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Among the Iranian-Americans

I was a guest Monday at the National Iranian American Council’s [1] gala dinner, the organization headed by the author Trita Parsi [2]–who, among many other accomplishments, has written for TAC. I’ve never been around Iranian-Americans in, so to speak, concentrated doses–it was always a friend’s wife here, a tennis partner there. As one of my tablemates told me, “We tend to assimilate pretty thoroughly.” America’s roughly half-million Iranian-Americans are professionally successful (a 2004 MIT study showed that they have the highest rate of holding a master’s degree or higher of any ethnic group in America, and the second highest rate of college graduates). Clearly the Shah’s regime, and even more, the Islamic revolution which overthrew it, generated a massive brain drain. If last night was indicative, there is a fairly astonishing glamour quotient among Iranian women.

But in official Washington these days discussion about Iran revolves exclusively around whether to bomb it, or whether the sanctions are sufficiently “biting”, or what we should do if Israel bombs it. At NIAC, there is a pretty clear political consensus: the Iranian regime is repugnant, fascist, and embarrassing–all words I heard applied to it repeatedly.  And … a military answer isn’t the right one. NIAC reflects the broad political consensus [3] among Iranian-Americans: only three percent of Iranian-Americans support an American  military attack on the regime. By a 2-1 margin, Iranian-Americans opposed taking the MEK, a cult-like linked to terrorism, off the State Department’s terror group list. Beyond lie large uncertainties: more sanctions?, more diplomacy? regime change?–and a sense that there are no easy answers. These Iranians were a highly secular group; it is apparent that nothing reinforces anti-clericalism so much as a doctrinaire theocracy. When I said I thought change would most likely come from within, when an Iranian Gorbachev recognized that an Islamic regime despised by most of his country’s young and educated had no future, no one disagreed or offered a more rapid scenario.

It was striking to see a community full of national pride, happy to let you know that Iran is the oldest nation in Mideast, has a rich literary tradition, and is a nation which has overcome and endured foreign invasion and occupation before. More than once was I reminded that Iran, after all, did not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. I have never met an Iranian of any political stripe ready to concede Israel’s demand for a regional nuclear monopoly.

Trita Parsi has already achieved much wearing two hats, both as a political scholar and a force helping Iranian-Americans find a political voice. This voice is certainly heard in upper reaches of the foreign policy establishment, and probably within the White House.  It remains muffled in Congress–drowned out as ignorant and bellicose resolutions continue to roll right on through. That will have to change, hopefully before our air force is sent on a fool’s errand of destruction.

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#1 Comment By Ken Hoop On October 2, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

Scott…..an Iranian Gorbachev? Do you realize how unpopular, even traitorous Gorbachev is regarded in Russia today?

There would probably be a cyclical analogue in Iran too, given the same pattern.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 2, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

Maybe they need to buy a casino or two or own a defense manufacturer, so they can buy political power.

#3 Comment By Sassan On October 3, 2012 @ 3:13 am

Trita Parsi is both a joke and a fraud. He is not even Iranian-American. The Iranian community inside of the United States despises Trita Parsi and sees him as nothing more than a front in pursuing the interests of the Islamic Republic.

#4 Comment By Avi Bremen On October 3, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

Sassan, I have heard Iranian-Americans criticize Trita Parsi in much the terms you use here, but I don’t understand it at all. How can NIAC and Parsi be pro-Islamic Regime when my experience with them is the same as Scott McConnell’s? “At NIAC, there is a pretty clear political consensus: the Iranian regime is repugnant, fascist, and embarrassing–all words I heard applied to it repeatedly.” NIAC and Parsi seem to be pushing a secular, democratic, liberal agenda for Iran in everything they write and say. Explain your comment to me, please, with some evidence.

#5 Comment By Reza On October 4, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

Sassan, I would second Avi’s comment. I have seen Trita on TV interviews and read many of his writings. There is nothing so far that would give me such impression as you have indicated. Would you please point me to where this is documented with facts.

Thank you in Advance

#6 Comment By Anoosh Ghazai On October 6, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

Sassan, your claim that Trita is “not even Iranian-American” has no legs to stand on. What is YOUR evidence?! Your other BS claim, “the Iranian community inside the US despises Trita Parsi” is sheer nonsense. Who died and made you the spokesman for the Iranian-American community?! You need to get a clue, boy.

#7 Comment By Sam On October 11, 2012 @ 10:56 am

As an Iranian-American I see Trita as a fair representative of most Iranian voices outside of Iran.
Military intervention and Sanctions will only weaken the Iranian youth, middle class and business people who are favour friendly relations with the west.

Trita opposes both options, instead he promotes unity within the Iranian opposition to bring about change in peaceful manners.

#8 Comment By Dara On October 18, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

Unfortunately there are some Iranian Americans (mostly associate with MEK or the royalist camp), like Sassan on this board, who seem to annoint themselves ‘spokesmen’ for the entire Iranian American community and then proceed to make absurd accusations without a shred of evidence. It is sad to see this group constantly trying to go against the interests of the broader Iranian American community and Iranians at large. We, the majority of Iranian Americans need to get more engaged to make our voices heard so Sassan and his ilk can’t pass themselves off somehow as our ‘representatives.

#9 Comment By Sassan On April 13, 2013 @ 6:13 am

So many months later, I just saw the responses on here. If anyone is still reading this or receives my response, I would be glad to reply in further detail. I will check to see if anyone replies within a couple of days.