Hopes & concerns

Several questions and concerns must be put to rest for PAAIA to live up to its full potential


Hopes & concerns
by Soudabeh Bashirrad

The founding of PAAIA, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian-Americans in Washington, DC, is in many ways a milestone for the Iranian-American community. Seldom have Iranian-Americans of such diverse backgrounds come together and invested in an organization. For that alone, the organization should be applauded.

Yet, in many ways, PAAIA has also been a major disappointment. Its less than open nature, its unwillingness to clarify its positions and reluctance to shed light on its decision making processes have left many potential Iranian-American supporters like myself skeptical.

I very much support the stated objective of PAAIA to make Iranian-Americans more influential, but before I make a donation, I would appreciate answers to a few of my questions. Since no answers were provided at the PAAIA presentation in Houston last November, and since my other inquiries with the PAAIA headquarters have been ignored, I thought that I could turn to the blogosphere for wisdom. [PAAIA's replies]

What is PAAIA’s relationship with John Bolton?

One of PAAIA’s great strengths is the political diversity of its leadership. I was personally very impressed to hear PAAIA’s founder, Goli Ameri, a Bush Republican who supports the Patriot Act and raises money for John McCain, had managed to enlist the support of left-wingers such as Kamran Elahian and individuals believed to be sympathetic to the Islamic Republic.

But as you get a group with mixed political backgrounds, it makes it all the more important to be transparent about the organizations political stances – and the processes through which those positions are determined. Clarity about PAAIA’s relationship to the political agendas of these individuals is also needed.

For instance, at the founding meeting of PAAIA in New York in late 2006, Goli Ameri invited John “Lets Bomb Iran” Bolton to be the keynote speaker. Delivering Bolton was an impressive display of Ameri’s connections within the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. But what did it say or not say about PAAIA’s political orientation? There was nothing wrong having Bolton deliver the address at the event, but not clarifying the nature of PAAIA’s relationship with Bolton, however, is problematic.

Does PAAIA support Bolton’s view on bombing Iran? If not, why was he invited to be the speaker? Since his function in the Bush Administration was limited to foreign policy, it is hard to imagine what else he would have spoken about. Does Bolton play any role in PAAIA’s decision-making? Why hasn’t PAAIA spoken openly about this issue and put the concerns of people like myself to rest?

What is PAAIA’s relationship with Goli Ameri and the Bush Administration?

PAAIA is the brainchild of the Goli Ameri, one of the Iranian-American community’s most prominent political personalities. Though she failed to win a Congressional seat in 2004, she has gone farther in US politics than any other Iranian-American. She currently serves in the Bush Administration as Under-Secretary of Public Policy. Her job is to defend the Bush Administration’s foreign policy.

Ameri is no longer formally involved in PAAIA. But her husband Jamshid Ameri serves as the President of the organization. Mindful of these family ties to the Bush Administration, what is PAAIA’s political relationship with the Bush Administration? Can PAAIA take an independent position and even push back against the Administration if it acts against the interest of Iranian-Americans? Or do the family ties prevent PAAIA to fully represent the views of the community in a hypothetical confrontation with the Administration.

Does PAAIA serve the community, or does PAAIA serve PAAIA?

A second strength of PAAIA is that many of its leaders are significant political personalities. While PAAIA has John Bolton and Goli Ameri on the right, it also has Hassan Namazee on the left. But again, the impact of these individuals on the organization is unclear, as are questions of how PAAIA would resolve any potential conflict of interest that could arise.

Take Hillary Clinton’s “obliterate Iran” comments, for instance. Clearly, our community was up in arms. Clinton – who had received tens and thousands of dollars from the Iranian American Political Action Committee, which just merged with PAAIA – completely disrespected the Iranian-American community with her statement.

But from PAAIA, there was silence. The “powerful” lobby did not even issue a statement. Could this be because Hassan Namazee of PAAIA also was the national co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign? Or that Vali Nasr of the PAAIA Board was a foreign policy advisor to Clinton?

This was a clear case of a conflict of interest. Namazee and Nasr’s interest was to remain quiet and ignore Clinton’s insults. The community’s interest, however, was to speak up and take a stance. Rather than respecting the interest of the community, PAAIA apparently followed the personal interest of one of its board members and one of its key donors.

This may have been a mistake, but PAAIA must clarify how it will handle issues of this nature in the future. No sane Iranian-American will give money to an organization that puts the personal interest of some of its key donors ahead of the interest of the community at large.

Congratulations on criticizing McCain – but is it enough?

PAAIA should be congratulated for having spoken out against McCain’s joke about killing Iranians with cigarettes. What PAAIA didn’t do on Clinton, they sort of did on McCain. This is definitely a step in the right direction – at least if it indicates a new direction at PAAIA.

However, the question is if this is enough. PAAIA’s founder is after all a member of McCain’s fundraising committee. And the Arizona Senator’s statement was not an isolated incident. He has said similar things in the past and his campaign even put up a website called “10 Funniest Ways of Killing Iranians.” And all his statements fit very neatly into a neoconservative policy on Iran that eventually would turn the jokes into an action plan. Why doesn’t PAAIA use Ameri’s connections to McCain to push not just for a clarification of these despicable statements, but a full apology and a change to his policies and outlook that gave birth to these statements in the first place? PAAIA should not be an organization that settles for breadcrumbs for the Iranian-American community. If McCain refuses to apologize, will Ameri resign from his fundraising committee to show her and PAAIA’s loyalty to the community?

What is PAAIA’s relationship with the Islamic Republic?

The major strength of PAAIA can also be its greatest weakness. The diversity of its leadership has created – in the absence of clear policy outlines that demonstrate the organization’s independence from the personal political agendas of its key individuals – significant concern. Rather than being tilted in a specific political direction, PAAIA has thus far shown a greater inclination of either being drawn in many contradictory directions or simply being paralyzed.

While there is no shortage of neoconservative leaning individuals in PAAIA’s leadership – including Hooshang Ansary, a close friend of Vice President Dick Cheney and a contributor of over $2million to PAAIA – there are also individuals believed to be aligned with the views of the Islamic Republic.

Babak Hoghooghi, Executive Director of PAAIA, has a long history of activism in favor of the Islamic Republic’s agenda, dating back to his years at the Iranian American Bar Association and its efforts against US sanctions. A regular at events organized by the Iranian interest section in DC and the Iranian UN mission in New York, Hoghooghi is in many circles associated with the more regime-friendly elements of our community.

Hoghooghi’s personal views on the Islamic Republic may be his and his alone. But a clarification of these issues would certainly help alleviate concerns by those – including myself – who on the one hand doesn’t want anything to do with the Islamic Republic, but on the other hand is pragmatic enough not to judge an organization on the basis of the views of one or some of its members.

What is PAAIA’s position on the Patriot Act?

Beyond foreign policy, one of the most important issues for our community is discrimination and civil rights. Some say that there is wide agreement in our community on these issues, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Take Goli Ameri for instance. In her 2004 Congressional campaign, she repeatedly defended the Patriot Act and dismissed criticism from our community against it. At a PAAIA event, her husband Jamshid Ameri continued to defend the Patriot Act. Is that an official PAAIA position or is it again the rather worrisome confusion between the agenda of the organization and the personal agenda of some of its leading members?

Can PAAIA show more transparency in regards to its funders?

Sources of funding are always a relevant question. Organizations that raise a lot of money from a small group of individuals – which is the case with PAAIA – will always be in a weaker position to resist pressure from wealthy donors. In Houston, for instance, it became clear that Hooshang Ansary had donated more than $2million to the organization. His daughter – a trustee of the organization – has donated an additional $250,000. This is not spare change and in fact a considerable portion of PAAIA total budget. Will PAAIA put in place mechanisms to ensure that the organization won’t become an elite group in which a few wealthy donors call all the shots? Will I as a potential $75 member have any say at all?

Last but not least – does PAAIA support war with Iran?

This may not be an easy issue for PAAIA. With Tehran sympathizers like Hoghooghi and Akbar Ghahary – who hosted a goodbye party for Tehran’s UN ambassador Javad Zarif at his home in New Jersey last year according to Mirasse Iran – on the one hand, and Bush Republicans like Ameri and Niaz Kasravi – who up until recently worked for an organization receiving money from the State Departments infamous $75million regime change fund – finding some common ground may be impossible. But this is at the same time the most important issue on the minds of Iranian-Americans. For a self-proclaimed lobby for the community to avoid active involvement in this issue does not give me confidence in its competence, moral compass or dedication to the wishes of the community. Will PAAIA use its resources to stop a war before it’s too late?

To sum up, the creation of PAAIA is a positive step. But several questions and concerns must be put to rest for PAAIA to live up to its full potential. I hope these questions will grab the attention of its leaders and compel them to engage in a dialogue with the community they intend to represent. [See reply from PAAIA]

Soudabeh Bashirrad is a businesswoman in Texas. Her husband was a supporter of Goli Ameri’s unsuccessful capmpaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004.


arash Irandoost

Now Compare Karim S. with Babak Telbi on NIAC and PAAIA

by arash Irandoost on

Iranians supporting Bolton??? by Karim S (Trita Parsi of NIAC)  

You had me on question 1 - if this is a group that invited Bolton to their first meeting, then I have no interest in them and will do all in my power to make sure they do not succeed in bombing Iran. Full stop

arash Irandoost

How Strange? Karim S.: Iranians supporting Bolton???

by arash Irandoost on

Fully aware that Karim S. is Trita Parsi in disguise (add Ramin J and MM all IP addresses sahe the same IP address lead to Trita Parsi)-Is NIAC declaring war on PAAIA or is this anothe Trita ploy to divide, confuse and conquer?


true exposures

by merlin on

he is a long time friend and business partner of director niaz kasravi
who has been as the article states just a lackey for elements of the
government that would profit off of further war with iran (a war that
has been happening for a long time) and the further subjugation of the
people. she even works for the NAACP which is a zionist organization and
they both make a living off exploiting the iranian community. they
simply want you to stop thinking so much and just hand it over. but,
maybe you shouldnt mind the details, tehran is so genuine and special.
half black, remember?


what tehran is trying to say is...

by merlin on

he is a long time friend and business partner of director niaz kasravi who has been as the article states just a lackey for elements of the government that would profit off of further war with iran (a war that has been happening for a long time) and the further subjugation of the people. she even works for the NAACP which is a zionist organization and they both make a living off exploiting the iranian community. they simply want you to stop thinking so much and just hand it over. but, maybe you shouldnt mind the details, tehran is so genuine and special. half black, remember?


True Hopes & Concerns


First I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Tehran.  I am half-iranian and half-black american, making me what I believe to be as true an Iranian American as possible.  I was born here in the United States, yet I have never let go of my rich persian cultural heritage. (YES Tehran is my real name.)

I am not new to Iranian.com, but before this article about PAAIA I have never felt so compelled to voice my opinion.  I would like to show my support of Iranian.com for creating a forum in which I am able to do so.

As a part of the "new" generation of Iranian-Americans(IA), it is in my best self-interest that an organization was created that focuses on (IA) concerns, rather than those of the American politics towards and the on-goings of Iran itself.  I was very interested in learning more about PAAIA and attended their "launch" meeting in Washington D.C.  I was very impressed with their sincerity, their goals, and their commitment to all Iranians in the United States.  Their spokesperson was the very charasmatic Rudi Bakhtiar. Community Relations Director Dr. Niaz Kasravi was extremely convincing of the true plight of Iranians in the U.S. The Executive Director Babak Hoghooghi gave a very well thought out presentation regarding the plans, goals, and interests of PAAIA.  They promised to work on Iranian American community building, image building, and political influence.  The most important part is that I believe them.  

What I do not believe is that the first article I read in response to such a positive solution to such a negative problem, was such a negative reaction. One that seems to be based on speculation and accusation backed with irrelevant facts.  Every paragraph attacked everyone from PAAIA.  Too much this and too little that... My first question is then WHO is qualified to run this organization?  My politically nuetral grandmother has no interest whatsoever.  

I read a lot of PAAIA member bashing and hating on Goli Ameri.  I dont know who Goli Ameri is, but if she came up with the idea for PAAIA then "khoda beyamorzatesh" cause it is a GREAT idea. (Something I learned from my Iranian father.)

In conclusion I feel that if you are not part of the SOLUTION than you are a part of the PROBLEM. (Something I learned from my American mother.)

Being part of a minority of a minority of a minority, I think I have experience enough to say, what we need as a people is less criticism and more activism.  Less division and more unity.  Less working apart and whole lot more working together.  Less false concerns and more believable hopes.  

My advice to Ms. Soudabeh Bashirrad is this: Join PAAIA yourself the way I did and be the change that you wish to see, yourself.  Help shape the future rather than criticize the past.  Just a thought =) 

Thank you.




Jahanshah Javid

PAAIA's reply

by Jahanshah Javid on


The Spider Web

by MaziM (not verified) on

I read Mrs. Bashirrad's comments with great interest. I do agree that an organization should make its mission clear and its action should be consistant with it mission. However, I am troubled by Mrs. Bashirrad side notes and associations based on facts!!! This feeds into a very negative and conspiratory mentality that does not accomplish anything.
If we agree with her thought process, she is also a neoconservative that agrees with attaching and killing Iranians. This is due to the fact that her Husband supported Mrs. Goli Ameri (by her own admission). Mrs. Ameri supports Mr. Bolton whom states "Lets Bomb Iran". So by her own assumptions and conclusions, she is a neoconservative supporter of Mr. Bolton (from a secondary relationship), Senator McCain (from party stand) and others who have been so out of line. I wonder what her agenda is and if she is agent of Mojahedin against IRI (a thought based on nothing but provactive).
It is so easy to come up with these conclusions, but is it useful?? I leave that to the readers.


McCain clarification

by patrickdisney on

Just to clarify, Soudabeh, the website you referenced from John McCain's campaign was a hoax.  Andy Borowitz, a humorist, wrote a satirical article for the Huffington Post and cited that website, but it was completely made up. 

That being said, part of what made it such a great parody was just how believable it really was, given Sen. McCain's statements about Iran.  I know a bunch of people who never evened questioned whether McCain would actually say such a thing.  This is pretty significant, given that he wants to be elected President of the United States.   Check out NIAC's blog post on the subject: McCain camp should be wary of Huffington Post hoax. 

Babak Talebi

PAAIA and NIAC clarification

by Babak Talebi on


I was forwarded this link and am appreciative of the high level of discourse on Iranian.com overall. I did want to make a few clarifications since NIAC's name seems to have arisen.

First - NIAC welcomes the creation and launch of PAAIA as a 501c4 organization. Our community needs more organizations representing the many different aspects of our interests in DC and the many different viewpoints that exist. We need more organizations not less.

Second - NIAC is not a lobbying group as PAAIA is. NIAC is a 501c3 education organization which does advocacy work on behalf of policy perspectives and educates lawmakers about the views of our membership and the broader Iranian-American community. PAAIA is a 501c4 organization that can explicitly lobby and endorse candidates. IAPAC (which has been folded into PAAIA) is a political action committee (PAC) which can not engage in advocacy but can give money and direct donations to endorsed canddiates.

Third - NIAC is thus far in agreement with the positions that PAAIA has taken both in regards to Senator McCain's "killing Iranians" comment and in regards to the intent to open an interest-section in Tehran. We hope that the two organizations will continue to work towards similar goals on behalf of the community and look forward to future contributions that PAAIA will make to the policy dicisions tht will affect Iranian Americans.


Lastly - I want to suggest that we all judge these various organizations by the actions they take and by the value, effect, and track-record of their projects and programs.

NIAC is hopeful that PAAIA will also be an effective organization in advocating for Iranian-American interests and we look forward to celebrating their future successes on behalf of the community as a whole.



Babak Talebi

Director of Community Relations, NIAC


"Promoting Iranian-American Participation in American Civic Life"


gaga googoo

by forgive me but... (not verified) on

What naive babies you all are who even give these lobby groups benefit of the doubt. I always took pride in the suspicious sophistication of Iranians. Now Mama Amrika seems to have worked its infantalization magic on us too. Go buy some jeghjegheh to cheer PAAIA and NIAC on.



by Shamse Vazir (not verified) on

Actually PAAIA is not the first Iranian lobby, there is NIAC. I am still not sure what PAAIA stands for, so I guess need to do more research. My initial reaction towards Goli is not that positive but I am willing to wait and see.

Also, a point regarding Bolton. I oppose bombing of Iran period. But inviting Bolton does not have to mean agreeing with him. As inviting Ahmadinejad did not mean Columbia U agreed with him.



by Ferdos (not verified) on

I was at the event. I neither support nor endorse them at this time. However, if a group of Iranian Americans start anything, this time PAAIA why do Iranian Americans or Iranians in general do no lend their support to them instead of bashing them. Isn't this mistrust and slander which is engrained in our political and social culture a disease? Instead of lending a hand or just keepig quiet, we immediately embark on crticizing and destroying something that has not even begun its work. Give it some time and then bash them. Or Don't bash them, go and create your own org and do some good work. How can a group of people whom I know some personally be already either agents of neo-cons or agents of the IR at the same time?!!

Why not learn from other communities and other groups which represent their communities in the US?
They work together, they create something, they don't destroy. but hey that is the Iranian way with its boasting of 3000 years of civilization.

throughout the years, I have been witness to this sick slander all the time. There is something called constructive criticims and responsilbe words. Iranians do not use it, at least many of them.

The mistrust and slander is engrained in our glorious culture which we brag about all the time.
Learn something good and do some good deeds. Why do you slander PAAIA or others beforehand. Give them some time and let them prove themselves.

I remember an event IAPAC organized a few years ago. Shirin Ebadi was supposed to speak, they told her so many things that she decided at the last minute not to attend. It was shameful because it was a good event which raised money to do good for the community. There were protestors outside saying this is a lobby for the IR. Others said, they support the Republican agenda and are also neo-cons.

Shame and ten times shame on a few in this great Iranian American community who do nothing but make ugly comments on websites to discredit people who try to do good.

I wrote an article on Human Rights abuses in Iran, immediately they said, I want Iran to be bombed!

Others said, she must an agent because she went to Iran and nothing happened to her.
Which one is it?

I, myself am getting sick of seeing people who instead of empowering others and organizations embark on destroying them. When are we going to stop?

STOP and do some good deeds or just don't do anything but also sit and witness. If you have proof, present it. Otherwise, just keep quiet.



by Go PAAIA (not verified) on

PAAIA is the first Iranian lobby - in that IAPAC is a pac.

Be supportive. Their launch in Washington DC was very positive and convinced me of their bi-partisan position. Hence the diversity of folk your piece outlines.

One of their priorities that I'm fully supportive of is a re-vamping of the image of Iranian-Americans, on 2 fronts:
- The community's achievements
- The community's cultural heritage.

I suggest switching your mind outside of the realm of politics and having some faith.
Let's put aside "silliness" and embrace PAAIA.


Lies lies lies

by Vali (not verified) on

I was at PAAIA's DC presentation. It was flashy, I'll give them that. But it felt dishonest. As if they were hiding something. They emphasized over and over again that they would not do foreign policy.

Only one day later though - lo and behold - they came out with a long statement in favor of setting up a US interests section in Iran.

I guess that is a domestic policy issue. Or perhaps they don't know the difference between foreign policy and domestic policy?

Or perhaps they are just disingenuous?

They aren't getting my membership fee, that is for certain.


Not impressed with them

by Shamse Vazir (not verified) on

What is the point of this organization anyway? I read a ton of reason why not to support them but not one that would actually make me want to support them. Thanks for the information anyway at least I know what not to support. Just one's ethnicity is not enough to support someone. Remamber Salman Farsi was also an Iranain but he sold the Sassanians out to the Arabs and that is when all the trouble started ...


Thank You!

by PedramMoallemian on

Ms. Bashirrad;

I guess your husband would support Ahmadinejad or Khamenei if they were running too. I believe I was one of the first Iranians ever to run for a high-profile office (Canadian Parliament, 1997) but even then I discouraged this mentality of supporting anyone based on their place of birth alone. We need to ask questions, investigate their previous positions and require specific committments of anyone wishing to get our support in the future.

Thanks for asking some legitimate and honest questions. Let's see if PAAIA responds.

Pedram Moallemian, Los Angeles



by Soudabeh (not verified) on

It wasn't I who supported, Goli, it was my husband. I have been skeptical from the get-go. I have always found her to be more serious about getting to power than to actually follow any specific ideals. And the extent to which she has ideals, they tend to be far more to the right than she admits privately. To some she says she opposes war with Iran, to others she has said she supports bombing Iran. I think the bombing option is closer to her heart, but that is just my sense.

My husband doesn't disagree, he just wanted to help an Iranian get elected. To me, that wasn't enough. When she invited Bolton to the first PAAIA meeting, any doubt in my mind was removed.


Iranians supporting Bolton???

by Karim S (not verified) on

You had me on question 1 - if this is a group that invited Bolton to their first meeting, then I have no interest in them and will do all in my power to make sure they do not succeed in bombing Iran. Full stop



by Jalili (not verified) on

I'm curious about you. Why did you support Goli Ameri when you knew she was close to these pro war neocons?