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Congressional Briefing | 2017 Iran Presidential Elections | U.S. House of Representatives

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Congressional Briefing | Iran Presidential Election: Status Quo or Change? | U.S. Congress | 16 May 2017

On May 16, 2017, Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan – Associate Professor of Public and International Affairs – was invited to moderate and speak at a briefing in the U.S. Congress for media and legislative staffers on the 2017 presidential elections in Iran. The panel discussion, held in the Rayburn Building’s House Foreign Affairs Committee Room, featured remarks by Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO), Congressman Thomas Garrett (R-VA), and leading Middle East experts Ilan Berman, Lee Smith, and Alireza Jafarzadeh. The event, carried live by Voice of America and translated in Farsi, was broadcast inside Iran.

On May 17, Dr. Sheehan followed his remarks in the U.S. Congress with a leading op-ed in Independent Journal Review titled When Iran Votes For President Friday, Is It A Referendum On The Future Or More Of The Same?

Warning that the ultimate power in contemporary Iran resides with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, Dr. Sheehan cautioned U.S. policymakers not to expect reforms when either candidate wins:

“In the 2017 contest Iranians have again been denied an opportunity to choose from those who represent a meaningful departure from the status quo, they have been denied access to information from credible news outlets, and journalists, activists, and scholars have been denied basic freedoms widely considered staples of liberal democracy…

Without fundamental change in Iran the world will see more terrorism exported abroad and more violence directed at Iranians at home. Without real change in Tehran the world will get more ballistic missile tests, more covert arms transfers, more illicit nuclear activities, and more human rights abuses…

The Iranian regime’s rogue status and lack of legitimacy will leave whomever emerges on Friday vulnerable to a Persian Spring. As one prominent former U.S. official at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies concluded in the Wall Street Journal: History contradicts the dream of Iranian moderation so long as the existing regime is left intact.”

One day after the Congressional briefing moderated by Dr. Sheehan two senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked Secretary of State Tillerson not to recognize the Iranian Presidential Election in a formal letter to the Department of State. And one day after Dr. Sheehan’s op-ed, the editorial board of The Washington Post concluded, like Sheehan, that “real transformation in Iran will require a collapse of the Islamic Republic.”

A terrorism scholar, Dr. Sheehan’s recent scholarship has explored topics related to the Iranian opposition and regime change.

Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is the Director of the graduate programs in Negotiations & Conflict Management and Global Affairs & Human Security in the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore. For additional research or media related updates or to learn more about Dr. Sheehan, follow him at @ProfSheehan or link to his research profiles.

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