Setting the Record Straight: PAAIA Responds to Unfounded Attacks

September 7, 2012, Washington, D.C. On September 4, 2012, Mr. Ali Moayedian posted an editorial on Payvand.com titled “Is PAAIA advocating for an attack on Iran?” Among other things, in it Mr. Moayedian charges that “PAAIA, an Iranian-American group, has all but accepted, and seems is advocating, a military attack on Iran as the natural next step after sanctions.” The editorial bases its assertions on the 2012 Iran sanctions report that was recently released by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). We categorically and unequivocally reject Mr. Moayedian’s allegation that PAAIA seeks military action against Iran. This assertion is unfounded, sensationalist, and in no way supported by the content of the report.

In the first part of his editorial, Mr. Moayedian attacks PAAIA for implying that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, stating that no proof of this has been forthcoming, “…neither by IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) nor by the U.S. government.” This is a serious mischaracterization of what PAAIA actually said. Throughout its report, PAAIA merely reported on the fact that the U.S., U.N. Security Council, the European Union, and other allies as well as many analysts and experts have expressed concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. As a result, the U.S. and the international community have imposed sanctions against Iran. “With the escalating tensions over Iran’s capabilities to potentially produce a nuclear weapon, additional unilateral and multilateral sanctions have recently been levied against Iran.”

It is a fact that IAEA has long expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program. In its report released in November 2011, the agency states that Iran “has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” and that it “has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

Mr. Moayedian goes on to criticize PAAIA on the grounds that most of the U.S. sanctions against Iran are unilateral and that the word “unilateral” only appears twice in the report. The report is clearly focused on U.S. sanctions and provides information that much of the sanctions legislation passed by Congress is focused on deterring foreign companies and nations from investing in Iran or doing business with Iranian entities. In addition, the report provides a comprehensive side by side comparison between U.S., U.N., and EU sanctions, which Mr. Moayedian conveniently left out of his editorial.

Mr. Moayedian is correct to point out that Iran’s subsidy cuts had been a work in progress. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that the restrictions on trade related to Iran’s oil and gas industries helped the Iranian government consolidate enough support to pass the cuts. In fact, the report goes on to cite scholarly reports on how targeted autocratic regimes often resort to a strategy of aggressively lowering the supply of public services in their response to sanctions.

Where actual evidence does not exist to support Mr. Moayedian’s assertions regarding the nature of the report, Mr. Moayedian resorts to dissecting the vocabulary used in the report to skew the actual intent of the report and the information it attempts to convey. The use of the word “reluctant” versus “unavailable” or whether the words “Iranian people” were left out of a summary paragraph are not evidence of whether the report is biased or whether it propagates war. This type of commentary is simply rhetoric to confuse the reader, ignite their feelings on an issue that is important to us all but extremely complex, and an attempt to lend credence to the arguments provided by Mr. Moayedian.

Finally, Mr. Moayedian takes two separate passages from pages 25 and 28 out of the report and bundles them together to insinuate that PAAIA is calling for military action. In fact, PAAIA was merely reporting the opinions of some experts and the well-known fact that it is unclear whether sanctions coupled with diplomacy would be sufficient to end the current impasse with Iran. To conclude or suggest that this is a call for military action is simply illogical.

While PAAIA recognizes that no report covering such complex issues can be perfect and cover every scholarly perspective and commentary, we believe that the report is objective and provides perspectives from different organizations in support and in opposition to certain sanctions and commentary from a variety of analysts as well as diplomats and scholars. In addition to Patrick Clawson, Michael Eisenstadt, and Kenneth Katzman who were named in Mr. Moayedian’s editorial, other experts cited or referenced include Anthony Cordesman, Gary Hufbauer, Aaron David Miller, Alireza Nader, and Manuel Oeschlin, to name a few.

PAAIA respects Mr. Moayedian’s staunch opposition to sanctions. However, the intent of the report was not to advocate for or against sanctions but rather to provide an informational and historical prospectus on U.S. sanctions against Iran as well as information driving current U.S. policy on Iran.

Mr. Moayedian’s editorial suggests that as long as PAAIA does not take a similar position as he does on this subject matter, it automatically must be in favor of advocating for an attack on Iran. This is an unfortunate but common tactic used by many individuals and organizations with political agendas: “you are either with us or against us.” You either write it or say it in the way that we consider appropriate or we will label you anti-Iranian, war-proponents, and neo-cons.

As Mr. Moayedian is fully aware, in March of 2012 PAAIA conducted a survey of Iranian Americans regarding possible military action against Iran. The results of the survey show that almost two-thirds (63%) of Iranian Americans oppose military action against Iran. PAAIA has utilized the survey results to conduct briefings with the U.S. State Department, Congressional members and staffers, as well as other administration officials on the importance of this issue amongst our community to ensure that policymakers clearly understand the views of Iranian Americans regarding military action against Iran, and to make sure they take those views into consideration when making any type of decision about an attack on Iran. Mr. Moayedian conveniently ignores the efforts that PAAIA has made to educate those within the policy and political fields about this matter. He also conveniently ignores the fact that the only scientific information available about how the Iranian American community feels about military action is derived from PAAIA’s surveys.

While sensationalism may, at times, increase readership, it does nothing to bring the Iranian American community together on such a serious subject. At no point in the sanctions report does PAAIA, explicitly or implicitly, advocate military action against Iran. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate, does a disservice to the community, and undermines the credibility of the work that Mr. Moayedian has done to date as chief editor of Payvand.com. It is the role of an editor to ensure that his or her understanding of an issue is balanced and accurate. Not doing so and selectively using parts of a report to confuse readers is irresponsible, harmful, and divisive.

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