December 10, 2009
A Seat at the TableBy Hassan Daioleslam
By purporting to represent the Iranian-American community, Trita Parti has gained access to the corridors of power in Washington. In September 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited a group of "Iran experts" to a dinner to discuss the upcoming nuclear negotiations with Iran, among other issues. The seven guests whose names have been revealed by the press all advocate, with minor variations, a specific policy towards Iran. Among the guests was Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Evidently, he advised the White House to share the Middle East with the Iranian regime.
Parsi's success in Washington is partly due to the assertion by the NIAC that it represents the Iranian-American community. Consequently, he has been frequently invited to brief the government on this community's opinion.
Do the NIAC and its president represent Iranian-Americans? Through a campaign of untruths, the NIAC and its supporters have been able to mislead at least the American government to believe so. The NIAC's internal documents obtained during a defamation lawsuit against me suggest that Parsi has repeatedly lied about his organization's membership.
In his campaign to hype NIAC's representation, Parsi was assisted by the Iranian regime, as well as by some groups in the U.S. who preach engagement with Iran and believe that more influence for NIAC would create a more favorable environment for their policy of coexistence with the Iranian regime.
For example, in 2006, the former head of the Iran interest section in Washington, Faramarze Fathnejad, had a meeting in Tehran and expressed his support for the NIAC and its president. He highlighted "the importance of relations with Iranian organizations in the U.S. and specially pointed to NIAC and his young leader who is a consultant to CNN and has been very successful in his efforts." At that time, the Iranian regime's representative claimed 20,000 members for the NIAC.
The Iranian officials are not alone in hyping the NIAC's and Parsi's performance. In October 2007, the organization boasted on its website of a New York Times report by Roger Cohen claiming that "NIAC represents about one million Iranian-Americans."
The minutes of a meeting of the NIAC Board in 2007 (discovered during the lawsuit) contain:
"Trita reviewed the membership trends: 1,034 (2005) increased to 1,307 in 2006 and 1,680 as of today - citing these figures as absolutely unacceptable."
A good number of these members did not even pay their membership fee. As these numbers were absolutely ridiculous for an organization that claims to represent a community of one million, the solution proposed by a board member was simply to lie to the public. A few lines later in the same minutes of that meeting we read:
"Alex felt it would not be deceitful to mention NIAC as being comprised of 25,000+ members when dealing with the media and other inquiries."
Alex Patico is the co-founder and a member of the NIAC's Board of Directors. Relatively speaking, Ahmadinejad was more accurate in representing his presidential election victory results in Iran.
Patico's suggestion to lie to the public was in fact the institutionalization of an untruth that Trita Parsi had been already offering for years. In several CVs that Parsi prepared for Amnesty International, Saban Center at Brookings Institute or Eurasia Fund, etc., he openly lied about NIAC membership. His résumé (in 2005) entailed:
- Raised $450,000 and increased membership to 10,000 in less than one year
- Organized fundraisers events with members of Congress
In 2006, his résumé included:
- Raised $800,000 and increased membership to 10,000 in less than one year
In a March 2006 meeting with Mark Silverman and William Ralph from Senator Chafee's office, Trita Parsi pushed the same insinuation in a very cunning and insincere presentation:
"... Mark asked us detailed questions about the survey that NIAC conducted. Trita noted that the initial survey asking what activities NIAC should be doing was sent out to 10,000 members."
It is worth knowing that less than five hundred persons responded to the NIAC's July 2009 membership survey. But, Trita Parsi and his colleagues in the NIAC feel the need to be utterly cavalier with the truth. How otherwise could they get a ticket to Hilary Clinton's dinner?