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U.S. Defense Department Official Draws Fire From Iranian Americans For Alleged Remarks



Wednesday, October 3, 2007

U.S. Defense Department Official Draws Fire From Iranian Americans For Alleged Remarks


Washington, D.C. - Many Iranian Americans are calling for the resignation of Debra Cagan, a high-ranking member of the U.S. Defense Department. Cagan, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs, is alleged to have made an inflammatory remark concerning Iranians.

According to the newspaper Daily Mail, a group of six members of the British Parliament met with Cagan in Washington in September. She was discussing coalition efforts regarding Iraq and Iran. In the middle of the discussion, Cagan allegedly said, "I hate all Iranians."

One of the MPs stated: "She seemed more keen on saying she didn't like Iranians than that the U.S. had no plans to attack Iran. She did say there were no plans for an attack but the tone did not fit the words."

Of the six MPs who attended the meeting, three stated that Cagan made the comment, while one refused to comment and two could not be reached for comment. Cagan herself has denied saying it, stating: "I never said that. And I don't speak that way in any event."

It is deeply disturbing that a high-ranking U.S. government official may have made such a statement. Not only is it highly offensive on its face, it is also extremely counterproductive to U.S.-Iranian relations. The U.S. is currently seeking to reach out to the Iranian people, to engage them in direct exchanges with the hope of building stronger ties and greater understanding between Iranians and Americans. Remarks such as the one Cagan is said to have made makes this task far more difficult.

Ms. Cagan’s alleged comments are not only damaging to U.S. foreign policy, they are extremely offensive to the Iranian American community. The United States is host to the largest expatriate community of Iranians in the world. Iranian Americans have contributed to the strength and diversity of America, and are among the most educated and affluent ethnic groups in the United States.

At a time when civil liberties organizations are reporting an increase in discrimination against Americans of Middle Eastern descent, Cagan's alleged remarks have the potential to encourage xenophobia and hatred.

The U.S. government should make clear that Cagan’s alleged comments do not reflect U.S. attitudes towards Iranians.

IAPAC has contacted its candidates and members of Congress to convey the concerns of Iranian Americans pertaining to this matter.