path forward on their policy on Iran. Specifically, the United States can press its European allies to blacklist the IRGC front companies that are involved in supplying technology or parts and transferring killer drones their terrorist network around the world. They agreed that the US can take specific steps in sanctioning entities and companies that are providing cyber technology to Iran that is used for surveillance and control of the internet and expressed encouragement, “by the steps US Congress has taken along with Treasury department in imposing additional sanctions. More needs to be done with the sanctions’ regime especially in the human rights area to exert the pressure needed on this regime by both US and the Europeans. Enforcing existing sanctions is also a critical step that US and Europe can take together.”
The year-end policy OIAC webinar was attended by more than 100 participants online and 5000 viewers around the world.
Speakers Panel 2
Hasti Hesami | University Of Texas
Seena Saidian | UC Berkley
Spideh Zamani | Georgia State University
Behrang Borhani | University of San Francisco
Iranian American Young Professionals and Students Call for A Firm Policy on Iran
WASHINGTON, DC– On December 21,2021, Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC)’s Young Professionals and Student chapter hosted part-2 of the OIAC panel discussion, to analyze the situation inside Iran. This panel was moderated by Mr. Behrang Borhani, from University of San Francisco, and included 3 panelists: Ms. Hasti Hesami from University of Texas, Mr. Seena Saiedian from UC Berkeley, and Ms. Sepideh Zamani from Georgia State University. The panel discussed several topics related to Iran and specifically laid a path forward for US-Iran policy in 2022. They called for “a focus on the issues of human rights and the people’s call for change Iran; continued pressure on the regime in Iran; and a focus on the growing role of the organized opposition, especially the resistance units, in Iran.”
Mr. Borhani opened the panel with a reflection on the current situation inside Iran and the key events of 2021. He highlighted the nonstop waves of protests from farmers, workers, teachers, retired workers and women that were a constant theme of 2021. “The protests often started in response to the gross mismanagement and corruption by the Iranian regime: from water shortages to unpaid wages, to economic grievances.” However, Mr. Borhani added “these protests quickly proliferated throughout the country and evolved into a unified message for change and slogans of “down with the dictators.” He also noted that the 2021 also marked the year the sham election of Ebrahim Raisi whose sole competence is oppression and massacre.
The first panelist, Ms. Hesami explained that in, “Iran today shows that oppression has become a less effective tool for this regime to hold back the call for change. We must keep in mind that this has come at a great expense to the people of Iran, especially the youth and those who have lost their lives over the years to break the spell of fear and do anything in their power to expose and change this regime. This regime has held the Iranian society back for the past four decades.” She did not see a way out for this regime and said the situation for the mullahs is, “beyond help, even if sanctions are lifted tomorrow, [because] the level of corruption and mismanagement by the IRGC and their mafia or terror network will not allow any sanctions relief to reach the people.” She continued, “The economic, social, and political suppression has reached the point where people are fed up and no longer fear this regime. This is not to say the regime will stop killing or arresting people… Iran continues to have the highest execution per capita. Iran is the only country that executes children or pregnant women. Iran holds high number of female executions.”
Ms. Hesami outlined a number of approaches in dealing with Ebrahim Raisi and the future outlook for holding the Iranian regime accountable for its numerous crimes against humanity. She commented that, “The good news is because of universal jurisdictions, people like Hamid Nouri, responsible for killings at Gohar Dasht prison in 1988, was arrested when he was trying to enter Sweden in November of 2019 and is now facing the court. The trail is documenting testimonies by key survivors from the MeK because they were the prime victims of this massacre, and these testimonies are placing the criminals in the place and time of the crime. Last week, 100 members of the European Parliament, including 14 former ministers, and foreign ministers, called on EU and members of states to recognize the 1988 massacre in Iran as a crime of genocide and a crime against humanity.” Furthermore, “the US Congress has taken up several resolutions on this topic and the last one had more than 250 members from both parties as cosponsors who called for accountability. The United States can play a critical role in this campaign for justice and that should be reflected in the US policy,” Ms. Hesami shared.
Mr. Seena Saiedian, a computer science and business student at UC Berkeley shed light on why the regime in Iran fears the Internet, especially when there is an outbreak of a major uprising. Mr. Saiedian said, “As the regime’s internal legitimacy disappears, it has relied on sheer brutality to suppress dissent and maintain its grip on power. The issue with this brutality – such as what we saw in November 2019 – is that it attracts a great deal of international attention and pressure. This regime is inherently afraid of free expression and the free flow of information, and that is what the internet is all about.” “In November 2019, Iranian society witnessed the largest nationwide uprisings since the revolution. The regime responded by shutting down the internet so the world would be blinded as the security forces opened fire, killing over 1,500 unarmed protesters in a matter of days,” Mr. Saiedian continued. “Now, the regime is on the cusp of completely overhauling the internet in the country – with a so-called Cyber Protection bill that will curb internet use. This bill follows a model of extreme censorship used by countries like China. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Telegram are already banned in the country and other platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram are routinely throttled. Despite blackouts and censorships, the resistance units on the ground continue to find ways to circumvent the restrictions, coordinate protests, and broadcast their message of freedom globally.”
Mr. Saiedian called on the United States and the Biden Administration to help Iranians have secure and safe internet access, ensuring broadband access globally and especially in Iran. Additionally, Mr. Saiedian called on the administration to sanction any American company that provides censorship technology to the regime and to punish the regime’s infractions on cyber freedom.
Ms. Sepideh Zamani provided insight into the role and political platform of women inside Iran. “Iranian women are not just looking for small wins with relaxation of hijab or some basic social freedoms. They are looking for fundamental change. They are the change agent because of their opposition to the misogynous regime in power and their path forward is to end this regime.” She added, “there are three generations of women who are joining these protests, grandmothers, mothers and daughters are coming together with their collective experience from both the past regime of the monarchy or the present regime of theocracy. Iranian women are not going backward. They are not settling down for superficial wins.”
Ms. Zamani attributed the significant role of women in the Iranian freedom movement to the place women are held in the Iranian resistance. “The fight now is based on collective experience of more than four generations where women are no longer going to accept social, economic, cultural oppression and the way to guarantee a path forward is to have an active role in the future political platform. That role starts at the top with leadership. That is why the 10-point plan by Maryam Rajavi resonates with the women of Iran. This is the reason that the women of the MeK, the leading opposition movement to the regime, have reached the highest level of leadership council. Women of Iran not only have a blueprint for social justice and equality, they [Iranian women] have a living example, a leader like Maryam Rajavi and the 1000 women of Ashraf, which I am very proud to support and stand with.”
Looking to the months ahead in 2022, Ms. Hesami added, “the regime is weak, the regime is desperate and is struggling to survive. Khomeini tried to eliminate any infighting by installing his own people, and placing IRGC’s generals as governor in more than 1/3 of provinces across Iran. This shows the regime is preparing to clash with the public. Now the question is will it be successful? I argue the situation is beyond the regime’s control. It is not a matter of if, but it is a matter of when this regime will fall. So, my bet is on the people of Iran who are going to change this regime, my bet is on the resistance units who continue to expand and grow.”
Mr. Saiedian echoed these sentiments and shared what the international community can do to support the Iranian people’s fight for freedom. “The international community can play a significant role in supporting the people of Iran through moral encouragement by siding with their call for democracy and by recognizing the organized opposition by officially recognizing Maryam Rajavi’s platform as a path forward on their policy on Iran. Specifically, the United States can press its European allies to blacklist the IRGC front companies that are involved in supplying technology or parts and transferring killer drones their terrorist network around the world… I am encouraged by the steps US Congress has taken along with Treasury department in imposing additional sanctions. More needs to be done with the sanctions’ regime especially in the human rights area to exert the pressure needed on this regime by both US and Europeans. Enforcing existing sanctions is also a critical step that US and Europe can take together.”
On the nuclear issue, Mr. Saiedian added, “I am not holding my breath, and I agree with the chairman Menendez who said, ‘I don’t know how we can go into any negotiation, and much less an agreement, unless Iran comes clean and we know what they did, what they’re doing.’ If the international community can force this regime to come clean on its nuclear activities, more power to them. But let’s be very clear, that years of talks and come with years of cheating with this regime. It is time to talk with the people of Iran and not the regime.”
Ms. Zamani also warned about the brutal regime in Tehran explaining, “Khamenei himself warned about the ‘enemy among us’ …every time he uses such charged phrases, it means the regime is gearing up to execute people. We must be prepared to defuse such threats against the people of Iran and speak out with naming and shaming those responsible for the killings inside Iran…I look forward to seeing the administration taking steps on this issue in months to come and we will see meaningful steps to having human rights as a center of US policy on Iran.”
The panel wrapped up with an emphasis on the key points for 2022 US policy on Iran: (1) focus on the issue of human rights in Iran, (2) focus on keeping the pressure on the regime in Iran, and (3) focus on the growing role of the organized opposition. The young professionals specifically called on “the international community” to “play a significant role in supporting the people of Iran through moral encouragement by siding with their call for democracy and by recognizing the organized opposition by officially recognizing Maryam Rajavi’s platform as a path forward on their policy on Iran.
Last year, leaders of Iranian Americans outlined a comprehensive bi-partisan Iran Policy for Biden Administration. In preparation for year 2 of Biden Administration, on Tuesday December 21, 2021, the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) is hosting a virtual policy webinar to focus on a path forward beyond the JCPOA. The virtual event will host two panels featuring academic experts, members of OIAC’s Advisory Board, and Young Professionals and Students Chapter.
A key element in OIAC’s call for a comprehensive US-Iran policy continues to be based on bipartisanship and to this end, the upcoming panel will offer concrete steps to:
- a) Strengthen ties with Congress, which has persistently raised bipartisan concerns about the human rights situation in Iran;
- b) Bolster the role US leadership in holding Ebrahim Raisi accountable for his role in the 1988 massacre; and
- c) Reinforce American values by standing with the Iranian people’s fight for democracy in their everyday form of resistance and protests against theocracy and terror.
Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.
We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.
Organization of Iranian American Communities