By: Nobar Elmi, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Washington, DC - In a demonstration of the Obama Administration’s eagerness to build and sustain relations with the Iranian-American community, top officials yesterday hosted the first ever Iranian-American Community Leader’s Roundtable at the White House.
The day-long roundtable was attended by National Iranian American Council staff, as well as individual community leaders and representatives of national organizations, including Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans and the West Asia Council.
The unprecedented step taken by the Obama Administration to dialogue directly with the community demonstrated how Iranian Americans have increased their influence in the nation’s Capitol over the past decade. While NIAC staff is in close contact with top U.S. officials - including at the White House - regarding issues like preventing war, supporting human and civil rights, and opposing sanctions that hurt ordinary people, the meeting was the first time that a broader group of Iranian-American community leaders was engaged as a whole by a Presidential Administration. Previous Administrations had conducted similar sessions, though Iranian Americans were included as part of a more general Middle-East diaspora or Muslim roundtables.
The day’s agenda was diverse, reflecting a variety of both domestic and foreign policy issues. The morning was spent hearing from top officials from the National Security Council and Department of State. These officials provided insights and answered questions regarding U.S.-Iran relations, sanctions and human rights. The afternoon included discussions on health care, small business, and community organizing, and included a meeting with Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s closest advisors, who herself was born in Shiraz. The day concluded with a session with Cyrus Amir-Mokri, the highest ranking Iranian-American official in government, who was appointed as the Treasury Department Secretary for Financial Institutions by President Obama late last year.
The officials on hand were eager to listen to the interests and concerns of the Iranian-American community and to determine ways to better serve and inform the Iranian-American community about important policies and programs. All of the officials made clear that there would be a sustained effort to engage with Iranian Americans going forward. “This is not good-bye,” many of the officials repeated, “this is hello.”
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