Archive for the ‘California’ Category

California Representative Retracts Comments on ‘Balkanization’ of Iran

May 25, 2009

Representative Jane Harman has expressed regret for comments she made before an AIPAC meeting which were understood to mean the California representative supported the break up of Iran along ethnic lines.
After pressure from groups including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and a petition circulated demanding Harman retract and apologize for her statement, Harman last week issued a retraction and clarification of her statement regarding the “separation” of Iran’s ethnic groups to NIAC.
“I was not and am not calling for the creation of ethnic tensions or separation in Iran—nothing would be less productive,” said Harman in a statement to NIAC. “Although my comments on Iran were taken out of context, I regret any concern they might have caused,” Harman said after she was accused of supporting the “Balkanization” of Iran.
“My point was that the diversity of views in Iran should be better understood in order for the United States to formulate the best strategy for persuading the Iranian government not to pursue nuclear weapons development,” Harman said.
The controversy arose from statements Harman made during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference May 3. Responding to a question about how to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Harman said, “The Persian population in Iran is not a majority, it is a plurality. There are many different, diverse, and disagreeing populations inside Iran and an obvious strategy, which I believe is a very good strategy, is to separate those populations.”
NIAC launched a campaign May 19 seeking a retraction from the California Congresswoman. Discussions were held the following day between NIAC and the Democratic representative’s office.
“This is an important statement from Rep. Harman,” said NIAC Chairman Reza Firouzbakht. “It makes clear that while there are many opinions about how to address the Iranian nuclear challenge, some options are simply not acceptable.”
NIAC President Trita Parsi welcomed the retraction and the Congresswoman’s expression of regret. “Though we take exception to the idea that the statement was taken out of context, the important thing is that Congresswoman Harman responded quickly to retract it and stated clearly that she opposes creating ethnic tensions in Iran. This is a testament both to the Congresswoman’s openness and to the increasing political engagement of the Iranian-American community.”
Harman is currently battling allegations brought forth after a National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap in 2006 recorded her telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee in return for the lobby’s support to become chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
According to Congressional Quarterly, the California representative told a “suspected Israeli agent” she would lobby the Justice Department to be lenient on former AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, and the agent said he would lobby Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give Harman the Intelligence Committee chairmanship.
The name of individual Harman was heard speaking with has not been disclosed, but sources told the New York Times that the person promised in return to convince Hollywood Democratic fundraiser Haim Saban to withhold funds from then minority leader Nancy Pelosi unless Pelosi gave Harman the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee when and if the Democrats won back the House in 2006.
Harman has vehemently denied the allegations and has reportedly asked Attorney General Eric Holder to release any tapes from NSA wiretaps “in an unredacted form” and to investigate if any other members of Congress were “subject to this treatment” of being wiretapped.