Hojabri’s Radio Interview with Homa Sarshar Regarding ACS Campaign:
In April 16 ACS dropped its Iranian members and announced that it will reinstate them only if its license application is approved by the Treasury Department (OFAC):
April 16, 2007
ACS Moves To Reinstate Iranian Members
Society applies for government license to resolve issue
The American Chemical Society has filed for a government license to provide membership services to scientists in Iran, which, along with Cuba and Sudan, is a target of U.S. economic sanctions. The filing was approved by the ACS Board of Directors in the wake of the society being forced to drop its Iranian members because of the federal embargo rules, which are administered by the Treasury Department(C&EN, April 9, page 11).
“The board approved this action in order to continue the society’s long history of encouraging in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry,” said ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs in a statement. “The ACS has long recognized that science and scholarship flourish when scientists from around the world are able to engage in open and fair exchange of information and research.”
The 14 Iranians whose active membership in ACS was canceled were notified in an April 13 letter signed by Jacobs that the society would apply for the Treasury Department license. “If the license is granted, we will eagerly offer you the opportunity to reinstate your membership,” she wrote. “Please know that the ACS is doing everything within its power to ensure that we remain a scientific society that serves all chemists and scientists—nationally and internationally—within the boundaries of our laws.”
Outside counsel advised that ACS faced perilous legal consequences if it continued to run afoul of U.S. law regarding the economic sanctions. The society could have faced up to $500,000 in potential fines, as well as up to 20-year prison sentences for key society personnel, and ACS’s tax-exempt status also was jeopardized.
Chemical & Engineering News
Letter to the President of American Chemical Society (ACS)
Subject: ACS New Policy toward Iranian Members
Date: 4/13/2007 11:59:17 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Catherine T. Hunt, President, American Chemical Society
Dear Dr. Catherine Hunt:
As former Academic Vice-president & Chemistry professor at Sharif University, and Ex- President of SUTA (Sharif University of Technology Association), I am writing you to express my deep regrets and strong dissatisfaction with the recent decision of ACS to cancel the membership of several of its members living in Iran, and to limit services that you provide to your members, such as access to scientific information.
In 2001 the decision of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) to refuse editing of the scientific papers submitted by its members living in Iran, caused uproar of international scientific community. The decision was based on wrong interpretation of the Sanction Law by the lawyers, and a ruling of OFAC.
SUTA, in cooperation with scientists all over the world, worked hard to show that this decision was wrong, because information exchange was excluded from the Sanction Law.
At that time we were pleased that ACS, like many other US organizations, decided to adhere to their Bylaws, uphold the academic freedom of information exchange, and not follow the OFAC’s ruling. OFAC finally revised its ruling in September 2003 and issued a general license, and declared that many activities, such as scientific information exchange, are entirely “exempt” from the Iranian embargo rules.
Since that time there has been no new Sanction Laws by the Congress, or any new ruling by OFAC that would require you to implement your new policy towards your members living in Iran.
In the last 3 years two other US organizations tried again to restrict membership of their Iranian members, but they had to change their policies under the pressure of their own members.
Another irony is that ACS is the same organization that when an Iranian professor of chemistry was arrested few years ago in Iran, wrote a letter in defense of Academic Freedom and asked the Iranian Government for just treatment of him, but now you are implementing this policy and restricting the membership of Iranian chemists that could include the same professor!
As a long time member of ACS in the past, I urge you to repeal your new policy ASAP, before you further antagonize your members and the scientific community, and damaging the reputation of this fine organization.
San Diego, California
ACS dismissed our concerns, insisting that their action is based on US Sanction Laws against Iran, and is recommended by their lawyers. For this reason we sent the following letter directly to ACS members:
Letter sent to all Chemistry Professors at Major US Universities, describing why ACS action is against US Laws and ACS Bylaws
April 28, 2007
Dear Members of the American Chemical Society:
On behalf of the Iranian academic community and the Iranian American Professional Associations we are writing you to ask your assistance in reversing the unilateral decision of the Board of ACS to terminate the membership of chemists living in select countries, mainly inIran, and mostly university professors.
We are Iranian Americans adhering to moral and ethical values. We would like to offer our strong support to our colleagues in Iran who work under difficult conditions. These colleagues need our support, not punishment motivated by irrelevant and unjustified intentions.
We believe that this decision is ill-conceived and misguided, without justification, and is gravely undermining the integrity of ACS as a prestigious scientific organization that we have collectively worked very hard to achieve. In this regard please note the following:
- ACS decided to not renew the membership of its Iranian members starting January 2007 without disclosing it to the public. ACS Members heard of this decision only when it was reported in the March 30, 2007, issue of the Science Magazine (1).
- On April 9, ACS decided to go public, and at the same time file for an Exemption License with the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) (2). In its News Release of April 16, 2007, ACS actually makes reinstatement of these members conditional to the approval of its application by OFAC (3).
- We believe that termination of Iranian membership was against the ACS Bylaws (4) that provides dismissal of members only for:
Sec. 3- Article 4:
“A member may be dropped from membership for nonpayment of dues or for conduct which in anywise tends to injure the SOCIETY or to affect adversely its reputation or which is contrary to or destructive of its objects. No member shall be dropped except after opportunity to be heard as provided in the Bylaws. (1/1/63)”
None of the reasons stated above apply to this mass termination case, and due process was most certainly violated by this ACS decision.
ACS asserts that the dismissal was according to the advice of lawyers, both in-house and external, and intended to follow the rules governing the Sanction Law and Iran Trade Restrictions. ACS further claims that this decision was at the advice of OFAC (5).
1- Berman Amendment to the Sanction Law excluded Information Exchange from this law, and OFAC actually recognized this in its November 3, 2003 ruling (6), in which it makes a statement in favor of professional membership:
“The prohibition in ITR § 560.204 on exports to Iran or the Government of Iran does not apply to the exportation to any country of information and informational materials. ITR, § 560.210(c)………
The extension of membership to and acceptance of annual dues from Iran in connection with receipt by Iran of the U.S. Entity’s association publications and information would not be prohibited by the ITR.”
If ACS has a ruling by OFAC that explicitly prohibits the membership of Iranian nationals in US professional organizations, then it has the duty to disclose such document to its members.Paradoxically, no other professional organization has terminated its Iranian members.
- ACS Executive Director and CEO, Ms. Madeleine Jacobs, even in this week’s C&EN (7), emphasizes that she was made aware by the lawyers that not dropping Iranian members would result in heavy fines of $500,000, up to 20 years jail sentence for key officers, and the danger that ACS would lose its tax-exempt status. This advice that was also given to IEEE in 2001 appears to us more like ‘scare tactic’ and is unfounded.
- OFAC does not prohibit Information Exchange and Membership of nationals from Embargoed Countries in U. S. Professional Organizations, and to our knowledge it has never prosecuted or penalized any US professional organization, or its Board members, for violating US Laws by having Iranian members.
- After having Iranian members for many years since passing of the Sanction Law, if ACS was still concerned about legality of having Iranian members, it could have applied for Exemption and exclude its Iranian members if its application was rejected by OFAC, and not use the ‘Shoot first, ask later!’ strategy. This sort of action is not expected from a scientific Organization that believes in its own Constitution and The ‘Universality of Science.’
- Many US professional organizations have not even applied for Exemption license with OFAC to have Iranian members, because they believe that Sanction Law does not require them to do so.
- Since the disclosure of the ACS decision many members of ACS and concerned members of other professional organizations have written to ACS and have expressed their dismay about the exclusion of Iranian members.
Please contact the President and Board members of ACS via firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to repeal this unjust decision and reinstate the Iranian members.
With best regards,
Fredun Hojabri, Professor of Chemistry & former Academic Vice-President of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology,
David Rahni, Professor of Chemistry, Pace University; Adjunct Professor of Dermatology, New York Medical College; Former Chair of the ACS New York,
Fariba Aria, Ph. D. in Chemistry, President, Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA)
Mohammad Behforouz, Professor of Chemistry, President, Shiraz University Association (SUA)
Ali Banijamali, Ph. D. in Chemistry, Chair, Iranian Chemists’ Association of the American Chemical Society (ICA-ACS),
Ali Akbari, Professor of Economics, California Lutheran University, President, Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage (ASPIH)
Mahmood Khojasteh, Ph. D. in Chemistry, Iranian Academics Association
Hamid Javadi, Ph. D., Jet Propulsion Laboratory, President, the IrAP Network Group
2- Chemical & Engineering News, April 9, 2007, page 11
5- Flint H. Lewis, ACS Secretary and General Counsel, Letter to Prof. D. Rahni
7- Chemical & Engineering News, April 23, page 9
This letter caused strong protests of ACS members. and within a few days, ACS reversed its policy and not only reinstated its Iranian members, but also waived their membership fees for one year.