National Iranian American Council

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National Iranian American Council
National Iranian American Council logo.png
MottoCommunity. Democracy. Universal Rights.
Founder(s)Trita Parsi, Babak Talebi, Farzin Illich
EstablishedJanuary 2002 (2002-01)
MissionStrengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people
PresidentJamal Abdi
ChairmanDr. Shokooh Miry

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) (Persian: شورای ملی ایرانیان آمریکا) is a nonprofit, civil society, NGO based in Washington, D.C. and is the largest organization representing people of Iranian Heritage in the United States. Trita Parsi was one of the founders and is the organization's former president. Jamal Abdi, formerly NIAC's Vice President for Policy and Executive Director for NIAC Action, took over as president on August 1, 2018.[1]


NIAC was founded in 2002 by Trita Parsi, Babak Talebi, and Farzin Illich to promote Iranian-American civic participation.[2] NIAC advocates against war with Iran and advocated in support of the Iran nuclear deal. The Congressional publication, The Hill, cited NIAC's work in support of the Iran nuclear accord as one of the "Top lobbying victories of 2015."[3]


A NIAC report concluded that U.S. sanctions on Iran cost the U.S. economy between $135 billion and $175 billion in lost export revenue between 1995 and 2012.[4] After the Iran nuclear deal was implemented and U.S. secondary sanctions on Iran were eased, the organization questioned the utility of the broad economic embargo the U.S. maintains on trade with Iran.[5]

Lobbying for Iranian Students in the U.S.[edit]

NIAC has worked on behalf of Iranian students in the U.S. NIAC led the campaign to change the U.S.'s single-entry visa policy towards Iranian students, by allowing Iranian students to receive multiple entry visas, a measure that the Obama administration adopted in 2011.[6]

NIAC Action[edit]

NIAC's sister 501(c)4 organization, NIAC Action, was formed in 2015 to support the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran and to champion Iranian American priorities.[7] At that time, NIAC Action assumed responsibility for and expanded direct and grassroots lobbying work previously conducted by NIAC.[7] NIAC Action's expressed advocacy goals are "to strengthen U.S. diplomacy with Iran to advance peace and human rights, promote greater openings between the American and the Iranian people, protect civil rights and opportunities for Iranian Americans at home, and support candidates who represent the Iranian American community's values."[8] Jamal Abdi currently serves as the organization's Executive Director.[8]

Policy conference[edit]

Since 2011, NIAC has held an annual Leadership Conference that "aims to expose its attendees to world-class leaders, and to teach Iranian Americans how to gain the political strength needed to effect real change on the issues."[9] The conference in 2015 included addresses from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), as well as Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Dan Kildee (D-MI).[10]

Lobbying controversy and defamation lawsuit[edit]

In 2007, Arizona-based Iranian-American journalist Hassan Daioleslam began publicly asserting that NIAC was lobbying on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In response, Parsi sued him for defamation. As a result of the lawsuit, many internal documents were released, which former Washington Times correspondent Eli Lake stated "raise questions" about whether the organization had violated U.S. lobbying regulations.[11] NIAC responded that it is in "full compliance with all regulations and laws" and published all of its tax returns online to back up its claim.[12] Andrew Sullivan responded to the story in The Atlantic, suggesting the motive of the story was to "smear" Parsi's reputation.[13]

In September 2012, U.S. Federal District Court Judge John D. Bates threw out the libel suit against Daioleslam on the grounds that "NIAC and Parsi had failed to show evidence of actual malice, either that Daioeslam acted with knowledge the allegations he made were false or with reckless disregard about their accuracy."[14] However, Judge Bates also noted that "nothing in this opinion should be construed as a finding that [Daioleslam's] articles were true. [Daioleslam] did not move for summary judgement on that ground."[14] On April 9, 2013, Judge Bates ordered NIAC to cover a portion of Daioleslam's legal expenses.[15]

A March 2015 column by Eli Lake in Bloomberg View asserted that the emails showed cooperation between Parsi and the then Iran ambassador to the United Nations and current Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.[16]


NIAC has over 8,000 donors. The organization's funding comes from Iranian-American individuals and American foundations. According to NIAC, it does not receive funding from the U.S. or Iranian governments.[17]

Demonstration against NIAC[edit]

In July 2019, some members of the Iranian community in the United States organized a demonstration in front of NIAC office in Washington DC. They believed NIAC is "the representative of the corrupt and brutal Islamic Republic regime" and not the voice of the Iranian-Americans.[18]


  1. ^ Trita Parsi. "Important Announcement on NIAC's Next Chapter". Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  2. ^ NIAC Staff. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  3. ^ Dickson, Rebecca (2015-12-16). "Top lobbying victories of 2015". The Hill. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  4. ^ "Sanctions on Iran cost the U.S. as much as $175 billion, study says". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  5. ^ "It's pointless to be the last country sanctioning Iran". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  6. ^ "U.S. Eases Visa Policy for Iranian Students – The Ticker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  7. ^ a b Jamal Abdi. "Announcing NIAC Action: A New Organization to Seal the Iran Deal and Advance Peace". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b NIAC Action staff. "About NIAC Action". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  9. ^ NIAC. "NIAC Leadership Conference". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  10. ^ Alexander Kneib. "Lawmakers Address 2015 NIAC Leadership Conference". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  11. ^ Eli Lake (13 November 2009). "Iran advocacy group said to skirt lobby rules". The Washington Times.
  12. ^ "Myths vs. Facts, Continued". NIAC.
  13. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (November 16, 2009). "'Send It To Lake Right Away!'". The Daily Dish. Atlantic Media. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Josh Gerstein (13 September 2012). "Iranian-American group, leader lose libel case against writer". Politico. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Sanctioning Iran's American Allies: NIAC ordered to pay nearly $200K in legal fees". Washington Free Beacon. 22 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Iran's Charmer in Chief Wins Again". 2015-03-31. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  17. ^ NIAC Staff. "Transparency in Governance and Finance". Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  18. ^ Radio Farda. "Protest Gathering Held Outside National Iranian American Council". Retrieved 9 July 2019.

External links[edit]