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03/31/11

Nowruz Greetings from American Iranian Council


American Iranian Council
www.american-iranian.org

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Let us take this opportunity to share with you the joy of celebrating the Iranian New Year, Nowruz 1390. We wish you a year filled with peace, joy and prosperity. We hope that the New Year will usher in better US-Iran understanding, and that the Iranian people will move closer to realizing their dream of democracy and human rights. After decades, the Middle East is entering a time of change, a Nowruz, when its dictators and human rights offenders would find it impossible to hold on to their abusive powers.

Nowruz, literally the new day, is a celebration of Vernal Equinox which begins on or about March 21. A time of renewal and reunion, Nowruz has been widely celebrated by Iranians and other major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia for over 3000 years. Nowruz also represents a unique time for Iranian expatriates throughout the world to reconnect to their native culture. In 2009, the United Nations recognized Nowruz as an International Day, following the UNESCO’s lead to include Nowruz as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

President Obama sent a Nowruz Greeting to the Iranian people on March 21. This year, however, the President used the occasion to strongly criticize the Iranian government. He censured the Islamic regime for "a campaign of intimidation and abuse" and urged young Iranians to take control of their destiny. We are grateful to the President for sending the greeting and showing concern for the rights of the Iranian people. However, politicizing Nowruz is detrimental to this cultural heritage, celebrated by the Iranians of every ethnic, religious or political orientation.

Nowruz is also a season of giving and we wish to ask that you please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Council. Please read on to find out why we deserve your support. We are the only organization focused on US-Iran relations; we pioneered the market place of ideas on these relations long before it became fashionable; we work as volunteers and our funds are substantially spent on projects rather than salaries and administration; and we take no money from governments. We are funded by corporations, foundations and benevolent individuals.

AIC’s past and current leadership has included Secretary Cyrus Vance, Ambassador Sargent Shriver, Secretary Dona Shalala, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, Ambassador Chas Freeman, Professor R.K. Ramezani, and Dr. Fereidun Fesharaki. Among our conference speakers are Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary Madeleine Albright, Senator John Kerry, Senator Chuck Hagel, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, and Sheikh Mehdi Karubi, the Iranian opposition leader.

We could equally pride ourselves of the fact that most breakthroughs in US-Iran relations have happened at an AIC event or have been mediated through the Council. Examples include:

  • Secretary Madeleine Albright’s historic speech on Iran, when she expressed regret about 1953 coup and past US policy mistakes, lifted sanctions on carpets and food items, and offered Iran a global settlement. Years later, Iran's President Mohammad Khatami would characterize this initiative as a "missed opportunity";
  • Vice President Joe Biden’s and Senator John Kerry’s proposals for dialogue between the US Congress and the Iranian Parliament;
  • Meeting among Speaker Mehdi Karubi and other members of the Iranian parliament and their American counterparts in New York City;
  • US-Iran dialogue over Iraq and the so-called Grand Bargain initiative;
  • The American Iranian Council's presence in Iran under a rare OFAC license;
  • President Obama’s humanitarian attention to Iran’s civilian airline tragedies and his Administration’s agreement to entertain a proposal from Iran to purchase spare parts from the United States;
  • Release of Sarah Shourd, the American hiker arrested in Iran, and the continued efforts to free her colleagues, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal; and
  • Introduction of the Shield Iranian-Americans from Sanctions (SIAS) as a civil right project.

Yet, the most important reason why you should support the Council is the quality of its undertakings. As examples, we wish to invite your attention to the most recent articles we circulated through AIC Update on “The Egyptian Transition” and “Iran after February 14.”We also invite your attention to the AIC Whitepaper (available on our website). We believe you will not find a more comprehensive and realistic policy paper on US-Iran relations anywhere! The spirit of this paper was reflected in the exchange of letters between the US President and Iran's Supreme Leader, as well as President Obama's unprecedented 1388 Iranian New Year Greetings.

We have not just pioneered the market place of ideas, organized influential events, and produced quality publications including 15 books on US-Iran relations; we have also stood our ground and followed a consistent policy - not like others who change their views from event to event, issue to issue! We talk straight and do not cover up our positions or waver on them. We are for better US-Iran relations and advocate constructive engagement; we do not play the stop-and-go game with diplomacy, justifying it with election disputes or human rights abuses in Iran!

We strongly support the human rights of the Iranian people, and condemn the Iranian government for the abuses. But we do not believe that the Iranian nuclear programs and its human rights issue should be placed on the same negotiation table. We do not say we believe in human rights and engagement and then hold them hostage to each other! We do not play politics with diplomacy and peace, or the human rights of the Iranian people! We keep Iran’s domestic affairs separate from its international relations to avoid complicating their resolutions.

We oppose sanctions of any kind and war for any reason. We do not say we are for engagement and against sanctions and then support “targeted” sanctions, justifying them as instruments of diplomacy for furthering human rights and engagement! We believe trade and diplomacy melt dictators while sanction and isolation fatten them! We believe diplomatic tie with the US is a precondition for democratic change in Iran. No country has ever become democratic in the absence of good relations with the United States.

We are for better US-Iran relations, for a nuclear weapon-free Iran, and for democracy and human rights of the Iranian people. We reject sanctions, containment, isolation, and offensive force as counterproductive toward these noble goals; we despise war-mongering projects such as “Iranium”; we believe in the mutuality of interests between Iran and the US and insist that the way forward must focus on diplomacy and engagement, based on mutual security assurances and cooperation, for a global settlement of all standing issues between the two countries.

Our long history of interactions with both governments indicates that all standing issues are negotiable; what is lacking is trust and political will! The prevailing "neither war nor peace" status quo does not serve American or Iranian interests, and is not sustainable. We support negotiations between the 5+1 group and Iran, and we endorse the enriched-uranium-swap agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil. We believe in a win-win settlement involving courageous compromises from both sides as outlined in the AIC Whitepaper.

In 2011, we are restructuring the Council, introducing new board members, expanding constituency and creating an online community. We also plan to introduce a few innovative and realistic activities including “The Real Iran,” "The Middle East in Transition, and the “Shield Iranian-Americans from Sanctions" projects as well as the AIC SolhTV (peace television) program. These undertakings should help the Council present an Iran to the Americans they have rarely seen. Using our OFAC license, we will also shuttle between the two nations to make policies on both sides more transparent and to update the AIC Whitepaper.

We are hoping that this message will convince you to support the Council. You may also refer to our website at www.american-iranian.org for more information. To donate, please go to the Council’s website where you will find instructions and a form to donate using a major credit card or by a check via mail. Your company may have a policy to match your donation to non-profits like AIC; if so, please let us know so that we can double your effort. All contributions are appreciated, no matter how small, and they are tax-deductible.

J. Bennett Johnston (former US Senator)                
CEO, Johnston and Associates                    
Chairman, American Iranian Council

Hooshang Amirahmadi, Ph.D.
Professor, Rutgers University
President, American Iranian Council

... Payvand News - 03/31/11 ... --



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