Interview by Payvand Iran News
We talk with Trita Parsi, the President of NIAC.
Q: What currently occupies Iranian-Americans’ minds is the worries that their adopted country will go into war with their home country. The overwhelming majority of them are against this war. The majority of Americans are against this war. The world is against this war. Yet, there is a high likelihood this unpopular war may actually happen. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I think the vast majority of
Iranian Americans in the
Currently, there is a lot of
speculation that the Bush Administration may be seeking a conflict with
Q: But opponents of talks say that
dialogue between the
First of all, I think that right
now, the vast majority of Iranian Americans are far more concerned about
We have to keep in mind that in the
Still, the policies the
The idea that dialogue between the
Many of those who oppose talks do so because they favor a military confrontation, seeing that as the only way that they themselves can be put in power in
For instance, the Shah had great
relations with the
Those who together with NIAC seek a
peaceful solution to the US-Iran stand-off are doing so because they see war as
the worst of all options. Their love for the
Q: What is NIAC, as an Iranian-American organization doing against this war?
A: NIAC is pursuing a peaceful solution to the stand-off through numerous avenues. We are working with a coalition of 50+ organizations on Capitol Hill – both liberal and conservative groups – to create a stronger momentum for diplomacy in Congress. As such, we are providing analysis and advice to numerous Congressional offices, including key lawmakers. Our recent full day conference on Capitol Hill addressing US-Iran relations was a huge success.
We also set up meetings between our own members nationwide and their lawmakers to give them the chance to express their views and concerns about the situation. This type of pressure from constituents is very effective in getting the message across.
In addition, we spend a considerable
amount of time educating the media about the subject in order to ensure that
they ask the right questions at the right time. This is important because in the
Q: While some Iranian-American organizations are participating in anti-war efforts, the majority of the community seems to be silent. Do you think this is the case and why?
A: The vast majority of the community wants to be active, but they don’t know exactly how to be active and how to channel their concerns. Participating in mass rallies has little appeal in our community and should not be seen as an indication of the community’s dedication to a peaceful solution. Besides, mass rallies are hardly the most effective way of affecting policy.
This is part of the reason why NIAC has been working to educate the Iranian-American community about civic participation for the last five years. Only when our civic education levels are high enough will people be aware of how they can be active so that they channel their concerns and energy in the most constructive way.
Q: How can the community be engaged and participate effectively in anti-war activities?
A: There is a lot the community can do. First of all, they need to express their concerns directly to members of Congress. They need to set up meetings with them and discuss these issues. If they don’t know how to, they can join NIAC and we will help them. This is really important because even though Iranian Americans tend to vote in the elections, very few people know about the “Iranian-American vote.” Since they don’t communicate with lawmakers, their votes are not leveraged. They need to make sure that their representatives know that they have voted and what their views are. “Loud” votes count a lot. Silent votes don’t count at all.
Furthermore, they can write op-eds
to their local newspapers, or write letters to the editor whenever they see an
article that they find unbalanced or inaccurate. They need to be out there. They
need to be seen in order to affect the debate in the
Q: Do you think such engagement will be effective? The Bush administration is ignoring the calls of the majority of Americans. It’s ignoring the calls of Congress. How can a small minority make a difference?
A: Iranian American may be a small
minority in the
Q: Let’s say the community won’t do
anything to stop the war because they feel they cannot make any difference. And
let’s say war actually breaks out. Judging from the magnitude of death and
A: Absolutely. The stakes are too
high to sit on the sidelines. War will be devastating for the
... Payvand News - 2/27/07 ... --