The original Letter that I sent as president of SUTA to IEEE giving in details why the IEEE decision to impose restrictions on its Iranian members is wrong and unlawful.
SHARIF UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION
P.O.BOX 12391, LA JOLLA, CA 92039
August 6, 2003
Professor Michael Adler, IEEE President
Professor Arthur W. Winston, IEEE President-Elect
Professor Raymond D. Findlay, IEEE Past President
Cc: Professor Michael Lightner, Vice President, Publications Services
Cc: Mr. Daniel J. Senese, IEEE Executive Director
Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA) is a global association of professors, alumni, and graduate students of Sharif University of Technology living in Iran and other countries all around the world. The Association is nonpolitical, non-religious and is registered as a nonprofit public benefit educational corporation in the state of California.
The following questions and concerns have been raised both by SUTA members and by others in the Iranian scientific community. Please note that a large number of SUTA members are also Members, Senior Members, and Fellows of the IEEE holding key positions in the industry and academia around the globe, including in the United States.
In direct violation of its Code of Ethics, Vision, Mission, and Constitution, in the past 18 months:
[a] IEEE has implemented unprecedented restrictive and discriminatory policies towards its Iranian members. Such policies are, apparently, based on arbitrary and unfounded interpretations of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government on Iran. IEEE has adopted the unfair practice of retaining its Iranian members for membership statistics purposes and collection of membership dues, while depriving them from almost all member rights and benefits. The only member “privilege” not discontinued to date is receiving hard copy journals. We believe that such restrictions are based totally on IEEE’s internal policies, using U. S. sanctions against Iran as an excuse. To the best of our knowledge such restrictive and unfair policies and practices are not adopted by other scientific societies and institutions operating in the U.S.
[b] With minor exceptions IEEE has adopted a policy of silence and ignorance towards all inquiries in this regard. A large number of letters, faxes, and email messages from members worldwide have remained unanswered. A petition signed by over 1200 IEEE members last year (including 117 Fellows and 158 Senior Members) objecting to IEEE’s discriminatory policies and demanding explanations was totally ignored. This petition also included signatures of 177 scientists and professors working in top universities in the United States who, like others, believed that IEEE’s policies and practices should not be politically motivated.
In exceptional cases where IEEE has provided verbal or written responses, only vague references were made to “U.S. laws and regulations” and to policies dictated by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). Instead of citing specific regulations for each of its discriminatory policies against Iranian members IEEE has asserted that such regulations exist, and directed the inquirer towards a fruitless search for finding the nonexistent regulations on their own.
More specifically, on behalf of its members and other Iranian electrical engineers and scientists, SUTA asks for clear and unambiguous explanations for the following specific restrictions imposed by the IEEE on Iranian nationals residing in Iran:
1. Rejecting applications and nominations for membership elevations.
2. Depriving members from any form of web-access.
3. Limiting members (and non-members) from publishing papers in its journals.
4. Disallowing any local activity under the name of the IEEE, and canceling all supports normally given to local organizations.
As mentioned above IEEE has kept its Iranian membership, or for that matter all other members, in dark regarding the above policies and practices. One notable exception is a kind response by Professor Michael Lightner, IEEE’s 2003 Vice President for Publications, who relayed parts of IEEE’s positions on the above issues to us.
In the following attachments we elaborate on each restriction, the brief explanation provided by Prof. Lightner, and our comments on why OFAC regulations do not support or justify IEEE’s decisions.
Gentlemen: what is being jeopardized here is not only the rights of Iranian members, but also the prestige and credibility of the IEEE, which should be of great concern to those executives, such as yourself, who probably have spent a lifetime to build it. Your Iranian members deserve clear answers to the above questions, removal of current restrictions, and resumption of full range of services offered to other paying members.
We are also ready to meet with you if you find such a dialogue is helpful in resolving these issues.
I. Excerpts from the IEEE’s Constitution, Code of Ethics, Vision, and Mission. Excerpts from pledges made by IEEE’s present, past, and future presidents.
II. Restrictions on Membership Elevations
III. Restrictions on Web-Access
IV. Restrictions on Paper Publications
V. Restrictions on Local Activities
Excerpts from the IEEE’s Code of Ethics, Vision, Mission, and Constitution.
Excerpts from pledges made by IEEE’s present, past, and future presidents
IEEE Code of Ethics promises to “treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin” .
IEEE Vision seeks to “advance global prosperity by fostering technological innovation, enabling members’ careers and promoting community world-wide” .
According to IEEE Mission “the IEEE promotes the engineering process of creating, developing, integrating, sharing, and applying knowledge about electro- and information technologies and sciences for the benefit of humanity and the profession” .
IEEE Constitution shows that “the character of its scope is transnational and the territory in which its operations are to be conducted is the entire world” .
You are the influential current policy makers of the IEEE. We are counting on statements and pledges made in your position statements and platforms during your election to the presidency of the IEEE. The statements include promises to:
“Make the IEEE more member-responsive”, “improve trust and communication”, “improve the retention rate of members” . “To be continually alert to what our members want”, “to capitalize on IEEE as an international organization”, “to develop mechanisms to enhance the international nature of IEEE”, “To make the commitment to make IEEE a truly global enterprise” .
“To reinvent the IEEE to ensure that we offer products and services that bring real value to all of our members such as: access for members to the complete IEEE electronic library not just the publications for individual societies, and advanced electronic services including a state-of-the-art search and alerting capability and links to publications of other technical societies” .
Restrictions on Membership Elevations
IEEE is rejecting the application of well-qualified Iranian members for elevation to Senior Membership, citing OFAC regulations. Senior Membership is only an elevated grade of membership, which brings recognition to a member in the community. Which specific OFAC regulation prevents the IEEE from providing “recognition” to a scientist member in Iran for his or her scientific achievements?
In his kind reply to us Professor Lightner mentioned the following three reasons for IEEE’s decision:
1. “There are additional privileges granted to Senior Members that were viewed as a violation of OFAC regulations and thus the process of elevating members was put on hold”.
2. “There was concern that promoting to senior membership, which recognizes the contributions of the individual, would be considered a service by OFAC.”
3. “There are many elected offices in IEEE that require the candidate to be either a Fellow or Senior member. These offices require travel by the member, which IEEE pays for. We could not transfer money for travel under the OFAC restriction and there was concern that we would elect someone and not be able to support them in doing their job – this is unfair to the member and IEEE.”
Regarding the first concern above, our thorough search of IEEE regulations showed that the only privilege of monetary value for Senior Membership is “up to $25 gift certificate toward one new society membership” . An inspection of OFAC regulations shows clearly that “gifts valued at $100 or less are permitted” . This includes gifts of any nature by any U.S. person or institution to any Iranian person or institution. Further inspection of OFAC regulations reveal that, in spite of economic sanctions against Iran, a U.S. source is legally permitted to pay millions of dollars to Iranian sources for purchase of foodstuffs and carpets . How do you gentlemen then justify IEEE’s concern of being held accountable for providing “up to $25 gift certificate” to a senior member? Even assuming that the OFAC regulations prohibit such gifts isn’t it a more reasonable policy to elevate a member without offering him the $25 gift certificate?
Regarding the second item, what is the legal basis for this vague concern? Apparently IEEE is adopting the following two arbitrary and contradictory positions: (i) sending statements to members, collecting their membership dues, packaging and shipping hard copies of journals to them are not classified as “service” under OFAC regulations. (ii) Evaluating a member’s application and upgrading his or her membership grade, however, is a “service”, and is prohibited.
Regarding the third concern, IEEE has 33,355 active Senior Members and Fellows (as of 31 Dec. 2002 ). How many of these members hold offices at the IEEE? How many IEEE offices require senior membership grade? According to this unusual position of the IEEE an Iranian member who applies for senior membership may succeed in obtaining the status. Then he may want to run for an office at a later time. That office may require senior membership status. The candidate may succeed in getting elected to that office. The responsibility may involve traveling. IEEE may be unable to pay for such travel. This final possibility may happen years from now, at a time that OFAC and IEEE may have not settled the issue! “This is unfair to the member and IEEE”, so to be fair with the candidate his or her application for senior membership is turned down from the very beginning. IEEE is acting like a physician who kills a patient to protect him from dying of a probable illness in the future. Such a devastating position is truly unfortunate for the largest and most prestigious scientific organization in the world.
In his kind response in June 2003 Prof. Lightner indicated that the IEEE is following up the case with OFAC to get exemptions required for member elevations.
It is almost two years now that IEEE started imposing these restrictions based on its own unjustifiable interpretation of OFAC’ rules.
Please advise us of specific OFAC regulations that prevent the IEEE from elevating its Iranian members. Please also provide us with specific actions taken by the IEEE to get relevant exemptions from the OFAC.
Restrictions on Web-Access
IEEE is denying any form of web access to its Iranian members. Without any advance notice IEEE cancelled all email addresses previously assigned to its Iranian members, leaving them with a large number of bounced messages. Apparently, such actions are based on IEEE’s arbitrary interpretation of sanctions imposed by the OFAC. Such interpretations, however, are in direct violation of OFAC rules, which clearly state that information transmission, in any form, are exempt from trade restrictions on the embargoed country of Iran. The following citations from official OFAC documents are self-explanatory:
“The exportation from the United States to Iran of information and informational materials, whether commercial or otherwise, regardless of format or medium of transmission, and any transaction incident to such exportation is authorized” . (Underlining is by us.)
“The importation from any country and the exportation to any country of information and information materials are exempt from the ITR [Iranian Transactions Regulations]. ITR § 560.210 § defines the term information and informational materials to include publications, films, posters, phonographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, compact disks, CD ROMS, artworks, and wire feeds” .
“Specifically, OFAC received requests for guidance as to whether, in the absence of a license from OFAC, the ITR prohibit: 1. The provision of access to electronic databases that incorporate a search function to persons in Iran by a publisher or indexes to publicly available journal articles in a variety of academic fields. The indexes provide citations as well as brief summaries of journal articles and other publicly available research material. The database provides subscribers with online internet access to the material available in the publisher’s print indexes, as well as to publicly available indexes published by third parties” .
“With regard to a U.S. person’s provision of access to a database, the inclusion of an electric search function that does no more than search and sort the exempt information in the database is also exempt from the prohibitions of the ITR” .
During your election to the presidency of the IEEE, you gentlemen, promised to “make better use of the Web to allow Sections, Chapters and members to communicate with us” , and to provide “access for members to the complete IEEE electronic library not just the publications for individual societies, and advanced electronic services including a state-of-the-art search and alerting capability and links to publications of other technical societies” . How can you justify the unconditional and unprecedented revocation of all web-access rights of Iranian members, in direct violation of OFAC regulations, which clearly exempt such access from the imposed sanctions?
Please advise us of specific OFAC regulations that prevent the IEEE from providing web access to its Iranian members. Please also provide us with specificactions taken by the IEEE to get the relevant exemptions from the OFAC.
Restrictions on Paper Publications
IEEE is limiting Iranian members (or for that matter, nonmembers) residing in Iranfrom publishing papers in its journals. Such an unprecedented discriminatory policy is apparently based on the IEEE’s arbitrary interpretation that “editing” of a submitted paper is a “service” to an Iranian member, and is prohibited under OFAC regulations.
There are several comments and concerns regarding this position.
1. Import from Iran of “information or information materials” are exempt from the OFAC sanctions .
2. OFAC defines the term information and informational materials to include publications, films, artworks, etc. .
3. Our search of OFAC documents has shown no reference to regulations prohibiting “editing” of papers. On the contrary, certain types of editing of films has been explicitly permitted: “The U.S. person may also be authorized on a case-by-case basis to engage in transactions with the agent for the provision of services necessary to conform the films to Iranian standards, provided that such services only involve edits of minor nature in order to conform with local standards, such as cutting or excising existing material” . “The participation by a U.S. person in a transaction involving the dubbing or subtitling of films in Iran or at the direction of an Iranian entity is covered by the exemption since such activities are incidental to the distribution of the films in a country in which the language is not that in which the films were made, provided that the dubbing and subtitling entail no substantive or artistic alterations or enhancements” . Please note that although these passages do place some restrictions on “editing” films, the language only applies to U.S. films exported to Iran.
4. OFAC regulations are silent about editing films imported by the U.S. There is absolutely no mention of editing scientific papers. IEEE’s decision to limit any editing, and hence rejecting papers for consideration for publication is baseless, arbitrary, and invalid.
5. IEEE is interpreting that editing papers is a “service” to an Iranian member. Such so-called service, however, is being rendered to readers of IEEE publications, not to the authors of submitted articles. Authors and referees are rendering a service to the publications. Where would publications be without authors? In addition, if any type of “service” is prohibited how can IEEE engage itself in “services” associated with processing membership renewals, and with packaging and shipping hard copy journals?
Considering the above it is quite clear that IEEE’s judgment on the issue is biased and unfounded. In addition to upfront rejection of submitted papers with no evaluations, IEEE has adopted the unfair practice of putting on hold publication of papers that have been previously reviewed and accepted in their final forms. Even papers scheduled for publication have been put on hold. The excuse given is that the final staff editing (typically involving minor grammatical corrections) cannot be performed since it is a “service” to an Iranian national. It is important to note that IEEE is unique in taking such unusual and extremist positions. What is being done to an institution that once was considered the home of Shannon, Fanno, and Viterbi is truly unbelievable!
Professor Lightner advised us in late June, 2003 that “IEEE has made application to OFAC, relative to publication processes for Iran, to affirm that our normal publication process is within the OFAC guidelines and, if not, to grant us a license to carry out our normal process.” Again implementing this policy, that is unworthy to IEEE and is not even asked by OFAC, is like “shoot first, question later!”
Please advise us about the specific OFAC regulations that form the basis for IEEE’s decisions to rule out publication of papers by Iranian nationals. Please also advise us on specific actions, if any, taken by the IEEE to resolve the issue
Restrictions on Local Activities
IEEE disallows student chapters in Iranto organize seminars as
local chapters under the name of IEEE. IEEE has cancelled all forms of support, which are normally given to such local organizations, even those that do not involve financial transactions.
Professor Lightner has informed us that “Student Chapters, Chapters and
Sections all have privileges under the IEEE manner of operations. These
privileges include the transfer of funds to support activities and other
services provided by IEEE. The transfer of funds and other privileges are
in violation of OFAC regulations. As a result Chapters, Student Chapters and
Sections are not allowed that are affiliated with the IEEE”.
What specific regulation prevents student branches in Iran to use the name or logo of the IEEE, which does not involve funding by the IEEE? Even if transfer of funds to local chapters is prohibited, isn’t it possible to support such student activities without the benefit of funding them? A large number of IEEE-sponsored activities and privileges may be carried out with no financial support on behalf of the IEEE. This is particularly true for student activities, which are generally funded by universities in Iran. Student conferences in Electrical Engineering, funded by the Iranian universities and the local industries, are held annually with participations often exceeding 2000.
Please advise us about the specific privileges of supporting student chapters, which in spite of having no monetary benefits are still prohibited by the OFAC. Please also advise us on specific actions, if any, taken by the IEEE to resolve the issue.
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