Democratic Senators Back Opening of U.S. Interest Section in Iran
Washington, D.C. – In response to recent revelations that the Bush Administration is considering the establishment of a U.S. Interest Section in Iran, a group of Democratic senators led by John Kerry sent a letter on July 24, 2008 to the President to offer congressional support for a limited diplomatic presence in the country.
“By establishing direct contact with the people of Iran, facilitating their travel to America, and increasing our understanding of Iran’s complicated domestic politics, this initiative will advance our national interests,” the letter reads.
The letter goes on to acknowledge that Iranians are among the most “pro-American” people in the Middle East and the importance for the U.S. to reach out to them. “Opening an interests section in Iran, as we have done in other countries such as Cuba, is a highly-visible way of accomplishing this important objective.”
The United States has not had a diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis. Consequently, Iranians who wish to visit America must go to third countries to obtain visas, a process which hinders family, cultural, and educational visits. “The more frequently that ordinary Iranians have an opportunity to interact with Americans, the more likely they are to ignore their government’s propaganda demonizing our country,” the letter adds.
The Senators recognized that even though serious differences remain with the government of Iran the proposal would send a positive message to the Iranian people. “While we recognize that this initiative alone will not resolve our profound disagreements with Iran’s leaders, we believe it is a step in the right direction with the Iranian people,” the letter concludes.
In addition to Senator Kerry, the letter was signed by Sens. Carl Levin (MI), Patrick Leahy (VT), Russ Feingold (WI), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (CA), and Patty Murray (WA).
In a statement dated July 17, 2008, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) welcomed the Administration’s consideration of establishing an interest section in Iran. While PAAIA is focused on domestic affairs as they relate to the Iranian American community, and is not a platform for promoting United States foreign policy, it recognizes that the establishment of a U.S. interests section in Iran would have great practical benefits for Americans, including Iranian Americans.
In furtherance of the interests of the Iranian American community, PAAIA has reached out to Administration officials to inquire further about this matter and to ensure that deliberations within the Administration will be as broadly informed as possible by the views of the Iranian American community.