Iran: Push for More Sanctions Undermines Diplomacy

Iran: Push for More Sanctions Undermines Diplomacy

Multiparty talks between the US, its allies and Iran over its nuclear program have made progress in Geneva.  On the table is an interim deal promising temporary relief from sanctions to Iran in return for concrete steps from Iran reigning in its nuclear program as a stepping stone to a more comprehensive deal.  Iran’s new President Rouhani is a moderate with a mandate to deal on Iran’s nuclear program with the US; Iran has been under crippling sanctions that have hamstrung its economy and it is suing for peace.  Such an interim agreement would strengthen Rouhani’s hand versus Iranian hardliners at home that oppose a comprehensive deal and would open a window for a diplomacy and rapprochement with Iran.

Inexplicably, hardliners elsewhere have attempted to undermine the Obama administration’s progress toward such a diplomatic solution. CLICK READ MORE…

Iran: Push for More Sanctions Undermines Diplomacy

Multiparty talks between the US, its allies and Iran over its nuclear program have made progress in Geneva.  On the table is an interim deal promising temporary relief from sanctions to Iran in return for concrete steps from Iran reigning in its nuclear program as a stepping stone to a more comprehensive deal.  Iran’s new President Rouhani is a moderate with a mandate to deal on Iran’s nuclear program with the US; Iran has been under crippling sanctions that have hamstrung its economy and it is suing for peace.  Such an interim agreement would strengthen Rouhani’s hand versus Iranian hardliners at home that oppose a comprehensive deal and would open a window for a diplomacy and rapprochement with Iran.

Inexplicably, hardliners elsewhere have attempted to undermine the Obama administration’s progress toward such a diplomatic solution. CLICK READ MORE…

 

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has very publicly assailed it as a “bad deal” even before it has been finalized, accusations the Whitehouse has brushed off.   Meanwhile, Israel hawks in the US Congress, at Israeli goading, have pushed for more sanctions against Iran, a clear attempt to undermine the talks.

At the head of the pack of hardliners is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who, even before Rouhani took office as Iran’s President, announced he would push for more sanctions without giving much of a window for diplomacy.  Likewise, Senator Graham has insisted on an unconstructive military threat against Iran that could result in war, despite the effectiveness of the current sanctions regime.  In August, Senator Graham encapsulated this poison pill politics in the Graham-Menendez letter to the President, co-authored with Democratic Senator Robert “Bob” Menendez from Florida calling for further sanctions.  In recent days, Graham has taken the lead in calling for a vote in the Senate for more sanctions on Iran in response to progress on diplomatic front.  The Democratically controlled Senate has tabled such a vote, giving the Obama administration room to negotiate with Iran …for the time being.

The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) meets in March of 2014, an election year, and we are very likely to see a ramp up of the rhetoric on Iran from hardliners before then, including a push for more sanctions and threats of military intervention in spite of any progress on the diplomatic front.  Perhaps therein we finally have the reason for the recent shrill attacks on diplomacy with Iran: progress towards peace doesn’t fit Israel’s political timeline.

Supporters of peace and diplomacy should note the politics and be ready to take a stand in 2014.

David Matos

President, Carolina Peace Resource Center www.carolinapeace.org

Short URL for Sharing this Article: http://bit.ly/1fj2m6y

____

Further Reading:

“Obama and Netanyahu Go to War” Robert W. Merry.  The National Interest.  November 19th, 2013.

http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/obama-netanyahu-go-war-9420

“Israel and White House Locked in Info War over Iran”  John Hudson.  November  15th, 2013.

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/11/15/israel_and_white_house_embroiled_in_info_war_on_capitol_hill

May require registration and log-in (FREE)… text pasted below for your convenience:

The White House and Israel are locked in an information war on Capitol Hill, and right now, Israel may be winning.

All week, the Obama administration has provided facts and figures to lawmakers on its sanctions relief proposal to build support for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. But some members in Congress don’t trust the data U.S. officials are providing — they trust conflicting data provided privately by senior Israeli officials.

According to multiple Congressional aides, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are storming Capitol Hill in an effort to discredit the Obama administration’s interim nuclear deal with Iran. The effort coincides with a visit by Israel’s Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, who is also speaking with lawmakers on the Hill. The campaign includes one-on-one briefings with lawmakers that provide data that strays from official U.S. assessments.

As a result, lawmakers have begun citing a range of facts and figures the Obama administration says are wildly inaccurate.

For instance, the Obama administration is offering Iran no more than $9 billion in sanctions relief, according to a source briefed by senior officials. But Israeli officials are telling lawmakers the U.S. is offering Iran $20 billion in sanctions relief or, if you ask Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, up to $40 billion.

Israeli officials are also saying that Iran’s concessions would only set back its nuclear program by 24 days — a fact also disputed by the administration.

“There are very large, inaccurate, false numbers out there in terms of what’s on the table,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday. She declined to call out Israeli officials, instead referring to inaccurate “reports.” (Some of the reports just so happen to be sourced to Israeli officials.)

The wide discrepancies led to a major clash of viewpoints during Wednesday’s classified briefing between Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Senate Banking Committee. One GOP Senate aide said the administration repeatedly shot down data cited by senators provided by Israeli officials. “You’d raise the Israeli perspective and they’d say, that’s wrong — the Israelis don’t know what they’re talking about,” the aide told The Cable.”The administration would interrupt, ‘that information is inaccurate.'”

One of the senators citing Israeli data was Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who said Kerry’s briefing was “anti-Israeli.”

“The administration very disappointingly said, ‘discount what the Israelis say,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t. I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service.” Kirk said he had been briefed on Wednesday by a “senior Israeli official,” but would not name the individual.

He is not alone in his belief that the Obama administration is misleading lawmakers and undervaluing its sanctions relief offer to the Iranians by at least $10 billion. The rival estimate is $20 billion — a figure supported by the Israeli government and the think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which cites Israeli media reports in some of its analysis. During a House Foreign Affairs Committee briefing on Wednesday, a number of Republicans and Democrats nodded in agreement to the $20 billion figure during testimony by FDD’s executive director Mark Dubowitz. “The sanctions relief package offered at Geneva, if ultimately approved, will rescue Iran’s struggling economy,” testified Dubowitz. “The dollar value of the proposed sanctions relief at Geneva could yield Iran a minimum of $20 billion or more.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) pegged the sanctions relief even higher in his opening statement — suggesting the figure could be as much as $50 billion.

Dubowitz told The Cable he was not surprised at the discrepancy between U.S. and Israeli assessments on sanctions. “I would say this is not unusual,” he said. “I think there have been significant disagreements between the Israelis and the Americans on these sanctions questions. Significant differences on information on research and on the analysis and conclusions.”

Other arms control experts were puzzled as to why the Israeli assessment gained any traction at all over the American assessment — since Israelis are not members of the so-called P5+1 countries negotiating a deal with Iran.

“Personally, I would tend to believe the estimates and figures of the people who are actually at the negotiating table rather than people that are getting this information second-hand, even if they’re senior Israeli officials,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told The Cable. “This is in many cases a distortion of the physics and the reality.”

Regardless, the administration is struggling to win over lawmakers. On Wednesday, Republican senators expressed strong disappointment with the administration’s briefings on the Hill. Now, critics of the administration’s message include an increasing number of Democrats, such as Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey. On Thursday night, Casey defied administration pleas to halt any additional sanctions on Iran and urged his colleagues to advance sanctions legislation in the Senate Banking Committee.  “At this time, I see no reason to let up the pressure,” Casey said.

When asked about the “huge gap” between the administration and Congress on the Iran deal on Thursday, Psaki did not exactly beam with optimism. “Look, I’m not here to give you a whip acount of where members of Congress stand,” she told reporters. “But as I mentioned a little bit earlier, the secretary felt it was an important conversation he had with members yesterday. He laid out the full construct of our approach … He doesn’t feel that anybody could come out of there without a full understanding of what the approach would be.”

####


ACTION ALERT: Diplomacy Not War with Iran

ACTION ALERT: Diplomacy Not War with Iran

Iran’s new president Rouhani has extended a definite olive branch to the US, seeking to resolve long-standing impasses. Rouhani’s speech to the UN general assembly  was certainly a refreshing change.  The US has been threatening Iran with possible military intervention over its nuclear program for years, saying “all options are on the table” and has implemented a severe international regime of sanction against Iran that is crippling its economy.  Iran, now under a moderate elected president, is suing for peace.  It’s time for a diplomatic solution.

Yet, South Carolina’s own Senator Graham is unbelievably already pushing for Congress to pass an Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against Iran.Experts agree that any military action short of a full-scale invasion of Iran would not stop its nuclear program.  Proponents of a military threat against Iran argue that it is needed to compel Iran into a diplomatic resolution, but Iran is already suing for peace under the weight of crippling sanctions. It’s time to take a military option of the table… there is no military solution to the US-Iran crisis, only a diplomatic one.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congressmen You Oppose the Iran War Bill

CLICK “READ MORE”…

ACTION ALERT: Diplomacy Not War with Iran

Iran’s new president Rouhani has extended a definite olive branch to the US, seeking to resolve long-standing impasses. Rouhani’s speech to the UN general assembly  was certainly a refreshing change.  The US has been threatening Iran with possible military intervention over its nuclear program for years, saying “all options are on the table” and has implemented a severe international regime of sanction against Iran that is crippling its economy.  Iran, now under a moderate elected president, is suing for peace.  It’s time for a diplomatic solution.

Yet, South Carolina’s own Senator Graham is unbelievably already pushing for Congress to pass an Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against Iran.Experts agree that any military action short of a full-scale invasion of Iran would not stop its nuclear program.  Proponents of a military threat against Iran argue that it is needed to compel Iran into a diplomatic resolution, but Iran is already suing for peace under the weight of crippling sanctions. It’s time to take a military option of the table… there is no military solution to the US-Iran crisis, only a diplomatic one.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congressmen You Oppose the Iran War Bill

CLICK “READ MORE”…

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congressmen You Oppose the Iran War Bill

 

Email all 3 of your Congressmen with one message:.

https://secure3.convio.net/niac/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=275

Action Alert from NIAC, National Iranian American Council

OR Write a Letter to Your Local Newspaper and include your Reps names.

Rep. Trent Franks (R, AZ-08) sponsor of the AUMF bill in the House of Representatives statement:

http://franks.house.gov/press-release/franks-calls-authorization-military-force-iran

Video of Sen. Lindsay Graham calling  for authorizing war:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ82BUy1zDY#t=3m21.5s

“US, Iran Trade Cautious Overtures at UN” (Sept 25th) http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/u-s-iran-trade-cautious-overtures-at-u-n/

Iran Facts, http://www.iranfact.org/

Just Foreign Policy, http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/

 

####

Senator Graham’s Iran War Plans

Senator Graham Wants a Blank Check for War with Iran

South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham has promised to introduce a resolution in Congress authorizing a military strike on Iran to stop its nuclear program by September or October if there is no progress in negotiations.  Considering that Iran’s newly elected President is only now taking office,  Graham’s position would eliminate any room for diplomacy.  Further, no military attack can stop Iran from eventually developing nuclear weapons: there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one.  Graham’s resolution is a dangerous escalation at a time when de-escalation and diplomacy is needed.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Senator Graham What You Think of His War-Mongering.

http://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=contact.emailsenatorgraham

Resources:

Analysis: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/07/23/2343871/graham-iran-war-authorization/

 

Senator Graham Wants a Blank Check for War with Iran

South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham has promised to introduce a resolution in Congress authorizing a military strike on Iran to stop its nuclear program by September or October if there is no progress in negotiations.  Considering that Iran’s newly elected President is only now taking office,  Graham’s position would eliminate any room for diplomacy.  Further, no military attack can stop Iran from eventually developing nuclear weapons: there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one.  Graham’s resolution is a dangerous escalation at a time when de-escalation and diplomacy is needed.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Senator Graham What You Think of His War-Mongering.

http://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=contact.emailsenatorgraham

Resources:

Analysis: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/07/23/2343871/graham-iran-war-authorization/

 

 

News Article: http://www.wltx.com/news/article/242923/0/Graham-Congress-Should-Approve-Military-Strike-Against-Iran

####

AIPAC’s Agenda vs. the Interest of Peace

The AIPAC Agenda & Senator Graham’s Preemptive Attack on Iran Resolution

This past weekend AIPAC (the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most powerful lobbies in DC, held its policy conference in Washington DC to push the Israeli government’s agenda on Congress.  Thousands of AIPAC conference attendees are swarming Capitol Hill this week to press that agenda which includes a Senator Graham sponsored Senate Resolution 65 supporting an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran, exempting $3.1 billion in US military aid to Israel from sequestration cuts while we make painful cuts here at home, and silencing US criticism of settlements.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress You Don’t Support AIPAC’s Agenda!

Click “Read More” for Links to Contact Congress & More Info

The AIPAC Agenda & Senator Graham’s Preemptive Attack on Iran Resolution

This past weekend AIPAC (the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most powerful lobbies in DC, held its policy conference in Washington DC to push the Israeli government’s agenda on Congress.  Thousands of AIPAC conference attendees are swarming Capitol Hill this week to press that agenda which includes a Senator Graham sponsored Senate Resolution 65 supporting an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran, exempting $3.1 billion in US military aid to Israel from sequestration cuts while we make painful cuts here at home, and silencing US criticism of settlements.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress You Don’t Support AIPAC’s Agenda!

Click “Read More” for Links to Contact Congress & More Info

Background:

Senate Resolution 65 declaring support for an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran, sponsored by our own Senator Graham, was rolled out not coincidentally right before the AIPAC conference.  S. Res. 65 is dangerous step toward preemptive war with Iran.

Israel receives $3.1 billion in military aid from the US each year despite continuing to build settlements and human rights abuses in the Israeli Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Tell Congress to condition aid to Israel on a settlement freeze and respect for human rights. Plus, we can’t afford to be furnishing Israel with billions in aid while we cut needed programs here at home.


 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress You Don’t Support AIPAC’s Agenda!

Contact Your Senators and Your Representative!

Send emails to your Congressmen.  An individually written letter is given more weight than a form letter; however, a form letter is better than nothing if you are pressed for time!

AIPAC Doesn’t Speak for Me! Action Alert from Jewish Voice for Peace

Customizable Message Sent to All Your Elected Officials

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12656

 

No Back Door War with Iran Action Alert

Customizable Message Sent to Senators in Opposition to S. Resolution 65

http://www.capwiz.com/peaceactionwest/issues/alert/?alertid=62464786#

MOST EFFECTIVE: Write Your Own Letter. Write one original short letter (2 paragraphs) and modify it slightly re: S. Res 65 for each Senator.  Use the sample letters below as an example of how to modify for each Senator.

 

Contact Your Senators

Senator Lindsey Graham (SC-R): http://lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.EmailSenatorGraham

Send a short email to Senator Graham telling him you are disappointed that he has sponsored S. Resolution 65 and your what you think about preemptive war with Iran.   Then tell him what you think about US military aid to Israel.

Senator Tim Scott (SC-R): http://www.scott.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Send a short email to Senator Scott asking him to NOT sponsor S. Resolution 65 and what you think about preemptive war with Iran. Then tell him what you think about US military aid to Israel.

Senators outside of SC: senate.gov

Contact Your Representative

Tell your Representative you oppose preemptive war with Iran and what you think about US military aid to Israel.

SC-1, formerly Rep Tim Scott’s seat: Currently South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District has no vote in Congress pending a special election to replace Tim Scott who was appointed a US. Senator.

Rep  Joe Wilson (SC-2) :https://joewilsonforms.house.gov/Forms/WriteYourRep/default.aspx

Rep Jeff Duncan (SC-3) https://jeffduncan.house.gov/contact-me

Rep Trey Gowdy (SC-4) http://gowdy.house.gov/Contact/default.aspx

Rep Mick Mulvaney (SC-5) https://forms.house.gov/mulvaney/webforms/zipauthen_contact.shtml

Rep Jim Clyburn (SC-6): https://forms.house.gov/clyburn/zipauth.shtml

Don’t know your Congressman? Outside SC? Go here: house.gov

 


 

SAMPLE LETTERS:

AIPAC Doesn’t Speak for Me!

As your constituent and a supporter of peace, I ask you not to let AIPAC dictate US policy in the Middle East. In the next few days, they will:

– Ask that aid to Israel be exempted from sequestration.

– Demand U.S. support for an Israeli strike on Iran, which would outsource decisions about the safety of the American people.

-Ask you to stay silent on settlement building in E-1, which enables the Israeli government to drive a nail in the coffin of the peace process.

Please say NO to these requests and NO to AIPAC. Aid to Israel should be conditioned on adherence to international law– Israel must stop and reverse settlement construction. Most Americans want peace and fair policies, not one-sided support for war and expansionist policies.

 

Just Foreign Policy’s Letter’s Re: S. Resolution 65 supporting a preemptive Israeli attack on Iran

OPENING:

I am very disappointed that you are cosponsoring S. Res. 65. This bill is dangerous and undermines diplomatic efforts with Iran. (for Senator Graham)

I am writing to very strongly urge you not to cosponsor S. Res. 65. This bill is dangerous and undermines diplomatic efforts with Iran. (for Senator Scott)

BODY:

The language in [S. Res. 65] which “urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence,” is very disturbing. The US Senate should not go on record declaring support for a potential military action against Iran. It is a small step toward accepting the idea of attacking Iran. A war with Iran would be catastrophic and would not make the US safer.

CLOSING:

Please remove your name from the bill. I would like a response explaining your actions on this issue. (for Senator Graham)

Please do not cosponsor S. Res. 65.  I look forward to your response. (for Senator Scott)

Source: No Back Door War with Iran Action Alert

http://www.capwiz.com/peaceactionwest/issues/alert/?alertid=62464786#

Iran Nuclear Controversy Panel WED Sept 5th @ USC

The Iran Nuclear Controversy: A Panel Discussion

WED Sept 5th, 7PM

USC, Gambrell Hall 153

 

What will be on the likely consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel and/or the USA? Featuring visiting scholar Dr. Haghighatjoo,  political Science professors Dr. Harvey Starr  and Josef Olmert, and Dr. Thomas Crocker from the USC School of Law.  Free and open to the public.

Attend, ask questions, meet at Cool Beans (1217 College St) after the talk for further discussion.

RSVP/Share on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/479476932065575

Sponsored by the Walker Institute for International and Area Studies, USC

The Iran Nuclear Controversy: A Panel Discussion

WED Sept 5th, 7PM

USC, Gambrell Hall 153

 

What will be on the likely consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel and/or the USA? Featuring visiting scholar Dr. Haghighatjoo,  political Science professors Dr. Harvey Starr  and Josef Olmert, and Dr. Thomas Crocker from the USC School of Law.  Free and open to the public.

Attend, ask questions, meet at Cool Beans (1217 College St) after the talk for further discussion.

RSVP/Share on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/479476932065575

Sponsored by the Walker Institute for International and Area Studies, USC


 

 

“No War on Iran!”

NO WAR on IRAN!

Take the Military Option off the Table!  We stand opposed to any attack or war against Iran and urge diplomacy instead.  Threats and military intervention will not solve the problem, but will only exacerbate the situation.

Other countries in the region, notably our allies Israel and Pakistan, have developed nuclear weapons, yet we are not threatening them or applying sanctions.   Unlike Israel or Pakistan that have flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is a signatory to the NPT and has an obligation not to develop nuclear weapons.  At the same time, Iran has right under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.  We call for de-escalation and diplomatic means of convincing Iran to uphold its NPT commitments.

We stand in solidarity with the democratic Green movement and movements for human rights in Iran.  We do not support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime, but recognize that attacking Iran would have an unacceptable human cost and undermine the democratic and human rights movements in Iran, as has been pointed out by Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights activist and regime gadfly Shirin Ebadi.  As the Arab Spring has shown, regime change must come from within.

Photo: SAT Feb 11th, No War on Iran vigil in 5 Points.

Covered in The State: http://www.thestate.com/2012/02/12/2149695/stay-out-of-iran-protest-held.html


Sen. Graham Calling for War with Iran?

Beginning with a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC on Sept 20th, in stump speeches during the election, and mostly recently at Halifax International Security Forum,  South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has been calling for “regime change” and war with Iran.   As the State newspaper reports (Nov  15):

At a recent security conference in Canada, our very own Sen. Lindsey Graham actually said that America should go to war with Iran to neuter the regime and destroy its ability to fight back. According to Graham, we should wage war “not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime”  (online, www.thestate.com).

While Sen. Graham calls war with Iran a “last resort” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, we have all seen where  “preemptive war,” “regime change” and a “last resort” took us in Iraq.   It’s time to stop the next war now, by flooding Sen. Graham’s office and our local newspapers with what he think about the Senator’s ideas of war of with Iran.  Submit a letter to The State newspaper: http://www.thestate.com/letters/

Only Three Degrees of Separation –

Only three degrees of separation –

 

We’ve all heard of “six degrees of separation” – the theory that any person in the world can be connected to any other person within just six relationships.  Well, the world is shrinking.  Grave injustices that often seem distant from the freedom and opportunities afforded to us here in the US are much closer than you think – in this case, only three degrees.  I am a lifelong Columbia, SC, resident, and my oldest daughter graduated from Dreher High School in 1993.  The following excerpt is from a letter written by her husband, my son-in-law, who escaped from Iran when he was only 17 years old.  His sister Fariba, who is currently imprisoned in Tehran for providing university education to Baha’i youth, is scheduled to go to trial along with six other Iranian Baha’i leaders on October 18, 2009.  They are being held in horrible conditions, and they likely face execution, though their only “crime” is holding true to the beliefs and practices of their religion. Please help increase awareness of this terrible violation of human rights by circulating this e-mail and by contacting members of your state delegation and the US State Department to request attention to this urgent matter. The injustice may be in your backyard next.

 

Thank you for your help.

 

Rachel Silver

Columbia, SC

 

US Department of State

Main Switchboard – 202-647-4000

Only three degrees of separation –

 

We’ve all heard of “six degrees of separation” – the theory that any person in the world can be connected to any other person within just six relationships.  Well, the world is shrinking.  Grave injustices that often seem distant from the freedom and opportunities afforded to us here in the US are much closer than you think – in this case, only three degrees.  I am a lifelong Columbia, SC, resident, and my oldest daughter graduated from Dreher High School in 1993.  The following excerpt is from a letter written by her husband, my son-in-law, who escaped from Iran when he was only 17 years old.  His sister Fariba, who is currently imprisoned in Tehran for providing university education to Baha’i youth, is scheduled to go to trial along with six other Iranian Baha’i leaders on October 18, 2009.  They are being held in horrible conditions, and they likely face execution, though their only “crime” is holding true to the beliefs and practices of their religion. Please help increase awareness of this terrible violation of human rights by circulating this e-mail and by contacting members of your state delegation and the US State Department to request attention to this urgent matter. The injustice may be in your backyard next.

 

Thank you for your help.

 

Rachel Silver

Columbia, SC

 

US Department of State

Main Switchboard – 202-647-4000

You may be aware that in spring of 2008, seven leaders of the Baha’i community were arrested in Iran and have been held since without bail under terrible conditions in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. After months of cramped solitary confinement and more than a year of severe malnutrition, illness, and mistreatment by guards, charges such as “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the Islamic republic” were finally brought against them. Though the accusations are completely baseless, the seven prisoners may face the death penalty at their trial, which is scheduled for October 18, 2009. Despite this pretense of judicial due process, not only have the authorities systematically denied them access to “evidence”, but also their lead defense lawyer was imprisoned while Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has had to flee to Europe after threats to her life and raids on her office because of her involvement in this case.

Sadly, I am all too familiar with their desperate situation since one of the seven prisoners, Fariba Kamalabadi, is my sister.

The Iranian authorities have a long history of persecuting the more than 300,000 Baha’is in Iran by denying them basic rights – such as access to employment and education – that are aorded to other religious minorities such as Christians and Jews. My sister Fariba has devoted her life to supporting the Iranian Baha’i community, specifically by administering a Baha’i institution for higher education in defiance of the ban on higher education for Baha’is. Although her brave and principled leadership has led to numerous raids, arrests, and harassment over the years, the recent actions by the Iranian authorities against her and the other six leaders of the Baha’i community are nonetheless unprecedented in scope and tragic in their potential consequences.

I share my sister’s deep commitment to the education of young people and her unwavering belief in tolerance and freedom. Unlike my sister, however, I was fortunate enough to escape Iran in 1984 and come to the United States as a refugee, ultimately gaining naturalized citizenship in 1991. I am profoundly grateful for the vast opportunities that this great country has oered me, and I have strived to become the exemplary citizen that such circumstances warrant. I take pride in having achieved the status of professor at the flagship institution of our state’s (Illinois) higher educational system in a department ranked second in the nation. My personal accomplishments are nonetheless bittersweet when I reflect on the unrelenting oppression my sister has faced for eorts similar to mine, and it saddens me that while I flourish in a society conducive to such success, she instead suers unjust and inhumane treatment and awaits possible execution.

I believe that public awareness played a significant role in the recent release of the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi,who was arrested by the Iranian authorities in January, 2009, and in fact shared a cell with my sister during her imprisonment. While I applaud the eorts of Rep. Mark Kirk in introducing a bipartisan resolution condemning Iran’s persecution of Baha’is, I feel that further action is needed to magnify the voices of concerned Americans on this issue before the trial takes place on October 18.   I appeal to all who appreciate their freedom and their right to access higher education to pay special attention to this serious and urgent matter.  It could truly be a matter of life or death.

With great appreciation for your time and eorts, and greater hope for a more just and peaceful world –“

Dr. Farzad Kamalabadi

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

University of Illinois