A group of more than 300 prominent Iranian Americans are petitioning the Biden administration to publicly support dissident efforts to overthrow the Islamic Republic’s hardline clerical government.
As the Biden administration seeks direct talks with Iran’s mullahs in pursuit of a revamped nuclear agreement, the group of Iranian Americans—including scholars, professors, physicians, and industry executives—is warning the White House against unwinding economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy and sparked widespread anti-government protests.
"In the last 4 years, hunger, poverty, and dire economic conditions have been the initial trigger of the uprisings, but people’s demands quickly evolved to regime change. Their call is loud and clear, and cannot be ignored," the leaders write, according to a copy of the letter sent on Wednesday to the White House and first obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "Furthermore, no sanctions relief or concessions should be provided to the Iranian regime, unless that regime verifiably ends its human rights abuses in Iran and terrorism abroad, and abandons its destructive support for proxies in the region."
The letter, organized by the Iranian Professionals’ Ad Hoc Committee on Iran Policy, comes as U.S., European, and Iranian diplomats meet in Vienna in hopes of laying the groundwork for the United States to reenter the 2015 nuclear accord. Former president Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018, citing Iran’s non-compliance.
The Biden administration has already committed to unwinding tough economic sanctions on Iran before it ceases its increased nuclear work, which includes enriching uranium to levels needed to power an atomic weapon. These advance concessions have riled the majority of congressional Republicans and even some Democratic foreign policy leaders, who warned the administration last month against granting sanctions relief before Iran takes concrete steps to move back into compliance with the original accord.
Iranian leaders continue to demand the United States remove all sanctions before it agrees to reduce its nuclear weapons work. Iran’s stockpiles of 20-percent enriched uranium, a threshold widely seen as the final step to powering a weapon, has grown steadily in recent months, the country announced on Wednesday.
The Iranian Americans, many of whom have family still living in Iran, implore the Biden administration to not repeat the same mistakes as prior administrations, which they say wrongly believed that a moderate faction of Iranian political leaders could be emboldened to bring the Islamic Republic closer to the West. This belief, which was primarily championed by the Obama administration, is a myth, they say.
"At the heart of past policy miscalculations has been the fable that there is a ‘moderate’ faction inside the regime that can be eventually empowered," the group writes. "After trying for years to find such an elusive faction, the world has realized that the Iranian regime in its totality is an unchangeable dictatorship that cannot give birth to a less repressive government. Policies based on this myth of ‘moderation’ are bound for grave failures."
The Iranian Americans are asking the administration to pursue policies that embolden the Iranian people and not the ruling regime. A policy that sides "with the Iranian people and their legitimate desire for a free, secular and democratic Iran … will end Iranian regime’s malign and dangerous expansion of its terrorism in the world," they write.
Kazem Kazerounian, professor and dean of engineering at the University of Connecticut and one of the letter’s organizers, said that many of those who backed the letter are in close contact with family and friends in Iran, many of whom have been targeted by the ruling regime.
"Vienna is an ironic reminder for Iranian Americans," Kazerounian said. "Many of the co-signers of the letter were the would-be targets of a terror plot by the Iranian regime in June 2018 near Paris, for which a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested, tried, convicted of terrorism, and sentenced to 20 years by a Belgian court in February 2021."