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Setting the Record Straight about Siamak Namazi


By Staff,

Over the past few days, disheartening news has emerged about the arrest of Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based American-Iranian citizen whom the author knows very well. While the family has not confirmed the news, Siamak's friends believe that the situation may be the result of a misunderstanding which they hope will be resolved shortly.

Siamak Namazi

Unfortunately, many media outlets have knowingly or unknowingly published information about Siamak that is simply not true. The aim of this brief is to set the record straight and to present a truthful profile of Siamak Namazi. To do so, the author has interviewed a number of Siamak's close friends who helped with the timeline of his biography.

Siamak originally left Iran at the age of 12 in 1983. His father, Baquer Namazi took up work in UNICEF in New York, then became UNICEF Representative to Somalia, Kenya and finally Egypt. Siamak finished high school in Kenya, then returned to US to attend Tufts University where he studied International Relations. He subsequently returned to Iran alone to do his military service - a process through which he wanted to rediscover his motherland. Siamak served his military service in 1994-1996, and he was seconded to the ministry of housing during this period. He then went back to the US for graduate studies where he gained admissions with full scholarship at Rutgers University and earned his MSc. in Urban Planning.

Siamak returned to Iran in 1999 to join Atieh Bahar Consulting - a company led by returning Iranian expats which was best known for attracting foreign investment to the country. The company did a great job in making a case for Iran as an investment destination for top international companies. For example, Business Week wrote: "Atieh Bahar Consulting has...boosted the country's credibility as an investment market."

Siamak was initially a director, and then, in 2003, the managing director of Atieh Bahar, until he left for Dubai in late 2007. Later he sold his shares in Atieh Bahar to focus on his international work - detached from any Iran business. In this period, Siamak had brief stints as a visiting fellow at the Wilson Center (4 months in 2005) and NED (4 months in 2006) in Washington, DC. These short stays helped him to better understand the international scene that was relevant to his work. Siamak was also one of the four founders and a former board member of the International Association of Iranian Managers (I-Aim). This non-profit has been organizing management training programs (modeled after what is on offer in Ivy League schools) in Iran since 2007.

In Dubai, Siamak initially worked for the Noble Group (2008-09) and then shifted to Access Consulting Group, which is a boutique energy consultancy specializing in regional gas supply and demand (2009-13). While at this company, he also started an executive MBA at the London Business School and completed his degree in 2011 as the recipient of the Student Award.

Siamak's humanitarian nature is best seen in the following act: In 2013, he took a few months on his own to speak out against how sanctions were blocking humanitarian trade with Iran. Specifically, he did a lot of work to bring attention to the medicine and medical equipment shortages in Iran. He worked independently to find out the root of the problem (by using his business school contacts, he interviewed international pharmaceutical companies and banks), and then published his findings. His study, presented at the Wilson Center and subsequently turned into an op-ed published in the New York Times, was widely considered the most detailed study on the matter. For months he engaged the media and policymakers to prove that Washington's claims that sanctions were not blocking humanitarian trade were false, directly challenging OFAC's stance (and getting a lot of criticism for that from those abroad opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran).

In June 2013, public and media attention by a variety of groups finally brought about two important changes in OFAC regulations dealing with medicine and medical equipment trade with Iran: (1) On banking, OFAC's original stance was that "nowhere in the chain of banking should there be a blacklisted bank." Clearly, with forex originating from the Central Bank of Iran, that had ruled out all banking completely. This regulation was revised so that the international banks only had to worry about the chain starting with the non-listed Iranian bank, and not before that (i.e., it didn't have to worry where a private Iranian bank procured its forex). (2) In the case of medical equipment, unlike every other case (like Iraq, Burma, Cuba), OFAC was not deferring to the BIS list for defining what constitutes a medical device, but rather had come up with its own very short list of what it considered a medical equipment. If a certain item was not on the list, a special license was needed, that took a year or so to get. While OFAC refused to turn to the BIS list for Iran, it did greatly expand its own list. This has been the only case where Siamak engaged in a matter related to Iran. For this cause, he met with journalists, policymakers, humanitarian groups, etc. and objected to the unlawful sanctions very effectively.

For the past year-and-a-half, Siamak has worked as the head of strategic planning at Crescent Petroleum - again completely detached from any Iran responsibility. There he has been responsible for the company's strategic outlook as well as items such as the sustainability (environmental) report.

Though Siamak used to speak at international conferences during his tenure at Atieh Bahar, since moving to Dubai in 2007, he stopped speaking on Iran-related matters, with the exception of the medicine/sanctions issue. His growing interest and expertise was on regional gas matters.

In 2007, the World Economic Forum (WEF) named Siamak a Young Global Leader (YGL). He also served on the WEF's Global Agenda Council on the future architecture of global energy in 2012-13 which was in line with him focusing on global energy issues. In 2006, Siamak was chosen as a "young leader" at Asia Society's "Asia 21's Young Leaders" first summit.

Contrary to the claims of some news sites, Siamak has had no role to play in the establishment or management of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and he has also never left the realm of private sector activity. Also, the claims about his affinity to the Rafsanjani family are completely false. Furthermore, contrary to other claims, during his recent trip Siamak was not advising any company nor was he looking for any investment opportunities in Iran. He went to Iran to visit his family and now we are receiving the news about his arrest.

Siamak's friends have no doubt that he has always been driven by his love and respect for Iran and hope that the current misunderstanding will be resolved soon.

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