September 21, 2012, Washington, D.C. - On September 12, 2012, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA 46th) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 137, which expresses the sense of Congress that the Azeri people, currently divided between Azerbaijan and Iran, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country if they so choose.
In July of 2012, Rohrabacher wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recommending that the United States support the joining of Iranian Azerbaijanis with the Republic of Azerbaijan.
“My resolution puts the US on the side of the Azeri people and with the people within Iran,” said Rohrabacher in a press release. “If the people on the ground don’t want to be ruled by the mullah dictatorship in Iran, then we should support their right to determine their future through a referendum.”
In a letter to Rohrabacher, PAAIA expressed its concern regarding this recommendation, noting that such a suggestion would not only be detrimental to the interests of the U.S., but it would also not be supported by Americans of Iranian descent or the Azeri population living in Iran.
PAAIA noted in its letter that, although our 2011 survey of Iranian Americans shows that two-thirds of Iranian Americans believe that Iran should be a secular democracy, only two percent believe the Islamic Republic works best in Iran. We believe that only a small minority of the Iranian American community will consider the partition of Iran an acceptable proposition.
Iran is not an ethnically or religiously monolithic nation. Iran’s Azeri population has played an integral part in the life of the nation for centuries. Their culture is distinct from that of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Moreover, today there are over 17 million Iranian Azerbaijanis. By comparison, the Republic of Azerbaijan has a total of 9.4 million people. A partition, therefore, would do more to incorporate Azerbaijan into the Iranian Azeri population than the other way around, while simultaneously altering the landscape of the region, something which could have unforeseen consequences.
The U.S. is currently attempting to engage in dialogue with the people of Iran—to hear their views and understand their aspirations. A resolution advocating the breakup of Iran will only serve to alienate the Iranian people, and may end up actually serving the interests of the government of Iran. Additionally, PAAIA believes that Iranians of Azeri heritage will not accept the idea of being separated from the rest of Iran, and that the advocation of such a policy could damage the standing of the U.S. in the world.
In light of these concerns, PAAIA has been in contact with the Department of State and other members of Congress to inform them of our opposition to H.Con.Res.137. In response the State Department has informed PAAIA that Rohrabacher’s actions reflect his personal opinions and that the policy of the United States respects the existing borders between Iran and Azerbaijan.
The resolution, while non-binding, has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Take Action Today!
Contact your representative and let them know of your opposition to H.Con.Res.137.