Why PAAIA is Effective


Why PAAIA is Effective

On June 2, 2012, Iranian.com posted a blog entitled “The Problem with PAAIA,” signed by Kabriat (a pseudonym). Unfortunately, the blog is rife with misinformation and factual inaccuracies. While it is not PAAIA’s policy to respond to every blog or attack piece – especially ones made by individuals posting anonymously - we welcome the opportunity to correct the record so that readers may make their own informed and independent assessment as to whether PAAIA has been effective in fulfilling its mission. The author’s criticism of PAAIA is threefold: (i) PAAIA is ineffective because it does not take positions on U.S. foreign policy towards Iran; (ii) PAAIA fosters division within the community; and (iii) PAAIA discourages civic participation.

Since its inception, PAAIA has declined to take positions on foreign policy. Instead, our goal has been and continues to be to educate Iranian Americans, policy and lawmakers, and the general public about the views of our community in an unbiased and reasoned manner. We do so by providing accurate and balanced information without resorting to scorching op-eds or shrill political tirades. Though there are a number of Iranian American organizations that represent particular constituencies and views in regards to U.S.-Iran relations, and many more that provide much needed social service, legal, or philanthropic services, PAAIA provides a unique service by offering objective and reliable information about a wide array of issues impacting our community.

PAAIA’s four annual scientific polls, conducted by Zogby Research Services, and, ironically, quoted in the article to support the author’s views, have been presented to the U.S. Congress, the White House, and the State Department. They have been quoted in state resolutions, opinion pieces and newspaper articles, and various panel presentations. The 2011 Survey results show that, while Iranian Americans want to see a democratic Iran that respects human rights, they differ on how the foregoing aspirations can be achieved (38% believe in diplomacy and establishing diplomatic relations while 32% believe in regime change). Such results support PAAIA’s position that the foreign policy considerations in relation to Iran are not only complex, but are also divisive within the Iranian American community, thus validating the importance of providing unbiased information.

In addition, PAAIA’s biannual Congressional Scorecards educate Iranian Americans about members of Congress and their positions on specific issues as well as about policy developments of interest. Similarly, PAAIA has proactively brought issues of interest to the Iranian American community before the U.S. Congress and the Administration, including initiating discussions with, helping draft, and building bipartisan support for the Nowruz Resolution, which passed both chambers of Congress in March 2010 with over 70 co-sponsors. Also, following an effort by several of its Board members and Trustees with direct access to influential members of Congress and the Administration, PAAIA was proud to see the fruits of its direct appeal complement community efforts and bring change to the visa policy for Iranian students announced by the Obama Administration in May of 2011.

Furthermore, PAAIA’s Public Policy Center, launched in April 2012, aggregates and provides information on the needs and beliefs of our community in a balanced manner through a variety of modalities. The Center has quickly become a reliable source of credible information regarding our community for policy and lawmakers.

The author’s second point of contention is that PAAIA fosters divisions within our community. We are proud of the diversity of our organization, our Trustees, board of directors and employees. As an organization that values a democratic process, we ensure that our stakeholders can and are able to exercise their first amendment right to free speech without being censored by PAAIA. In contrast to the author who demands transparency yet hides behind a mask of anonymity, we cherish transparency. We also deliberate before making organizational decisions while ensuring that, unlike some other organizations, one voice does not drown all others. We proudly stand by these decisions and the fact that our very diverse, well-educated, and established stakeholders stand up and exercise their right to free speech within their personal lives.

We are similarly proud of our signature program, Passing the Torch of Success (PTT), which, contrary to the author’s assertions of being self-promoting events, is used as opportunities to educate, empower, and inspire the younger generation. Though guests have included some of PAAIA’s board members and donors, they have included, in large proportion, Iranian Americans from all walks of life with distinguished careers, including Dr. Pardis Sabeti, Assistant Professor at Harvard University, world-renowned pianist, Tara Kamangar, well-known author, Firouzeh Dumas, Dr. Nariman Farvardin, President of Stevens Institute of Technology, Ramin Asgard, most tenured foreign service officer in the State Department, Mahvash Yazdi, Chief Information Officer at Edison International, physicians and philanthropists Dr. Vishtab Broumand and Dr. Sean Dadmanesh, and proudly, Faryar Shirzad, who prior to joining Goldman Sachs, had completed a long and distinguished career in public service, serving at the White House and the U.S. Congress. Moreover, many PTT Speakers serve as mentors under the PAAIA Mentorship Program. One of PAAIA’s core tenets is to invest in the new generation by capitalizing on our top assets, our community, and professional leaders. To date, the mentorship program has benefitted over 70 individuals who have participated in our program.

The author’s final criticism is that PAAIA does not participate in civic activities. To the contrary, PAAIA has been extremely active and successful in the area of civic participation. IAPAC, PAAIA’s connected Political Action Committee, has not only supported 25 Iranian Americans, such as Congressional candidates Milad Pooran and Goli Ameri, as well as the Mayor of Beverly Hills, Jimmy Delshad, Cyrus Habib (candidate for Washington State legislature), and City Council Members Farrah Douglas (Carlsbad, CA) and Amir Omar (Richardson, TX), but has also helped raise additional funds for them by encouraging community members to donate to their campaigns. PAAIA’s CHIP Program is focused on serving young Iranian American college students/recent graduates who seek to increase their professional experiences in the legislative and political arena. Additionally, in collaboration with other community organizations, PAAIA has held numerous town hall/panels on various issues of interest to community, allowing Iranian Americans to directly interact with government officials and policy experts, including OFAC Update: Iran Sanctions; Outreach Events with State Department; and Panels on U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Iran are only a few of these events.

PAAIA is an organization built through the generosity of its well-established Iranian American Trustees - individuals who believe in strengthening our community, our voice, and our image, inspiring our youth, and giving back to America as it has given to us. It is a dream most likely shared by a preponderance of Iranian Americans. Because of the active support of our Trustees, members, and staff, PAAIA has become the credible, balanced and reasoned voice of the Iranian American community in the United States. We accept this distinction with pride, accept the inevitable unfounded criticisms, and are honored to be able to, in a small way, bring the Iranian American community further into the tapestry of American social and political life.


more from PAAIA


by Kabriat on

A fuller response can be found here: //iranian.com/main/blog/kabriat/response-paaia-how-paaia-fails-meet-its-mandate.  Admittedly, the formatting is a mess for some reason.


Some clarification

by Kabriat on

Not affiliated with any organization.  NIAC is criticized enough, I don't need to join that rank of critics.  I have my opinions about PAAIA based on what I've seen (and my response to their comments are forthcoming).  As to my anonymity, I maintain it to prevent acts of reprisals and personal attacks and to focus on the issues. Like I note below, I accept any criticisms about me using a psuedonuym.  I just thought it was hypocritical to be attacked for using one by someone - who at the time - was also doing the same.

On a side note, I doubt the above was exclusively written by Saghi Modjtabai without participation from others who go without recognition.  But I will operate by taking her for her word that she is the sole author of PAAIA's response.


now, "kabriat" joon: What's your real name?

by mousa67 on

& which organisation do you represent? & why are you so pi$$ed off with paaia to join this site only to attack them? 


hamsade ghadimi

i wonder why a loyal niac

by hamsade ghadimi on

i wonder why a loyal niac supporter is attacking another iranian american organization.  it's not like taking sides in a soccer match (esteghlal vs. perspolis).  at any rate, niac supporters are not keen on taking criticism of their organization and always advise "if you don't like niac, start your own organization." then this is how they react to other organizations.  the same niac supporters didn't have much nice things to say about rudi bakhtiar who used to be the spokeperson for paaia. why is that?

waiting for the good cop niaci to show up and give paaia kudos (e.g. "dorood bar shoma," or "hambastegi is the only way.").  and not holding my breath for the bad cop niaci to reciprocate and reveal his name.


Name of the Author

by PAAIA on

PAAIA is proud to stand by our response. The name of the author, Saghi Modjtabai, Executive Director of PAAIA, was inadvertently left out.

Esfand Aashena

NIAC vs PAAIA = Taj vs Perspolis = Esteghlal vs Piroozi!

by Esfand Aashena on

Everything is sacred


Quick comment

by Kabriat on

I am preparing a brief response to this "response" for publication tomorrow.  A few brief comments.  Attacking a user for using a pseudonym is fine.  But doing so while employing the organization's cloak and hiding the actual identity of the author is hypocritical.  If you're going to attack me for my use of an anonymous name, then reveal your own.  As to the substantive nature of your remarks, my response will note that your "response" fails to address the issues actually raised in my original piece.  It deflects my criticisms by trying to recharacterize them into something else.  The use of implicit attacks against other organizations in your "response" (which are transparent) also supports my underlying thesis about PAAIA creating divisions.

Again, these will all be detailed in my follow-up to your comment.

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

I am a PAAIA fan. I am a fan of any organization that does community work. Things can improve but their existence alone is always positive and appreciated.