Walnut Creek Businessman & Martinez Resident Seeks to be Candidate in Iranian Presidential Election

May 15, 2013 12:49 pm · 23 comments

In a seemingly quixotic quest, an East Bay businessman who is a dual Iranian and U.S. citizen has thrown his hat into the ring to be Iran’s next president.

Kazem Sadati, also known as Matt Sadati, 61, lives in Martinez and owns a business brokerage company, Liberty Business Advisors, in Walnut Creek.

He is one of 686 people who registered with the Interior Ministry in Tehran last week to be candidates to succeed termed-out President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“It’s exciting,” Sadati said Monday in a telephone interview from Tehran.

He said of the hour-long registration process, “It was cordial, it was very open.” The next step is for Iran’s conservative Guardian Council to vet the candidates and, by May 23, choose a small number of them — possibly between 10 and 20 — to run in the June 14 election.

Sadati said that if selected as a candidate, he will offer his business skills to help Iran’s economy and create jobs, and his knowledge of the two countries to improve relations between Iran and the United States.

“The two countries shouldn’t be in the position they’re in. They’ve been friends for a long time,” he said.

Three Bay Area professors, however, said Sadati faces insurmountable odds.

“The Iranian election is so complex that there is no chance that a dual American-Iranian citizen could get elected,” said Shahin Gerami, associate director of Persian studies at San Jose State University.

Stanford University Iranian Studies Director Abbas Milani noted that at least one other dual citizen from the United States has registered to be a candidate. He is Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers University public policy professor who founded the educational American Iranian Council.

Milani said that while Amirahmadi is better known than Sadati, “I don’t think either of them has any chance at all.” “It borders on the absurd,” he said.

Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco, said, “Even Iranians who are opposed to the regime are still very nationalistic and they would be suspicious of anyone who is a dual citizen.”

Nevertheless, Sadati believes he has a shot. “I think that if I am given an opportunity for people to listen to me, I have a much better idea and program than the other candidates,” Sadati said.

He said that because of his background as an entrepreneur, he could help the economy and create jobs.

Additionally, he said, “I understand both countries and I can read between the lines politically of both countries. I can reduce the tensions.”

Born and raised in Tehran, Sadati came to the Bay Area in 1970 at age 18 on a student visa. His father, who had an electronic parts import business, encouraged his children to get an education and study abroad, said Sadati’s sister, Lili Santoso of Antioch.

After studying English, Sadati earned an associate degree from Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and graduated from San Francisco State University with an engineering degree in 1975. He became an American citizen that same year. Later, in 2000, he got a law degree from John F. Kennedy University in Walnut Creek.

Sadati said he worked at and owned a variety of businesses, including in manufacturing, the restaurant industry, real estate, gas stations and retail stores, before establishing Liberty Business Advisors, which acts as a go-between for people buying and selling businesses.

Sadati’s volunteer projects have included raising money to build schools for women and girls in Afghanistan, co-founding the Oakland-based Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California and helping to establish a hospital in Iran for patients with multiple sclerosis.

Pittsburg Mayor Nancy Parent said she knows Sadati from both his business ventures in Contra Costa County and his charitable work. “He’s been a very astute businessman and he’s an upstanding member of the community,” Parent said.

Islamic Cultural Center office manager Azita Sayyah said Sadati “tried to bring in a lot of culture and a lot of humanitarianism” to the center. “He saw the center as a good source to reach out and educate people about the art and music of their culture and about humanitarian work.

He was active in creating schools in Afghanistan,” Sayyah said. Budd MacKenzie, a Lafayette lawyer and longtime friend of Sadati, said, “He’s a religious person. He feels strongly that it’s imperative to help people.” The 12-member Guardian Council now vetting the candidates has been shaped by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held the powerful post since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.

As supreme leader, Khamenei directly appoints six Muslim clergymen to the council. The other six members are lawyers who are approved by the Iranian Parliament after being recommended by the head of the judicial branch, who is appointed by Khamenei.

Milani said he expects the council’s selection of candidates to be based on “which are Islamic enough and have enough allegiance to the regime and the spiritual leader.” “It’s not an open process,” Milani asserted.

If no candidate receives a 50 percent majority in the June 14 election, there will be a runoff on June 21. Sadati said that even if he doesn’t get selected as a candidate, his efforts will have been worthwhile. “If you want something, you have to stand and claim it. You have to let your voice be heard,” he said.

“I really believe I’m doing the right thing for both countries,” Sadati said.

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claytonista May 15, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Best of luck to him!

Nancy Non-PC and Proud of IT May 15, 2013 at 1:11 PM

I am very suspicious of individuals with dual citizenships. My Grandpa had a saying-you’ve all heard it, “SHOOT, SH#T, OR GET OFF THE POT!”

The Professor May 15, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Why not? I’m going to run for King of the World.

Delusional or publicity hunting. Not sure which.

Ex-Claycordian May 15, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Nancy that is a really ignorant stance to take. I have dual citizenship (American and European) and it has provided me with lots of opportunities career-wise and travel-wise. It’s pretty badass to have two passports, its kinda like being James Bond. 😉

Queen of the Universe May 15, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Professor, you will still be my subject.

But on topic, this is very exciting. I hope the Guardian Council accepts him as a candidate.

Jojo Potato May 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM

I’m with Nancy, pick one or the other. I know several people with dual citizenship and it’s just for convenience. Like they can go to Egypt on one passport and then to Israel on another. Or India and Pakistan. I say make up your mind and support your country don’t just collect passports for ease of travel. Ever heard of commitment?

timday May 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM


CoCoOld May 15, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Dear Nancy Ignorant and Proud of it

I am very suspicious of ignorant people like you. As my grandfather said,
“you can dress up a pig but it is still a pig.” As my other grandfather used to say, “stupid is as stupid does.”

jtkatec May 15, 2013 at 3:25 PM

I don’t care who or what country you hate, but think how cool it would be to say, oh, yes, the President of Iran lived in the Bay Area for a number of years.

Heck. we have great professional football and baseball teams, why can’t the Bay Area lay claim to a President?

And he attended DVC!!!

Chris May 15, 2013 at 3:27 PM

My wife is Canadian and our goal is to each be citizens of each country and have residences is each country. Why should you have to choose? It’s a big world.

Mutts May 15, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Isn’t there something in the citizenshep oath about being loyal to America?
There is a big difference of having dual citizenship for traveling conveniences and wanting to run a crappy country.

Honey B. May 15, 2013 at 4:27 PM

I am an Iranian-American holding dual citizenship. I was born in the United States and am post-bachelors educated and a resident of Contra Costa County. The idea that the Iranian government would allow an outsider; and for all intents and purposes, an American, into their fold is preposterous. The dreamer in me wishes him luck in his endeavor. For Nancy and those who like trolling around and posting ignorant comments, please be advised that the reason I hold my dual citizenship is that I would face an extreme amount of uncertainty and danger in traveling to my ancestral homeland to visit my family on an American passport alone. Yes, for you, the lady who likes to “sh– or get off the pot”, it must be easy to judge. Then again, lipstick on a pig and all…

Ex-Claycordian May 15, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Jojo and Nancy, who should we have to choose if we have a rare privelage? I am still a tax paying and voting American even if my dual citizenship now allows me to live and work abroad without the hassle of applying for visas. If you’re suspicious if people like me then you are just an exaggerated fascist who us afraid to venture out if your own neighborhood. Try expanding your horizons out if dumpy Claycord and you might learn something. Ignorant people like you are the reason I don’t live in Cincird anymore. Too many uneducated flag waving fanatics. I consider myself a world citizen, whatcha gonna do about it, have me arrested for being too sophisticated for you?

The Professor May 15, 2013 at 5:03 PM

@ Queen of the Universe
You are a fraud! I know this because I am already married to the real Queen of the Universe. If you don’t believe me, then just ask her. And sadly, I am her subject.

But I digress.

This thread is about somebody who wants to be president of Iran, not about the merits of a dual citizenship. Let’s stay on point people.

I wish Kazem luck, but he has as much chance being elected as I do and I think his efforts would be better spent more productively.

Atticus Thraxx May 15, 2013 at 5:35 PM

A potentially lethal pursuit. I like when people make heartfelt but utterly reckless decisions and I get to watch. From a safe distance.

Anon May 15, 2013 at 6:05 PM

You said “Seeks”, LOL.

It could happen..... May 15, 2013 at 6:15 PM

FRemember….Golda Meir was a school teacher in Milwaukee.

anon May 15, 2013 at 8:47 PM

“Nancy that is a really ignorant stance to take. I have dual citizenship (American and European) and it has provided me with lots of opportunities career-wise and travel-wise. It’s pretty badass to have two passports, its kinda like being James Bond”

Oh please– James Bond?? did the give you 007’s gun ??
European is not a country
BS on the career-wise
You think you are bad ass for a document ??
Please…………. give me a break
Be an Ameriucan or leave

Montezuma May 16, 2013 at 7:37 AM

Seriously, people. This guy wants to be president of our enemy. Why are we happy for this obvious sympathist of jihad?

Chuckie's Wife May 16, 2013 at 8:19 AM

I’m a dual citizen as well. When I was sworn in, I had to swear allegiance to the US, and no other country – period. Kazim Sadati could find himself in trouble with US authorities over his desire to run for President of Iran. I don’t think he stands a chance to win there, so he might end up losing in both countries. After all, don’t you need to feel at least SOME allegiance to the country you want to be President of? Mr. Sadati’s intentions are admirable, but they are idealistic and unrealistic at best.

As for the trolls and ignoremuses on this thread poopooing all over dual citizens – I sense a great deal of jealousy. Get a life.

BCuzItzClaycord May 16, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Ex-Claycordian – stop with the “fascist” and “ignorant” crap already. Why is it when people like you don’t like what another say you start using the term “fascist” and use it incorrectly….Talk about uneducated….and where in the hell is “Cincird”????
I think having dual citizenship is up to the individual. There are some countries that do not allow it (Germany was one, don’t know if that changed), but we should feel privileged to live in country where we have the freedom to partake in the ability to have dual citizenship. If some don’t like the idea of dual citizenship then they do not need to partake.
As for Mr Sadati – Good luck, but be careful what you wish for.

Ex-Claycordian May 16, 2013 at 1:40 PM

BCuzItsClayord: spelling errors happen on iPhones, don’t have a hissy fit over it. And a fascist is someone who blindingly and fervently supports his own country before the rights or needs if the individual, something uneducated people do a lot lately. Being patriotic is one thing but most if the trolls on here are xenophobic… That’s a bug word so use a dictionary on that one as well. And anon: get a life and a sense if humor. Comparing myself to James Bond was a joke, but YEA, it IS pretty badass to have more than one passport, and since you have no clue what u do for a living you gave no idea what career opportunities were opened up to me because of it? What do you do for a living? Whatever it is I bet it’s blue collar and doesn’t require a college degree because you sound like an ignorant C-U-Next-Tuesday. I’m American and Italian, that’s a European Country by the way, and since we have something called The European Union that makes me more than an Italian Citizen, it makes me a Euro one as well, which means I can work hassle free in any Euro country as well as America. I was born and raised in America and left for personal reasons that you wouldn’t understand because you probably don’t leave your own house very much and are attached to FOX “news”. What, you don’t like me judging you? Then don’t judge me first, you absolute zero.

The Grant May 16, 2013 at 3:35 PM

dual Russian and U.S citizen here. I park my money over there knowing its out of the IRS / Democrats reach.

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