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On February 19, 2014, the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council held a panel discussion on the pros and cons of opening a U.S. Interests Section in Tehran staffed by American diplomats. The discussion surrounded the release of a new report published by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and written by the Atlantic Council's Iran Task Force member Ramin Asgard, titled "Re-establishing a U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Iran: Advancing U.S. National Security and Serving American Citizens."

The idea of establishing an American-staffed Interests Section in Iran was first considered by the George W. Bush administration and had the support of then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. An interests section would be responsible for protecting America's interests in Iran. It would not, however, be equivalent to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with Iran.

The panel discussion included author Ramin Asgard, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former political advisor at U.S. Central Command, Ambassador John Limbert, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran and former U.S. hostage in Tehran, and Morad Ghorban, PAAIA's Director of Government Affairs and Policy. The discussion was moderated by Barbara Slavin, Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

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On June 27, 2013, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force launched a new issue brief by Ramin Asgard and Barbara Slavin entitled “US-Iran Cultural Engagement: A Cost Effective Boon to US National Security,” along with a public briefing on people-to-people exchanges with Iran.

The briefing showed that while US policy toward Iran has understandably focused on the nuclear question, the history of US cultural diplomacy suggests that programs promoting the good will of the Iranian people can help moderate Iranian government policies over the long term and foster research that is of mutual benefit.

Speaking at the briefing was Ramin Asgard, an independent expert on Iran and a former US Foreign Service Officer, Glenn E. Schweitzer, the Director of the Office for Central Europe and Eurasia of the National Academies in Washington, and Morad Ghorban, PAAIA’s Director of Government Affairs & Policy.

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PAAIA Public Policy Panel on Access to Information and Media Restriction in Iran Held on Capitol Hill

On June 26, 2012, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), in conjunction with Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Congressman Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) held a panel at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill entitled "Behind the Electronic Curtain: Perspectives on Internet Restrictions and Access to Media in Iran."  PAAIA’s Executive Director Saghi Mojtabai made the opening remarks to a packed audience of Congressional staff members from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ms. Mojtabai highlighted PAAIA’s initiatives under the newly established Public Policy Center, emphasizing the Center’s goal of providing “balanced and objective information about policy issues that have an impact on the Iranian American community and relevant to policy makers.”

The panelists included cultural diplomacy expert and former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador Cynthia Schneider; State Department diplomat Ramin Asgard;, and senior policy advisor to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ),  Jodi Herman. Ambassador Schneider is currently a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University and fellow at the Brookings Institute.  Ramin Asgard currently serves as Director of Partnerships and Strategic Communication at the Conflict Stabilization and Operations Bureau at the State Department. Jodi Herman is the senior policy advisor to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on trade and foreign policy.  The event was moderated by PAAIA’s Director of Research and Analysis, Amir Bagherpour.  

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On January 28th, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) held a congressional briefing to present the findings of its 2009 National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans. The poll, conducted by Zogby International, explored the attitudes and views of Iranian Americans relating to recent developments in Iran following the disputed presidential elections held in June. The briefing, which was aimed at educating congressional staffers, was attended by individuals representing congressional offices, nongovernmental organizations, and the U.S. State Department.

Following opening remarks and a presentation of the poll results by PAAIA’s Executive Director, Mahasti Afshar, a panel of Iran experts was on hand to discuss the implications such results could have on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. The panelists included: Geneive Abdo , The Century Foundation; Patrick Clawson , the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service; and Alireza Nader, RAND Corporation.

“What we see here in these poll results echoing the mood of policy makers is a real renewed interest in domestic Iranian politics,” stated Clawson, who also underscored the Iranian American community’s surging focus on human rights. “The poll shows broad support in the Iranian American community for taking a strong stance in defense of human rights in Iran, and there is broad support in the international community.”

Panelist Alireza Nader affirmed that while there seemed to be consensus on some issues, “the survey really reflects divisions, not just within the U.S. policy community, but also within the Iranian American community.” Nader’s remarks highlighted the fact that according to the poll, there was a division among Iranian Americans as to whether regime change (42%) or diplomatic negotiations (50%) would be the best action for the United States in dealing with Iran. These divisions seemed to be apparent in Congress as well. “A lot of members of congress are wrestling in their own mind, what do I do? There is a lot of soul searching in the U.S. Congress right now,” stated Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service.

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