Happy Yalda Night!

Happy Yalda Night!

Mitra Persian Sun Goddess of Iran Ancient Wall Carving.jpg

Yalda celebrates the winter solstice, as the days become longer and the nights shorter in the northern hemisphere. In that sense, it spiritually celebrates the rebirth of the Sun Goddess Mithra (wall carving photo left). A deeply rooted ceremony, the annual observation of the winter solstice by Iranians and others signifies that man has known for thousands of years that THE SUN birthed all plant and animal life on our planet. Moreover, ancient Iranians' ability to accurately predict the solstice and to know key moments on the solar calendar is directly related to mankind's survival, prosperity, ability to plan for the future, and ability to conceive of time. Yalda is so old that it even predates Zoroastrianism-- Iran's religion prior to the Arab invasion and largely forced conversions to Islam-- and is really a Mithraic holiday that would soon be adopted by Zoroastrians.

Shab-e Yalda-2015_TurmericSaffron.jpg

While Iran's Zoroastrian faith placed the greatest emphasis on fire and light, traditional reverence for light was and remains common and extends well beyond the Iranian plateau. Jesus Christ, of course, is referred to as "the Light of the World", and the Scandinavian festival of St. Lucia similarly symbolizes bringing the "Light of Christianity" into the world. (Those interested in learning more about the deep religious influence Zoroastrian Iran had on the Holy Roman Empire should look up the Cult of Mithras)

Sometimes, it is difficult to conceive of a pre-modern, pre-industrial and pre-agricultural world and all its challenges to human survival. Cultivating a monumentalist relationship to history rooted in one's own heritage and longstanding annual rituals like Yalda is one way to spiritually surpass time and space and reconnect with previous epochs, in this case, one in which light was so rare and crucial as to be worshipped.

Regardless of humanity's divergent cultures and mutually-exclusive religious traditions, there is a common source of energy that binds us all to a shared past and a shared imaginative and interstellar future. While there are some 6,500 distinct languages with their own words for 'light', there is only ONE SUN that birthed us all. Happy Yalda!

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Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Iran is "Officially on Notice" and Donald Trump is President. Now what?

Iran is "Officially on Notice" and Donald Trump is President. Now what?

There are two possible Flynn-Bannon-Trump strategies on Iran worth considering.

I. The first is that they're setting the table for war with Iran, plain and simple. The administration will use the recent missile test and subsequent Iranian noncompliance to create a pretext for starting a war. Look at what Flynn thinks about Iran's role in the Middle East, and it's clear that he feels Iran needs to be met directly by force for countering the US's designs for the broader region (see Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the ailing peace process)

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Consulting producer on VICE on HBO's Iran Documentary

Consulting producer on VICE on HBO's Iran Documentary

I recently completed work as a consulting producer for VICE on HBO for their documentary on US-Iran relations, the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and the country's nuclear program. The piece was hosted by Shane Smith and came out great.

I worked alongside two full-time VICE producers to secure exclusive access to a nuclear facility, as well as complete all the other pre-production tasks required to get an American crew to cover a story inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The documentary debuted on Friday April 29 at 11pm ET on HBO

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I'm hosting an Election Event and We're Livestreaming it!

As part of my AIC work, I'll be hosting tonight's "US Election and Middle East Foreign Policy" event featuring Dr. James Zogby from the Sanders campaign and Richard Nephew from the Clinton campaign. We've invited the two men to speak about their candidate's foreign policies toward the Middle East as well as take some questions. We'll also be live streaming the event, which you can watch right here at 6pm today!

Thursday April 7, 6pm
Marymount Manhattan College

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Iran Chat: Richard Nephew, former American nuclear negotiator

Iran Chat: Richard Nephew, former American nuclear negotiator

In this 'Iran Chat' interview with Richard Nephew, the former lead sanctions expert for the US team negotiating with Iran, AIC Director of Communications Kayvon Afshari discusses a host of issues concerning US-Iran relations, including the implementation of the nuclear accord, the recent changes to the visa waiver program, and how post-sanctions era Iran will affect global energy prices.

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VIDEO: What's the Deal with the New Visa Waiver Restrictions?

VIDEO: What's the Deal with the New Visa Waiver Restrictions?

The new visa waiver restrictions are complicated and can be confusing to understand. Fortunately, AIC's Kayvon Afshari breaks it down by interviewing a lawyer from the ACLU, a former American nuclear negotiator, and an Iranian-German dual citizen who was recently affected by the law. Watch the video, then share it with your friends who need to learn about the issue!

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Quoted in 'The Intercept' on Discriminatory Visa Waiver Legislation

I was quoted in an article published in The Intercept, discussing the implementation of the discriminatory visa waiver restrictions. Read the full article.

There are many accomplished Iranian-European dual citizens working for multinational corporations and universities who often need to travel urgently and without much prior planning, something which makes getting a U.S. visa a major impediment. As a result of the new visa waiver regulations, they can no longer freely travel to the United States like their fellow European citizens, something that can have real negative impacts on both economic activity and academic development.
— Kayvon Afshari
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Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Moderating a discussion with Amb. Dennis Ross on Islamist Extremism

Moderating a discussion with Amb. Dennis Ross on Islamist Extremism

As part of my work for the American Iranian Council, I recently moderated a discussion with Ambassador Dennis Ross and Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi on the topic of countering ISIS and Islamist extremism. The event was hosted at Marymount Manhattan College and is part of a series of events we're co-organizing with the college. I'm looking forward to more thoughtful and fruitful events with them.

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Moderating a Panel Discussion on the Iran Nuclear Accord

I moderated a panel discussion on the Iran nuclear accord featuring Amb. William Luers, Prof. Patricia DeGennaro, and Mr. Jack Hayes. The event was co-organized by the American Iranian Council and Marymount Manhattan College.

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Discussing US-Iran relations on HuffPost Live

I talked some more about the Iran nuclear deal with HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski.

I argued that,
1. the deal needs to be used as an opportunity to pivot toward broader US-Iran relations
2. attitudes in Iran need to dramatically shift in order to prepare the country for these broader talks with the US— a government which the Islamic Republic’s leaders have viewed suspiciously as “the Great Satan” for 36 years.
3. while none of the Israeli political parties support the deal, many strategic thinkers and former intelligence officials in Israel (Ephraim Halevy, Meir Dagan, Ami Ayalon, Amos Yadlin) have basically supported the deal, and that
4. the Obama administration used the recent Camp David summit with Arab leaders as a giant arms sale bonanza for Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, etc.

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Discussion on HuffPost Live on Nuclear Negotiations

In this interview with HuffPost Live, AIC Director of Communications Kayvon Afshari underscores the significance of a potential nuclear deal to the Obama administration, as well as the importance of the P5+1 countries and Iran having the same understanding of any final deal. He says, "I think that it's more important that they take the time now to deal with these really technical issues and achieve perfect clarity in the negotiations phase rather than walk away from it and have somewhat different interpretations in the implementation phase."

Afshari emphasizes the progress made in the form of Iran's concessions concerning its nuclear program, which go beyond the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol. He says, "The Iranians have made major concessions here. Iran, as a non-weapons signatory to the NPT, has the right to produce nuclear power for peaceful purposes." He adds that this progress owes to the Obama administration's willingness to shift from a policy of zero enrichment to limited enrichment, which helped the parties find common ground. 

“What a successful nuclear deal would do is set a precedent whereby diplomatic engagement will have peacefully resolved such a thorny 15 year old international issue. This is not just a deal about centrifuges and uranium enrichment this is about mistrust between the US and IR. there are huge issues that have separated these countries for the past 36 years. An honest inspection of this relationship has to conclude that the mistrust runs both ways and that both sides have harmed each other," he said.

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Interview on HuffPost Live about Iran nuclear negotiations

Interview on HuffPost Live about Iran nuclear negotiations

In my interview with HuffPost Live, I stressed the importance of having an "intellectually honest" discussion on the nuclear negotiations and argued that Iran has made significant concessions. It got heated at a few points, but by sticking to the facts, I made my point more clearly than the detractors.

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Interview on Iran Nuclear Deal

Interview on Iran Nuclear Deal

Kayvon Afshari sits down with Another Thing's Larry Mendte, to discuss the Iran nuclear negotiations, which faces staunch opposition domestically both in the U.S. and Iran.

Despite harsh realities, Afshari remains optimistic that a nuclear agreement will be reached. Afshari stressed that, "The Obama administration has expended a great deal of political capital on the negotiations and along with the high stakes implications involved, the administration needs a win.

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Obama’s Strategy to Win Senate support for an Iran Nuclear Deal

Obama’s Strategy to Win Senate support for an Iran Nuclear Deal

Originally published by the American Iranian Council
By Kayvon Afshari and Michael Brooks

Now that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a bill to give Congress oversight over a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration would be wise to devise a strategy to turn Congressional review to its political advantage. Despite the ‘anti-Iran-deal’ money generously provided by big name donors, there are key vulnerabilities that the administration can exploit to put the pressure on both Democratic and Republican Senators who will be struggling to decide whether to vote up or down on a deal. Here’s what the political landscape looks like, what the Obama administration is already doing, and how we think they should play it in the months to come

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'Iran Chat' Interview with former US Nuclear Negotiator

Robert Einhorn, former senior advisor to the US nuclear negotiating team, discusses the Iranian nuclear issue in this exclusive interview with the AIC's Kayvon Afshari. Mr. Einhorn says that, while existing sanctions have played an "important role" in bringing Iran to negotiate very seriously, new sanctions are not necessary at this time.

Comment

Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.

Interview about State of The Union

I was interviewed on The Majority Report about Obama's statements on Iran during his State of the Union Address, as well as Congress inviting Netanyahu to address them and Senator Bob Menendez's statements that the White House's talking points "sound like they're coming straight from Tehran."

Interview with Gary Sick

I interviewed Dr. Gary Sick, who served in President Jimmy Carter's National Security Council, on US-Iran relations. He says that the core issue separating the two countries isn't the nuclear issue, terrorism, or human rights. It's history. Watch the interview for more.