Hooshang Amirahmadi, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and professor at Rutgers University teamed up with the largest oil companies in America creating the American-Iranian Council (AIC), in 1997 as a non-profit organization to promote the lifting of US sanctions against Iran.
Amirahmadi has participated in conferences pertaining to U.S.-Iran relations where he would speak on Tehran's current position. He is often one to defend the regime when it comes under scrutiny in the media.
AIC is bankrolled by the most prestigious American oil companies which include ARCO, Aramco, Ashland Oil, Conoco, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, and Unocal.
At one stage it seemed possible for U.S. oil companies to have access to the Iranian oil market, but Congress intervened. Conoco was eventually awarded a contract from Iran in 1995, whereby they could develop two oil fields in the Persian Gulf.
Congress did not, however, approve and U.S. Senator D'Amato introduced legislation blocking the contract and stated, "We are subsidizing Iranian terrorism by purchasing their oil, and it has to stop."
Ten days following Conoco's announcement of their contract with Iran, President Clinton intervened. He signed an executive order which banned U.S. investments in the petroleum fields in Iran. In 1996, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on all companies doing business with Iran and Libya.
Many U.S. oil producers and other businesses were not impressed with these sanctions as they were cut off from doing any business with Iran at all. In collaboration with the National Foreign Trade Council, they established 'U.S.A Engage' in 1997 to "address the recurring imposition of unilateral economic sanctions." It was then that they helped Amirahmadi to establish AIC.