NIAC Action

NIAC Action

On Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Call to Return to JCPOA

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on Trump to return to the Iran nuclear accord in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning:

“As President Trump and his hawkish advisors continue to stoke confrontation with Iran, it is vital that legislators and Presidential contenders like Sen. Warren push back on Trump’s reckless actions and voice support for returning to the nuclear accord. Hardly a week goes by without a saber rattling speech from the Trump administration and new efforts to push the nuclear accord toward collapse. If they succeed, Trump’s team may decimate the ability of a future administration to restore U.S. credibility by returning to the JCPOA and the negotiating table with Iran. Worse, Trump may start a disastrous war with Iran.

“Sen. Warren recognizes both the danger of Trump’s approach and the urgent need to return to the accord. Other lawmakers and 2020 hopefuls should follow her lead and lay out a competing vision to Trump’s bankrupt approach.

In the hearing, Warren stated “If Iran maintains itself in compliance, then I believe the President should reverse his reckless decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions because the deal makes America safer and the world safer.”

In November, the National Iranian American Council issued a report which outlined how a return to the Iran nuclear deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – would restore U.S. leadership and help prevent a disastrous march to war.

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE REPORT HERE: https://www.niacouncil.org/jcpoa-report/

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Memo on H.R. 4591

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 4591, the “Preventing Destabilization of Iraq Act of 2017,” which seeks to impose sanctions on persons engaged in actions that are or risk “threatening the peace or stability of Iraq.” While we welcome that the amendment in the nature of a substitute has removed explicit references to sanctioning Iran in the bill’s title, this legislation clearly remains an effort to ratchet up tensions with Iran.

On the heels of House Republicans protecting Saudi Arabia by blocking a vote to end U.S. support for the disastrous war in Yemen, it is now doubling down on the Trump-Saudi policy of escalating pressure on Iran with no plan for negotiations. Only diplomatic solutions can resolve the proxy conflicts in the Middle East – not further efforts to perpetuate these conflicts by insulating the Saudi kingdom or escalating with Iran. As a result, H.R. 4591 risks worsening regional instability rather than ameliorating it, and as a result is bad for both Iraq and the U.S. position in the Middle East.

Backward Priorities

The timing of the vote on H.R. 4591 demonstrates the House majority’s backward priorities with respect to the Middle East. Credible estimates indicate that more than 80,000 children may have died of starvation as a result of the U.S.-backed and Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen since 2015, with little end in sight to the unauthorized war. Moreover, the President of the United States is shamefully playing defense for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the Central Intelligence Agency determined with high confidence that bin Salman ordered the assassination of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which was carried out last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The response of the House Majority to these two major crises has been to follow Trump’s lead and to short-circuit debate on a resolution to end America’s backing of the Saudi intervention. However, any legislation to further Trump’s pressure campaign against Iran – including H.R. 4591 – will get the green light. Given these suspect priorities, legislators should use debate over H.R. 4591 to highlight the Trump administration’s dangerous Middle East policies, including U.S. support for the war in Yemen and the dangerous decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

A balanced U.S. policy toward the Middle East will take time, but work should begin now to end U.S. support for the disastrous war in Yemen, impose consequences on those in Saudi Arabia responsible for the assassination of Khashoggi, and restore U.S. credibility by returning to the JCPOA.

Doubling Down on Hostility without Diplomacy

While political stability in Iraq is a laudable goal, it is unlikely to be achieved by a strictly adversarial posture towards Iran – particularly considering Iran’s security interests in Iraq are likely to figure of far greater import than the risk of limited U.S. sanctions posed by H.R. 4591.

Instead, the Trump administration and Congress must recognize that Iraq’s political future requires political engagement between the U.S. and Iran – both of which have a significant presence in the country and both of which have staked their political security on Iraq’s internal stability. For this reason – to the extent that the Congress believes that punitive sanctions are useful in influencing Iran’s behavior – such sanctions must be expressly tied to diplomatic engagement with Iran regarding events in Iraq.

For its part, Iraq cannot afford a rupture in its ties with Iran. The two countries have over $12 billion in annual trade and other deep connections. The administration’s granting of waivers to Iraq on Iran sanctions for gas, energy supplies, and food items reflects an acknowledgement of the depth of Iraqi-Iranian ties—which developed after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Iraqi leaders such as former PM Haider al-Abadi have made clear that they do not wish for Iraq to be a theater in U.S.-Iran tensions. Instead, the Iraqi government has sought to balance its relations with the U.S. and Iran. As was evident in June 2014, when Iran helped to prevent ISIS from overrunning Baghdad, the U.S. and Iran have overlapping interests in Iraq and thus need not remain implacable enemies there.

Moreover, at a time when the President is destroying diplomatic channels by sabotaging an agreement that exchanged sanctions relief for far-reaching Iranian nuclear concessions, legislating further sanctions would merely demonstrate the U.S. Congress’ backward priorities when it comes to Iran.

Rather than encourage Trump’s pressure campaign and increase the likelihood of a military confrontation, as many of the President’s closest advisors favor, lawmakers should seek to restrain the administration. To help Iraqi stability, the U.S. must appreciate the fine line that Baghdad must walk in its relations with Iran and the United States. The Trump administration must move beyond overstating the scale of the Iranian threat in Iraq and its obsessive denial of Iranian influence.  

Bill Summary

The original text of H.R. 4591 was wholly aimed at countering Iranian persons threatening stability in Iraq, which has since been amended to a more general focus on foreign persons. However, given the intent of the authors and the single-minded focus of the Trump administration on countering Iran throughout the Middle East, it is without a doubt that the White House would view this legislation as support for its broader pressure campaign and a green light to aggressively escalate sanctions against Iran over its activities in Iraq.

Section 2 of H.R. 4591 mandates the President to block the assets of any foreign person determined to knowingly commit a significant act of violence that has the direct purpose or effect of:

  • Threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq;
  • Undermining the democratic process in Iraq; and
  • Undermining significantly efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.

Any Iranian persons or entities designated pursuant to Section 2 of H.R. 4591 would also be subject to U.S. secondary sanctions by virtue of current U.S. sanctions targeting Iran.

Section 3 of H.R. 4591 requires the President to determine whether several Shia militias and individuals meet the criteria for designation as foreign terrorist organizations or for the application of sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Section 4 requires the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress on the armed groups, militias, or proxy forces in Iraq receiving logistical, military, or financial assistance from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or over which the IRGC exerts any form of control or influence.

After the Midterms: Across the Country, Iran Warmongers & Muslim Ban Defenders Lost Big

Group Calls on House Democrats to Take Action to Save the JCPOA, Prevent War with Iran, and Repeal Trump’s Muslim Ban

For Immediate Release: November 7th, 2018
Contact: Yasmina Dardari | yasmina@unbendablemedia.com | (407) 922-8149 

Jamal Abdi, executive director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement:

“Across the country, candidates dedicated to overturning Trump’s outrageous and discriminatory Muslim ban and stopping war with Iran won big. To have a check on Trump is a huge victory for the Iranian-American community, our country and the global community.

“This victory was absolutely necessary given that the very foundations of our democracy, along with the security of immigrant communities in the United States, were deliberately targeted by an administration that has excelled in nothing but demagoguery. Faced with this concerted assault, Republicans either cheered Donald Trump on or stood silent as he separated us from our families and stacked his cabinet with warmongers.

“That’s why we are proud to play a key role in replacing many of Trump’s lackies with strong candidates who will defend our community. NIAC Action members donated their time and money to candidates that support the Iranian-American communities priorities, including by registering voters, organizing phone banks, text banks and canvassing trips to fight for a new Congress. All of that hard work has paid off in a major way.

“Iranian Americans also took major strides to ensure that we have a seat in the halls of power, with Anna Eskamani and Zahra Karinshak winning their races to their respective state legislatures by flipping red districts. In Utah, Shireen Ghorbani also ran an inspiring campaign in a deep red district, though fell short to the incumbent Congressman. We look forward to supporting many more Iranian Americans in the near future.

“We are tremendously excited by the Harley Rouda, Mike Levin and Jennifer Wexton elections and look to the next Congress to take action to save the vital nonproliferation accord with Iran, stop the Trump Administration’s path to war, and take serious action to repeal the President’s discriminatory Muslim ban.”

In its first ever slate of endorsements for federal office, NIAC Action, a grassroots, civic action organization advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community, announced its backing of Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Mike Levin (CA-49), Katie Porter (CA-45), and Shireen Ghorbani (UT-02) for Congress.

In addition to its federal endorsements, NIAC Action endorsed candidates running for state and local office, including Anna Eskamani running for Florida State Representative in the 47th District, Zahra Karinshak running for Georgia State Senator in the 48th District. Both Karinshak and Eskamani won their seats.

The federal candidates who won NIAC Action’s endorsement have all pledged to overturn President Trump’s Muslim Ban and oppose war with Iran. They ran against opponents who have blocked a vote in Congress overturning Trump’s Muslim ban, and have stood lockstep with Trump on his discriminatory agenda and decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal.

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NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit and the 501(c)4 sister organization of the National Iranian American Council, which works to strengthen the Iranian-American community and promote greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

2018 Candidate Comparison: Virginia’s 10th Congressional District

Barbara Comstock

Republican Incumbent

Jennifer Wexton

Democratic Challenger

Iran Deal

Opposes 

Comstock voted against the Iran deal in 2015 and supported Trump’s withdrawal: “I commend the President for his decision to withdraw from the misguided ‘Iran deal’.  The ‘deal’, which had strong bipartisan opposition in 2015 has emboldened Iran to continue instability and funding of terrorism around the world, and provided them with billions of dollars through lifted sanctions.”

Supports 

Wexton supports the Iran deal: “I strongly support the JCPOA. This treaty has been successful at blocking Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon and is a triumph for peaceful diplomacy as a means to settle international conflict and avoid war. The JCPOA is important first and foremost because it prevents war. The United States and our allies could not accept a nuclear armed Iran. This deal prevents that while also preventing what would be a costly, terrible, and devastating war.”

Diplomacy with Iran

Opposes 

Comstock is a close ally of John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor who has long advocated war with Iran and supports the MEK: “I am proud to again receive the endorsement of Ambassador John Bolton for a third term in Congress. Ambassador Bolton is an outspoken advocate of strong national security policies which protect our nation and her allies from outside threats, particularly from rogue actors such as North Korea, Iran, and ISIS.”

Supports 

Wexton supports further diplomacy using the Iran deal as a starting point: “The JCPOA was an excellent example of what can be diplomatically achieved between the United States and Iran.”

Wexton says sanctions must be approached with caution and suggests that eventually lifting the economic embargo on Iran would be a “moderating force” that would encourage civil society and enable the U.S. to have more influence on Iran through trade and culture.

Muslim Ban

 

Supports 

Comstock supports extreme vetting and has refused to sign on to legislation or take any actions to oppose Trump’s Muslim Ban.

 

Opposes 

Wexton proactively opposes the Muslim Ban: “I believe Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is not only unconstitutional, but racist, ineffective, and a hazard for our national security. Immediately after President Trump announced the Muslim Ban, I went to Dulles Airport Northern Virginia, along with many other elected officials and activists, to protest its implementation. As a lawyer, I believe the ban is fundamentally unconstitutional. From a national security perspective this ban gives our enemies around the world a powerful propaganda and recruiting tool to use against us. Finally the ban is racist and unamerican. We are a nation of immigrants founded on religious liberty. Immigrants make enormous economic, cultural, and social contributions to America. We should be looking at how to welcome and integrate immigrants not ban them.”

 

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2018 Candidate Comparison: California’s 48th Congressional District

Dana Rohrabacher

Republican Incumbent

Harley Rouda

Democratic Challenger

Iran Deal

Opposes 

When President Trump exited the Iran deal, Rohrabacher’s website ran a press statemented entitled, “Rohrabacher: Three Cheers For President Trump’s Iran Decision.” Rohrabacher said, I applaud President Trump’s decision to exit the colossally misguided Iran nuclear deal agreed to – in an act of supreme naivete – by the Obama administration.”

Supports 

Rouda has described President Trump’s attack on the Iran deal as “wrong, dangerous and unfair.” In the past he has advocated for an end to rolling recertification and insisted that the JCPOA must be permanent rather than “used as a political tool.”

Diplomacy with Iran

Opposes 

Rohrabacher is one of the MEK’s strongest allies on Capitol Hill.

When addressing the 2017 ISIS terror attacks on Tehran, Rohrabacher asked, “Isn’t it a good thing…?”

Rohrabacher supports funding violent ethnic separatist groups inside Iran, introducing several bills to do so. “For those of us who really want peace in Iran, doesn’t it behoove us not to just give, free up, a hundred billion dollars for the regime that oppresses its people but instead to try and help those interests, those various nationality groups that don’t like the mullahs,” Rohrabacher said in 2017.

Supports 

Rouda supports further diplomacy: “Iran is a major international and regional actor. I believe in the power of diplomacy and believe that the United States’ best interests will be achieved by normalizing relations with Iran and I support diplomatic efforts that lead to that outcome.”

Rouda has also pledged to oppose new sanctions that will damage the Iran deal or target ordinary Iranian citizens.

Muslim Ban

 

Supports 

“I support the temporary suspension of the Refugee Resettlement Program to give us time to think through the threat … and devise ways to better protect the American people from radical Islamic terrorism…”

 

Opposes 

“Simply, Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is un-American. This ban makes our country less safe and abdicates America’s role as a leader in the world.”

Rouda also supports comprehensive immigration reform, visas for foreign students (including Iranians), and a clean DREAM Act.

 

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2018 Candidate Comparison: California’s 45th Congressional District

Mimi Walters

Republican Incumbent

Katie Porter

Democratic Challenger

Iran Deal

Opposes 

Walters opposed the Iran nuclear deal, warning, “It’s time for America to wake up and understand the danger and threat this deal presents to our national security.”

Supports 

Porter supported the Iran nuclear deal as “our last best option to preventing war.” She will work to defeat Trump’s efforts to kill the accord, warning that the moves only give Iran “incentive to break its commitments to the international community.”

Diplomacy with Iran

Opposes 

Walters was firm in her opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, made clear her intent to dismantle it, and as part of her opposition argued that lifting sanctions on Iran was a threat to Middle East stability. She would be unlikely to support another serious diplomatic push, and has done nothing to rein in Trump’s dangerous moves.

Supports 

Porter believes the nuclear accord was “an important first step to easing tensions between the people of Iran and the US.” Porter would support more dialogue between the U.S. and Iran and believes that the Iranian people have a “right to be part of the 21st century global economy.”

Porter would closely consider how any future sanctions impact the people of Iran and their ability to prosper and acknowledges that sanctions have often “served to strengthen regimes hand by depriving citizens of their ability to make living.”

Muslim Ban

 

Supports 

Walters, despite representing thousands of Iranian Americans impacted by the ban, gave a supportive statement in January 2017 when asked about the ban. According to Walters, “The federal government’s primary responsibility is to protect national security. We must reevaluate the visa vetting process to ensure that our security measures are adequate to address the threats facing our nation.” She subsequently failed to sponsor legislation or press the administration on the Muslim ban on any level.

 

Opposes 

Porter states that the ban was “blatantly unconstitutional and created to enshrine discrimination against Muslims into immigration policy.” She promises to fight hard against it in Congress, including by speaking out for “families in my district who have been devastated by this policy” and fighting for “judges and a justice system that recognizes the unconstitutionality of discrimination.”

 

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2018 Candidate Comparison: California’s 49th Congressional District

Diane Harkey

Republican Incumbent

Mike Levin

Democratic Challenger

Iran Deal

Opposes 

Harkey was highly critical of the Iran deal and her campaign website states: “The Obama Administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a complete failure; it has neither curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions nor reduced its aggressive behavior throughout the world.”

Supports 

Levin supports the Iran deal: “After two years since its adoption, we can say that the JCPOA has been a success.”

He also pledges to oppose any attempt to undermine the Iran deal including sanctions that may violate it. Levin believes sanctions should not be conducted unilaterally without U.S. allies.

Diplomacy with Iran

Opposes 

Harkey supports a hawkish and conflict prone policy toward Iran: “The United States must confront Iran’s aggression by taking firm action to support our regional allies and establish a clear approach that addresses Iran’s dangerous behavior and the underlying flaws within the JCPOA. We must toughen sanctions against those supporting Iran’s missile program and work to ensure Israel has the means to defend itself against a growing Iranian threat.”

Supports 

Levin advocates for further diplomatic efforts with Iran: “The United States role and relevance can only be maintained through continued efforts to engage in constructive negotiations. The US must be willing to recognize and reward forward steps through diplomatic efforts.”

Muslim Ban

 

Supports 

Harkey supports a hardline approach to immigration, state immigration police, and was even featured in an endorsement by the nativist group San Diegans for Secure Borders (SDSB) until media pressure led her to remove it from her website. She has not opposed the Muslim Ban.

 

Opposes 

Levin opposes the Muslim Ban which he believes violates the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause and one of the two religion clauses of the First Amendment.

He thinks the ban reflects “hysteria” rather than the hard facts: “Congress should provide more opportunities for hearing and debate on the Muslim Ban.  The Republican-led House convened a task force to evaluate terrorist threats from abroad prior to Trump’s election and did not find that nationals from Trump’s ‘banned’ list posed a threat. Not a single person from the so-called banned countries has ever been involved in a terrorism-related death on U.S. soil. Yet not one of these facts has been raised or debated in an official Congressional setting.”

 

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2018 Candidate Comparison: Utah’s 2nd Congressional District

Chris Stewart

Republican Incumbent

Shireen Ghorbani

Democratic Challenger, seeking to be the first Iranian-American in Congress

Iran Deal

Opposes 

Stewart was staunchly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and promoted outrageous lies about the accord, warning in 2015 “we have completely abandoned our policy of prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons and instead put forward an agreement that guarantees that they will.”

Stewart supported Trump’s decision to snap back sanctions, calling the accord “deeply flawed from the very beginning.”

Supports 

Ghorbani supports the Iran nuclear deal as a “a realistic and effective way” to deal with threats from Iran’s nuclear program and warns that the President’s “saber-rattling” without a discernible strategy or plan to restart talks makes her feel less safe.

Ghorbani warns that Trump’s Iran moves are “distractions for a series of failed policies and scandals plaguing the administration.”

Diplomacy with Iran

Opposes 

Stewart has taken an extremely harsh stance toward Iran, warning it is a greater threat than al-Qaeda. According to Stewart, “while most Americans recognize the threat of Al Qaeda, most don’t understand that the worldwide terror network built by Iran is far more dangerous and deadly.”

Supports 

Ghorbani supports “diplomatic efforts to resolve tensions between the US and Iran” and notes that sanctions have hurt the Iranian people more than they have been used to change the Iranian government’s behavior.

Muslim Ban

 

Supports 

Stewart called the first iteration of Trump’s ban – which banned even U.S. permanent residents – an “appropriate” reaction to real world concerns. He also strongly backed the further iterations of the ban, stating “The top priority of the federal government must be to keep Americans safe, and this executive order is aimed at doing just that.”

 

Opposes 

Ghorbani, the daughter of an Iranian immigrant, is “particularly distressed by the travel ban,” because “under this ban, families like [her] own are kept apart,” something that is unacceptable to her.

 

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We’re Proud to Endorse Iman Novin for Walnut Creek City Council

Vote for Novin for Walnut Creek! Click Here to Find Your Polling Location

NIAC Action is proud to endorse Iman Novin in his campaign for Walnut Creek City Council. Novin is an active member of the Iranian-American community, previously serving as President of the Persian Club at UC San Diego and participating in several Iranian-American community organizations including NIAC. Novin is running for office to “make a positive difference” in the community he lives in and loves.

Novin has significant experience in Walnut Creek, including by serving two terms on the Walnut Creek Planning Commission, Board of Directors for the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce and Board of Directors of the Trinity Center, a local non-profit focused on ending homelessness. As an Affordable Housing Developer, Novin has helped build “over 1,500 units of housing for lower income families, teachers, veterans and seniors throughout the Bay Area.”

Novin has concrete plans to build out his campaign with mailers, yard signs, digital media and social media. However, he needs the support of the Iranian-American community to help make a difference for Walnut Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

Vote for Novin for Walnut Creek! Click Here to Find Your Polling Location

 

 

Paid for by NIAC Action for Iman Novin on Walnut Creek City Council 2018. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate