By Reza Behrouz
Socially liberal and fiscally conservative, I have always considered myself a centrist with respect to the American political system. I have been called a “leftist” almost as frequently as I have been labeled a “right-winger.” Be that as it may, but as Americans of Iranian decent, we have the right to decide upon which domestic policies are important to us individually, and vote based on what we perceive as our priorities. Policies could range from immigration, healthcare, social/civil justice, and climate change to abortion, gun ownership rights, and religious liberty. Regardless of where we stand with respect to domestic sociopolitical issues, there is one factor that can and must bring us together: the horrid situation prevailing in the country of our origin, Iran.
There were several important points I learned from the three esteemed panelists who participated in the Iranian Americans for Liberty’s virtual forum this past weekend. The panelists came from politically diverse backgrounds: Democrat, Republican, and independent. An enlightening and encouraging belief shared by all three panelists was that the intricate network of regime lobbyists/apologists in the US is arguably the single most prevalent factor dividing Iranian Americans and is detrimental to our community’s welfare and security.
The panelists elaborated on the fact that the primary intent of the pro-regime circles who often masquerade as journalists, think tankers, and political analysts (collectively, “Iran experts”) is to conflate Iranian identity with the Islamic Republic and by that, imply that the majority of Iranian Americans sympathize with and support the regime. One panelist argued that ethnocultural and political view diversity is a characteristic of our community and that we thrive because of this heterogeneity, not in spite of it. Subsequently, the narrative advanced by regime lobbyists that Iranian Americans have been victims of Islamophobia as a result of US policies towards the Islamic Republic is not only obsolete, but deceptive.
Furthermore, the panelists agreed that most Iranian Americans — Democrat or Republican — are politically moderate, patriotic, and reject extremism.
The ruling regime in Iran is unequivocally opportunistic and exploits any extremist mindset in the US to its benefit; from courting David Duke to embracing Antifa. It also takes advantage of social sensitivities to inflame and sow discord in the American society. To that end, regime lobbyists and apologists use social justice as a ruse, thereby banking on “cancel culture” to silence detractors. Many anti-regime activists in the past few weeks have been targeted and attacked by individuals who advocate for an appeasement policy towards the Islamic Republic. These activists were accused of outlandish and unfounded allegations such as misogyny, racism, cyberbullying, and libel. Others were threatened with abduction by regime loyalists in the US in order to “face trial” in Iran.
Unfortunately, declaration of nonpartisanship or expressing allegiance to Joe Biden or disdain for Donald Trump has not afforded anti-regime Iranian Americans immunity against attacks by the Islamic Republic’s henchmen in the US. It doesn’t matter if you’re rooting for Trump or Biden; you will likely be victimized with an equal degree of malignancy if you oppose the Islamist regime and interfere with its US-based propaganda apparatus. Because once a propaganda mechanism is challenged in public, even by a single critic, it has already lost its effectiveness.
Without question, the malign exploitation by the regime adversely affects the Iranian American community. The complex network of pro-regime operatives, which is largely comprised by hard Left reactionaries, stands at the forefront of this scheme. It is not difficult to spot them. Their identities are clear and as one panelist asserted, no time and energy should be wasted on trying to prove or establish an incentive connection between them and the regime. Their words and actions are predictable and cliché, betraying their nefarious agenda that is brazenly in favor of the Islamic Republic.
Although it is important to consistently expose these individuals, it is more crucial not to lose focus and remain devoted to bringing our community together and mend the fissures created by years of regime lobbying and propaganda. It is difficult to pinpoint what factors beside domestic policies cause resolute partisanship among anti-regime Iranian Americans in this election cycle. For those on the Republican side, the argument is largely that Biden is intent on continuing Obama’s appeasement policy towards the regime, while those who identify with the Democratic Party take a strong stand against the current administration seemingly due to personal disdain for Trump’s character.
It really doesn’t matter what factors are at play. We must accept that partisanship is part of the American political culture. Concomitantly, the Iranian American community has a unique responsibility to understand that our differences can become a target for exploitation by regime’s predators. Iranian Americans, particularly the younger generation must recognize that just because regime operatives are rooting for Joe Biden, that does not mean that they see eye-to-eye with the Iranian American community at large and serve its interests. They should know that they have much more in common with fellow Iranian Americans who are Republican than they do with those who want Biden to become president because they feel he would be softer on the regime.
Coming together is undeniably a challenge, but the moment we accept that there is indeed a common objective that binds us, the regime’s entire propaganda and lobby enterprise will crumble. This is an immense challenge facing the Iranian American community, irrespective of political persuasions. However, the fact that we – individually or as a community – have thrived in America in the past 41 years by overcoming enormous challenges is an enduring feature of our community. And this is a testament to the hope that each of us could “reach across the aisle” and work together on what is near and dear to all of us, ultimately strengthening our community and helping it prosper.
Reza Behrouz is an Iranian-American physician and medical researcher based in Texas. He is a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat) and serves on the advisory board for Iranian Americans for Liberty.