June 29, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Thirty-seven prominent Iranian Americans, consisting of current and former government officials, foreign policy experts, scientists, business leaders, authors and media personalities, sent an open letter urging the 2016 presidential candidates to refrain from broad generalizations about the Iranian people when discussing the prospective nuclear agreement taking shape between the P5+1 and Iran.
The letter was prompted by recent comments made by presidential hopeful, Senator Lindsey Graham, which were interpreted by some in the media and Iranian Americans as highly offensive in suggesting that all Iranians are liars.
The letter notes that such insensitive and incendiary remarks have a potential to damage long-term U.S. interests. “Iran is quite unique in the Middle East, in that it maintains a sizable young, urban and highly educated population that holds favorable views towards America,” stresses the letter. “Out of context rhetoric and careless remarks only serve to alienate Iranians who want their government to reform and engage the international community in a positive way and embolden those who seek the exact opposite.”
Moreover, the authors point that such comments are offensive to Americans of Iranian heritage, and have the potential to encourage stereotyping, ill will and hatred against a particular group of Americans.
The group includes the former Mayor of Beverly Hills, Jimmy Delshad; Director of Solar System Exploration at NASA’s JPL, Dr. Firouz Naderi; Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership, Mahnaz Afkhami; Chairman & CEO, Prologis, Hamid Moghadam; acclaimed author, Azar Nafisi; and comedian and actor, Maz Jobrani.
The full text of the letter follows. Click here to view the letter.
The letter was organized by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian, independent organization that represents the interests of the Iranian American community before U.S. policymakers, opinion-makers, and the American public at large.
Open Letter to 2016 Presidential Candidates from Americans of Iranian Heritage
The prospective nuclear agreement taking shape between the P5+1 and Iran is becoming a central foreign policy issue for the 2016 presidential election.
Irrespective of party affiliation, a robust debate among all presidential candidates over this important and complex national security issue is necessary for the shaping of our foreign policy.
We believe however that the tone, tenor and context of the rhetoric employed during such discourse, will prove instructive in our ability to nurture the good will that exists towards America on behalf of the Iranian people. Whatever differences may exist with the government of Iran, presidential candidates must make a distinction between the government and the people of Iran.
As an example, one of your fellow presidential candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently said:
“My family owned a restaurant, a pool room, and a liquor store. And everything I know about the Iranians, I learned in the pool room. I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.”
Outside of its proper context of the nuclear negotiations, Senator Graham’s comments were interpreted by members of the media and Iranian Americans as suggesting that all Iranians are liars.
Such insensitive and incendiary remarks can potentially offend a very large universe of 80 million people in Iran which can only be counterproductive and damaging to long-term U.S. national interests.
Iran is quite unique in the Middle East in that it maintains a sizable young, urban and highly educated population that holds favorable views towards America. Repeated public opinion polls confirm that the people of Iran want to engage with and connect to the world.
Out of context rhetoric and careless remarks only serve to alienate Iranians who want their government to reform and engage the international community in a positive way and embolden those who seek the exact opposite.
Moreover, such comments are offensive to Americans of Iranian heritage, by encouraging stereotyping, ill will and hatred against a particular group of Americans.
The United States is host to the largest expatriate community of Iranians in the world. Americans of Iranian descent are among the best-educated, highest achieving ethnic minorities, contributing to the economic strength and cultural diversity of America.
We are public servants, members of our armed forces and law enforcement. We uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect all Americans; we are scientists, educators, medical and business leaders.
Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Iranian Americans share our nation’s security concerns and are supportive of every effort to ensure the security of the homeland and safety of all Americans.
A nuclear agreement notwithstanding, Iran is bound to be a significant focal point during the 2016 presidential election. We, the undersigned members of the Iranian American community implore all 2016 presidential candidates, to a) be cognizant of the distinction between the people and the government of Iran; and b) refrain from broad generalizations that are likely to mischaracterize an entire group of Americans.
Mahnaz Afkhami, Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership
Bijan Amini, Storch Amini & Munves PC
Robert Babayi, Managing Partner,Vector IP Law Group
Morteza Baharloo, Chairman of the Board, Healix, Inc.
Ali Ebrahimi, President, Ersa Grae Corporation
Honorable Jimmy Delshad, Two Term Mayor and Current Ambassador of Beverly Hills
Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Sassan Ghahramani, Founder and CEO, SGH Macro Advisors, LLC
Honorable Cyrus Habib, Washington State Senator
Forough Hosseini, Sr. VP, ICI Homes
Mori Hosseini, Chairman and CEO, ICI Homes
Nahal Iravani-Sani, Deputy District Attorney (personal capacity)
Maz Jobrani, Comedian/Actor
Amir Kazeminia, President/CEO, OCI Associates Inc.
Zohreh Kazeminia, Finance Director, OCI Associates inc.
Darioush Khaledi, Proprietor, DARIOUSH
A.Alex Lari, Chairman, Claremont Group LLC
Mehrdad Michael Massumi, MD
Mohsen Moazami, Managing Director, Columbus Nova Technology Partners
Hamid R. Moghadam, Chairman & CEO, Prologis
Alireza Nader, Policy Analyst
Dr. Firouz Naderi, Director, Solar System Exploration at NASA’s JPL
Azar Nafisi, Professor & Best-Selling Author
Oscar Nosrati, Principal, Americo Energy Resources
F. Fred Pezeshkan
Milad Pooran, MD (Colonel, USAF-Res), President, Anacostia Medical Associates
Honorable Darius Shahinfar, City Treasurer, Albany, New York
M. Marty Youssefiani, CEO, Caspian Renewable Energy, Inc.
Alex Vatanka, Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute and The Jamestown Foundation