Test Tube Zealots: The American Chemical Society Terminates the Membership of Chemists from Iran




Test Tube Zealots: The American Chemical Society Terminates the
Membership of Chemists from Iran


The American Chemical Society (ACS) has once again led the way, with
its "zealot" interpretation of "embargo" by the Department of
Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control, by terminating the
membership of its long-standing members in Iran, many of whom are post
Ph.D. Alumni of American Universities. Several years ago, the ACS
undertook a similar unprecedented action, under the same law. Then, it
unilaterally stopped accepting scholarly and research manuscripts from
Iranian scientists for its three dozen periodicals in the publication
division. However, later, under embarrassing pressure from the
American scientific community and its membership, the ACS retracted
its decision and agreed to take it up instead with the federal
government. Paradoxically and notwithstanding rhetoric, such ill-
conceived measures are against the current U.S. Administration policy
of promoting people-to-people contact as enunciated by the Assistant
Secretary of State Nicholas Burns at the March 29 hearing of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, in Science Magazine, reported that the ACS
Assistant General Counsel, David Smorodin when "re-reading the embargo
rules, made the recommendation to terminate Iranian membership(Science
Magazine, Vol. 315, 30 March 2007). One can not help but speculate
whether or not such decision is truly serving the interests of member-
based ACS or enforcing the laws to the limit as he has served as a
U.S. Assistant District Attorney before joining the ACS. Nonetheless,
despite the abrupt termination of individual membership of Iranian
chemical scientists with no due process, the ACS has stated that while
they [Iranians] can continue to purchase journals and other "non-
sensitive products at full-rate, the ACS might apply for a special
license from the Treasury Department to reinstate their memberships.
This has in the meantime deprived American chemists to learn about the
scholarly contributions of their Iranian peers.

It should be noted that as in the past, the American Physical Society
(APS), in contrast, stated, "We have NO plan to do anything similar,
and continue to serve our members in Iran." Judy Franz, a director at
the APS further stated that, "We would resist having to obtain a
license to the extent we can."

When interviewed by Science Magazine, the official publication of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), David
Rahni an Iranian-American chemistry professor in New York stated, "I,
like most ACS members and peers in the scientific community, strongly
question the ACS motive on this issue, and expect ACS,s leadership to
refrain from allowing politics to taint the high stature the
Organization has achieved." Rahni further stated that this has
personally concerned him gravely since he has served the ACS with
distinctions in the past thirty years, as typified by his positions as
the chair of the ACS New York, the chair of the Middle Atlantic
Regional Meeting, and the chair of Nichols Medal. 90% of the ACS
projects, publications and activities are run by a huge cadre of
volunteer professionals who, with no expectations, give their time,
energy, money and intellects and talents to the advancement of the
chemical sciences worldwide. It is painfully ironic to many,
especially the ACS American members to witness the politicization of
their disciplines through the ACS as they continue to register their
grave concerns with the ACS lucratively remunerated executive
directors. As a chemistry professor with having given fifty years of
his life to the ACS and the profession so eloquently put it, "Never
mind the Iranians as one may not give a darn about them and their
plights, what, I am bewildered to speculate the ulterior motives of
the ACS paid "professional leadership is to embarrass us as
freethinking science. ACS is US and not its DC staff as they are
required by our mandate to serve our interests and not create problems
for us.

The consensus among the nearly one million Americans of Iranian
ancestry is to reaffirm their yearning commitment to the attainment of
justice, security, stability, equity, transparency and human rights
through "home-grown", indigenous and democratic reforms in Iran, but
not at the expense of isolating the scientific community in their
motherland from their peers worldwide. They further deplore any
possible unilateral military action against Iran, as they firmly
believe this is counter-productive to the organic, slow, but steady
evolution of Iran through educational benchmark, cultural reforms and
communication with the rest of the world. They further consider
military action and/or isolation counter-productive to the credibility
of their American homeland which would inevitably lead, once again, to
the priceless loss of human life and loss of credibility for our
nation in the international scene.

Iran's chemist/chemical engineering professionals/scholars numbers
tens of thousands. They are, by and large, members of the Iranian
Chemical Society. However, many of them hold at least one overseas
membership, mostly in the Royal Societies in the UK. There are
currently 36 Iranian members in the American Chemical Society. The
strong position of chemistry/chemical engineering in Iran is due to
the oil and gas explorations by the petrochemical industry during the
past 100 years, and due to some of Iran,s renowned past and
contemporary chemists, scientists, and philosophers. The contributions
of Americans of Iranian background to the chemistry and sciences,
engineering and medicine, is unparalleled by other recent immigrant
communities. There indeed exists an <http://www.ica-acs.org/
news.htm>Iranian Chemists' Association of the ACS that since its
inception in the 80, has reached out to over a thousand chemists of
Iranian ancestry in the U.S. alone. It is well substantiated that as
long as the diplomatic relations between the two nations remain at a
hostile stalemate, a political cloud hovers over the personal and
professional aspirations of Iranian-Americans. Specifically, senior
and executive level professional opportunities for Iranian-Americans,
particularly in government, higher education and the corporate world,
remain chronically undermined.

Iran, a multiethnic country of 70 million, traces its heritage to a
long and illustrious history, 10,000 years in the making, with 2500
years of a continuous form of government. There are two million
students in her higher education system, 60% of whom, especially in
the sciences, engineering and medicine, are women. Its literacy rate
is 90%, unprecedented in that part of the world. Iran or Persia as it
was formerly known by the outside world until 1935, has indeed
contributed immensely toward the advancement of science, technology
and society for millennia. Rhazes, Avicenna, Algorithm, Omer Khayam,
Farabi, Biruni, Hayyan, and many others are some of the epics that
come to a western scholar,s mind.

Despite the tremendous burden imposed on the Iranian students and
scholars as they struggle to obtain a US visa (mostly denied) for
doctoral studies, some of the brightest graduate students in Ivy
League Universities (e.g., Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, and MIT) are
Iranians. Increasingly, however, they opt to pursue their doctoral
studies in Australia, Canada and Europe. Iranian high school students
have continuously ranked among the top few of the nations in the
International Chemistry and other Science Olympiads, and Robotics and
Computing Competitions.

Isn't it ironic that when the ACS claims to be an international
professional society, 130 years old, with a membership of 160,000, 10%
of whom are from overseas, and an additional 20%, are naturalized
Americans or permanent residents, that it forces the nationals of Iran
out, deprives them from maintaining scientific communications with
peers worldwide, and does not let them contribute toward the
advancement of science worldwide?

Notwithstanding the rhetoric and provocations leading to a possible
disastrous confrontation by governments, a true scientist, or a
credible organization of scientists such as the ACS, which does not
recognize the boundaries of the world, should be capable to transcend
all political barriers for the advancement of science.

David N. Rahni, Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry at Pace University,
in Pleasantville, New York and Adjunct Professor of Dermatology, New
York Medical College. He is also an Adj. Prof. Envirnonmental Law at
Pace U. He can be reached at: (e-mail address removed)

JR North

And we're supposed to care exactly why?
Dweller in the cellar


Test Tube Zealots: The American Chemical Society Terminates the
Membership of Chemists from Iran

Home Page: http://www.seanet.com/~jasonrnorth
If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes
Doubt yourself, and the real world will eat you alive
The world doesn't revolve around you, it revolves around me
No skeletons in the closet; just decomposing corpses

Jim Langston

JR North said:
And we're supposed to care exactly why?

Oh come on, everyone knows Iranian chemists use C++.

(In case anyone is taking me seriously, that is said tongue in cheek).

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