On January 28th, the Public Affairs Alliance of
Iranian Americans (PAAIA) held a congressional briefing to present the findings
of its 2009 National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans. The poll,
conducted by Zogby International, explored the attitudes and views of Iranian
Americans relating to recent developments in Iran following the disputed
presidential elections held in June. The briefing, which was aimed at educating
congressional staffers, was attended by individuals representing congressional
offices, nongovernmental organizations, and the U.S. State Department.
Following opening remarks and a presentation of the poll results by PAAIA's Executive Director, Mahasti Afshar, a panel of Iran experts was on hand to discuss the implications such results could have on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. The panelists included: Geneive Abdo, The Century Foundation; Patrick Clawson, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service; and Alireza Nader, RAND Corporation.
"What we see here in these poll results echoing the mood of policy makers is a real renewed interest in domestic Iranian politics," stated Clawson, who also underscored the Iranian American community's surging focus on human rights. "The poll shows broad support in the Iranian American community for taking a strong stance in defense of human rights in Iran, and there is broad support in the international community."
Panelist Alireza Nader affirmed that while there seemed to be consensus on some issues, "the survey really reflects divisions, not just within the U.S. policy community, but also within the Iranian American community." Nader's remarks highlighted the fact that according to the poll, there was a division among Iranian Americans as to whether regime change (42%) or diplomatic negotiations (50%) would be the best action for the United States in dealing with Iran. These divisions seemed to be apparent in Congress as well. "A lot of members of congress are wrestling in their own mind, what do I do? There is a lot of soul searching in the U.S. Congress right now," stated Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service.
Geneive Abdo of the Century Foundation who lived in Iran and experienced the opposition movement ten years ago, said, "I think there is much less of a divide between the opinions of Iranian Americans today and those in Iran than there was ten years ago." Abdo concluded her remarks by asserting that while the poll indicated that the majority of individuals preferred diplomatic negotiations with Iran, this was most likely due to an absence of a better option.
PAAIA is focused on serving the interests of the Iranian American community in the U.S. and on helping the community pool its resources in the service of U.S. society as a whole. PAAIA will continue to collect data that accurately reflect the community's views on a variety of topics of civil and political nature. "One of PAAIA's core aspirations is to create a representative, nationally recognized voice for Iranian Americans-a community that takes great pride in its tremendous achievements and contributions to the U.S.," explained Afshar. "This survey serves that goal by helping us better understand and communicate their views to the American public as well as U.S. policy makers and opinion makers, unfiltered and direct."
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