Interview with Keyvan Kaboli
This interview was published by American Chronicle
After several months of discussions, a group of Iranian Americans finally converged and founded the “Progressive American-Iranian Committee” (PAIC). (http://www.iranian-americans.com/ )
This new organization is particularly focused on counteracting the Iranian regime's web of influence in the US. Last week, I interviewed Kayvan Kaboli, a co-founder of PAIC, and discussed this new group's manifesto and their means of achieving their goals.
Daioleslam: What is PAIC? What does differentiate you from other Iranian-American groups?
Kaboli: We are a group of Iranian-Americans of diverse political views who share the same aspirations; the establishment of a democratic and secular system in Iran. Inevitably, this includes defending our Iranian heritage and helping our compatriots in Iran in their struggle against the Islamic Republic. We also aim to demonstrate that the ordinary freedom loving people of Iran should not be mistaken with the detested ruling theocracy in Tehran. Furthermore, PAIC strives to build an everlasting friendship between the peoples of Iran and America.
Daioleslam: Why do you think that confronting Tehran’s regime would help the Iranian-American community?
Kaboli: First of all, the Islamic Republic rulers have projected a negative image of the Iranian community here in the US with devastating consequences. The overwhelming majority of the Iranian community living in the US is morally under pressure for Iranian regime’s derogatory behaviors; acts which they are not at all connected with.
The Iranian-Americans have been totally opposed to Islamic Republic’s international fiascos right from the outset. This started by invading the American embassy in Tehran and taking the American diplomats hostage, initiated by the Ayatollah’s direct orders and later on spiraled out to the bombing of the American military base by the Revolutionary Guards’ networks in the Middle East, killing American Marines and soldiers. Other destructive policies such as Salman Rushdi’s death decree can be added to this. There has always been double pressure on the Iranians. On the one hand, for being targeted as an American by the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and on the other, for being branded and accused of having the same creed as terrorists outside Iran. Although, the peace loving Iranian-Americans were naturalized and found their safe haven in the U.S., but the evil actions of sponsored terrorist groups in the name of Iranian people, has continued chasing them thousands of miles away. We can not successfully integrate here by being misrepresented by the current rulers of Iran.
Secondly, the Iranian regime is directly threatening the American interests. This is unacceptable, as Iranian-Americans are the citizens of the United States who also happen to share the same interests.
Thirdly, if the ongoing Islamic Republic’s policies i.e. the nuclear weapons program, regional expansion plans and State sponsorship of terrorism continue, the possibility of an all out military conflict between the Islamic Republic and the US would most probably be on the outlook. This could have disastrous ramifications on the Iranian community in the US as a whole.
Last but not the least; we can not behold a different sequel for the Iranian community in the US to that of our compatriots’ in Iran. We can not ignore nor disregard the state of affairs in Iran. The people of Iran need us and expect us to stand by them and this is exactly what we intend to do.
Daioleslam: How can the Iranian-American community make a difference? What is the order of priorities for PAIC right now?
Kaboli: During the past 10 years, the Iranian regime has been engaged to establish a network of lobbyists here in the US. One of our goals, as stated in our mission statement, is to expose the true essence of these numerous and widespread lobbying networks. Since 2006, these lobbying networks have been getting more active and effective, to the extent that even some of them find the audacity to make the false claims of representing the Iranian community.
Their goal is to help lift the pressure off the Iranian regime and buy time for Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. This lobby harms our interests and we feel the need to neutralize them. This is urgent because the level of the Iranian regime’s threats have escalated. PAIC can play a decisive role to frustrate Islamic Republic’s lobbyists and counterbalance their influence.
Daioleslam: Who are these lobby groups?
Kaboli: The answer can be found in the Iranian regime's own press. In April 2007, an article was published about "Iran's oil Mafia, penetrating the US congress". In that article the author reflected upon the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) founded by Trita Parsi-- who "incidentally", was an advisor to the convicted Congressman Bob Ney.
Immediately after the publication of this article, in a very organized manner, the official Iranian newspapers came to NIAC's rescue and published an article with the title "The Neo-cons and the Israeli lobby are attacking the Iranian lobby". As you can see, they (the Iranian official media) refer to NIAC as an Iranian lobby. (Ghods Daily, April 21, 2007)
On December 28, 2006 the State run newspaper Aftab published an interview with Trita Parsi. In his introduction, the editor underlined the role of the Iranian American lobby to act on behalf of the Iranian regime and described it as the Mullahs' "Unofficial diplomacy."
Daioleslam: What other organizations are involved in the Iranian Lobby?
Kaboli: In 2006, when Ahmadinejad stubbornly persisted with Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear program policy, a new lobbying group was launched in Europe and in the US. “Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran”. “CASMII” was founded by Abbas Edalat, a computer professor connected to the inner circle of the Iranian regime. Half of “CASMII's” board level founding members came from Trita Parsi's circle and NIAC. The other half came from the so-called Iranian left wing individuals with Anti-Imperialist tendencies
Daioleslam: Are there any Iranian-Americans present in these organizations?
Kaboli: Only a small number of Iranians joined this lobby. In fact, the lack of Iranian sympathizers in this lobby pushed them to work with other US groups such as the anti-war organizations. As mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of Iranians are naturally in favor of imposing pressure on the Iranian regime with regard to their contentious policies. I can justify this statement by the fact that Tehran’s regime has repeatedly admitted that the Iranian people living abroad, especially in the US, are enemies of the Islamic establishment. The Mullahs’ propaganda machine constantly hounds and condemns Persian people in the US. Particularly, those living in southern California and Los Angeles have been branded as counter-revolutionaries.
Daioleslam: What can the Iranian community do in this respect?
Kaboli: The Iranian community has a great potential and can play a significant role. See how much the Iranian regime's lobby is gaining by merely using the Iranian-American appellation. It shows that our community has a decisive role to play.
I should underline an important factor here. The American people and our community share the same threats to their long term interests by the Islamic Republic. This means that the US administration and those who want to offset the Iranian threat should consider the progressive Iranian community as a partner and an ally.
Just see how the Islamic Republic’s lobby has been able to absorb some interest groups in the US. See how this alliance has been successful.
Daioleslam: Which interest groups are assisting this lobby?
Kaboli: The Iranian regime’s lobby could not continue without the material support of the very powerful political circles in the US. These lobby groups have been receiving considerable amounts of financial aid from their American counter parts; those who put their commercial interests before the US interests, representing the businesses willing to have a market share in Iran. (Mainly the oil industry) Thanks to their American partners who paved the way for them, the Islamic Republic’s lobby managed to find their way into the US congress and created their lobbying foothold in Washington DC.
All started in 1997 when a vast lobbying activity was launched to lift the US sanctions off Iran. This lobby needed an "Iranian" presence; one that was able to paint a legitimate picture of their endeavors. As if the Iranians would support a rapprochement with a totalitarian regime.
This Iranian touch helped the formation of several smaller groups which later became the foundation for the Iranian regime's own lobby. Ironically, they managed to pretentiously magnify the presence of a very small number of Iranians within their lobby and maximize their gains by adopting the appropriate PR techniques. The point being that they were able to make good use of this small minority of Iranians.
If you consider the overwhelming majority of Iranians being against this lobby and refuting its campaigns, one would then realize how much could be achieved by mobilizing the bulk of the Iranian community against the lobbyists’ objectives.
The point is that in order to stand up to the threats posed by the Islamic Republic, very little success would be achieved without the participation of the opposition groups or the progressive members of the Iranian community in the USA.
Daioleslam: Why couldn’t the Iranian community get organized against this small lobbying minority?
Kaboli: Although the Iranian-American community has a substantial presence and has achieved a great deal of success in their everyday life in the United States, but unfortunately they have been unable to form a real and effective organization in line with their political aspirations and objectives; which is why PAIC has been formed in order to bridge this gap. There are many reasons for this failure. But I particularly point to one element. The very existence of the Iranian regime's lobby and its large scale campaign has had devastating ramifications on our community. They have enjoyed very powerful sources of support and have succeeded in portraying themselves as the representatives of the Iranian community. They have become the privileged interlocutors of the US media; they have managed to monopolize the political circles. To this end, they have stifled the rest of the Iranian community.
Daioleslam: How could you remedy this situation and how could you mobilize the Iranians?
Kaboli: The point is that we, the Iranians, are capable of achieving realistic goals. We can get together to voice our opinion. We can influence the US policy towards the Islamic regime. We should then focus on these achievable goals.
Let me give you an example. The House resolution 362 asking for tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime was shelved by the US Congress partly as a result of the efforts of the lobby groups. They made a concerted effort by canvassing the House representatives and lobbying other legislative bodies. A few thousand emails and letters proved to have a major impact.
We can mobilize the Iranian community in order to support such bills and make sure that they get through. This is feasible and we are determined to achieve this.
They falsify the opinion polls, misrepresent the Iranian status quo and deceive the Americans about the Iranian regime’s true intentions or the state of affairs in Iran. We have set out to encounter and challenge them.
For over 6 years the Iranian regime's lobby has been publicizing false presumptions that the Iranian people support regime's nuclear policy. We will show how the Mullahs have imposed a strict censorship over the country’s media in order to blackout the majority’s dissenting voice while at the same time, making use of their propaganda machines overseas to spread a mendacious popular support for their imperial dreams.
There are lots of tasks ahead of us. We need help in order to reveal the truth about the current situation. The huge potential within the collective progressive Iranian community and the opposition groups has been overlooked for a long period. Collectively, we can defuse Iranian regime’s ambitions and expose their lobbyist activities which in turn would ultimately benefit the interests of the people of the United States. One of our goals in PAIC is to form alliance with other groups which share the same concerns as ours; we could then consolidate our efforts to achieve the mutual strategic interests of the Iranians as well as those of the American people’s.
Daioleslam: What has been the Iranian community's reaction to your appeal?
Kaboli: So far, the response has exceeded our expectations. This is encouraging and once again proves that the formation of PAIC is the appropriate catalyst to bridge over the long awaited gap between the Iranian-American community and the US politics. We are now getting organized and look forward to marking our presence within the US political arena very soon.