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The American Chemical Society Terminates the Membership of Chemists from Iran

David N. Rahni reporting form New York


The American Chemical Society (ACS) has once again pioneered, under its "zealot" interpretation of "embargo" by Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control, by terminating membership of its long-time members in Iran; many of these members are past Ph.D. Alumni of American universities.  Several years ago, the ACS undertook a similar unilateral measure, unprecedented by other sister professional societies, and under the same law, when it unilaterally stopped accepting scholarly and research manuscripts from Iranian scientists for the three dozen periodicals in its publication division.


But later, under pressure from the American scientific community, particularly its broad membership, the ACS retreated from such a decision while agreeing to take it up with the federal government. Paradoxically, this is against the current administrative policy of prompting people-to-people contact as enunciated by The Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns at the March 29 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


Yudhijit Bhattacharjee , in SCIENCE, has reported that the ACS Assistant General Counsel, David Smorodin when "re-reading the embargo rules, has made the recommendation of terminating Iranian membership to the ACS management (SCIENCE Magazine, Vol. 315, 30 March 2007). Notwithstanding the individual membership continuation, the ACS has, however, stated that while Iranian chemists and institutions can continue to purchase journals and other “non-sensitive” products at the exorbitantly high full-rate, the ACS will apply for special license from the Treasury Department to reinstate the membership for Iranian chemists. Paradoxically, and as in the past, the American Physical Society in contrast states, "We have NO plan to do anything similar, and continue to serve our members in Iran." Judy Franz of the APS further stated that, "We would resist having to obtain a license to the extent we can."


When interviewed by internationally acclaimed Science Magazine, the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), David Rahni an Iranian-American chemistry professor in New York stated, "I, like most ACS members and peers in the scientific community, strongly question the ACS move on this issue, and expect its leadership to refrain from allowing politics to taint the stellar stature that the Organization has achieved." Politically speaking though, the consensus among the nearly one million Americans of Iranian heritage is to reaffirm their  commitment for the attainment of justice, security, stability, equity, transparency and human rights in Iran through "home-grown", indigenous and democratic reforms, but not at the expense of isolating the people, albeit the scientific community in their motherland from their peers worldwide.  They further deplore any possible unilateral military actions against Iran, as they firmly believe this is counter-productive in the organic, slow but steady evolution of Iran through education, cultural reforms and communications with the rest of the world; they further consider military actions and/or isolations counter-productive to the credibility of their American homeland abroad thereby leading to the priceless loss of human and materiel capitals.


Iran's chemist/chemical engineering community includes tens of thousands. They are by and large members of the Iranian Chemical Society ( However, every professional chemist/scientist or professors in Iran holds at least one additional overseas membership, mostly in the Royal Societies in the UK. There are currently 36 Iranian paid members in the American Chemical Society.  The strong stature of chemistry/chemical engineering in Iran is due to the oil and gas explorations and petrochemical industry in the past 100 years, and to some of her renowned contemporary and past chemists/scientists/philosophers. The contribution of Americans of Iranian heritage to the chemical and other sciences, engineering and medicine, is unparalleled by many other recent immigrant communities.  There indeed exist an  Iranian Chemists' Association  ( of the ACS, that has since its inception in the 80's reached out to over a thousand chemists of Iranian heritage in the U.S. Alone.  It is well substantiated that supports the thesis that as long as the diplomatic relations between the two nations remain at a hostile stalemate, that  there remains a political cloud that hovers over the personal and professional aspirations of Iranian-Americans. Specifically, senior and executive level professional opportunities for Iranian-Americans, particularly in government, but also in higher education and the corporate world, remain chronically undermined.


Iran, a multiethnic country of 70 million, traces its heritage to a long and illustrious history, 10,000 years in the making, and with 2500 years of a continuous form of government. There are two million students in her higher education system, 60% of whom, especially in the science, engineering and medicine, are women. Its literacy rate is at 90%, unprecedented in that part of the world. Iran or [Persia] as it was formerly known by the outside world till 1935, has indeed contributed immensely toward the advancement of science and technology in millennia. Rhazes, Avicenna, Algorithm, Omer Khayam, Hayyan, and many others are just some of the names that come to a western scholar’s mind.


Despite the tremendous burden imposed on the very bright Iranian students and scholars when they struggle to obtain US visa (mostly denied), some of the best graduate students in Ivy League universities (e.g., Stanford or Harvard) remains Iranians.  The Iranians high school students have continuously ranked among the top few nations including first rank numerously in the International Chemistry and other Science Olympiads, and Robotics.


Isn't it ironic that when ACS claims to be a "congressionally chartered" international professional society, 130 years old, with a membership of 160,000, 10% of whom, that is 20,000 are from overseas, and an additional 20%, that is 30,000 members  who are naturalized Americans or permanent residents, that it must  force  the nationals of one country, Iran, out and deprive them from maintaining scientific communications with their peers worldwide and will not let them contribute toward  the advancement in their chosen field?


Notwithstanding the rhetoric and provocations leading to possible disastrous confrontations by  governments, a true scientist, and an organization of scientists, ACS, which does  not recognize  the boundaries of the world,  should easily transcends all  political barriers.


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are personal in scope, and do not necessarily reflect the institution (s) to which I belong


... Payvand News - 4/5/07 ... --

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