Washington, D.C. [July 29, 2013] The West Asia Council applauds the Obama Administration for hosting its second roundtable with Iranian-American community leaders, and for announcing its ongoing outreach plans towards this key member of American society.

The five-hour roundtable was organized by the White House Office of Public Engagement on Friday, July 26, 2013 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is an integral part of the White House compound.

Roundtable speakers included Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications and Speech writing; Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of Treasury; Esther Olavarria, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Homeland Security and National Security Staff; Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation; and Douglas Rand, Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

These administration officials engaged the three-dozen participants in an in-depth discussion of numerous domestic and foreign policy issues of interest to the Iranian-American community. Among the main issues discussed by senior officials of the Obama Administration were the following:

  • The Obama Administration aims to expand its outreach and to deepen its conversation with the Iranian-American community. While issues such as U.S.-led sanctions on Iran and Islamic Republic’s nuclear program have so far dominated the debate, many other issues of interest to Americans of Iranian descent will increasingly be placed on the agenda. Such issues, including immigration, healthcare, entrepreneurship, job creation, and philanthropy, are of increasing importance to this community, which has made significant strides in staking out a place as a full member of the American family.
  • While the U.S. Government is aware that the sanctions have taken a significant toll on the Iranian economy, it is of the opinion that sanctions are a tool, and not an end in themselves. Thus, despite the various sanctions that Congress has imposed on Iran, the executive branch has significant leeway in relaxing these sanctions if it chooses to do so. A good example of this is the Treasury Department’s announcement on July 25, 2013 (the day before the Roundtable) on the issuance of a general license to permit the sale of all health-related products and medicines to Iran by American exporters. This move is intended to further demonstrate the U.S.?s concern with the well-being of the Iranian people.
  • The U.S. government is aware of the high potential of Iranian students currently studying in American colleges and universities. As part of its general push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the Obama Administration is open to examining the ways in which the challenges facing Iranian students in the U.S. can be addressed.
  • From a social innovation and entrepreneurship standpoint, the Iranian-American community ranks as one of the leading members of American society. However, while the community members have succeeded as individuals, greater emphasis needs to be placed on philanthropy and effective group work so the community can make even greater progress as Americans.

“The Obama Administration has taken community engagement and harnessing the potential of America’s diversity to new heights,” said Alidad Mafinezam, president of the West Asia Council. “This is a president who understands the value of America’s diversity, and the promise of its inclusiveness.” It is incumbent on us to help the Obama Administration in this quest to the best of our ability.”