The Ayatollah's Lobby on K Street?
Has the National Iranian American Council and its founder, Trita Parsi, inserted itself into the debate over Iran sanctions under false pretenses? Has the left been duped and psychologically disarmed by Parsi and the folks at NIAC, who have seemingly tried to appeal to the left's dove-like idealistic sentiments? Substantial evidence points to the conclusion that NIAC’s agenda, far removed from the actual interests of the Iranian-American community at large, displays almost zero daylight between itself and the docket of the “supreme leader’s” theocratic regime.
Trita Parsi and the staff at NIAC have penned articles in several left-wing mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times and The Huffington Post, among many others. Parsi recently lectured at CIA headquarters and has personally met and lobbied former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Parsi, along with the staff at his disposal, claim to be "the voice" of the one million Iranian Americans in the United States, with the stated mission of “advancing the interests of the Iranian American community."
If NIAC’s mission is truly to serve the best interests of the Iranian-American community, it has epically failed to meet that objective. When polled, 99% of Iranian Americans who support a pro-democracy trajectory for Iran expressed that NIAC did not in any way represent their interests. Furthermore, a staggering 99% of respondents also believed that NIAC are simply a lobby for the Ayatollah’s Islamic Republic.
Mohsen Makhmalbalf, an established leader in Iran’s Green Movement, said of Parsi, “I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic republic.” When reached for comment, Amir Fakhravar, an Iranian jailed dissident and recipient of the Annie Taylor Journalism Award, said of NIAC, “You cannot find any difference between their statements and the Iranian regime’s statements. Either officially or unofficially, they are following the path of the regime.”
NIAC came to fruition in 1999, when Trita Parsi was at a conference in Cyprus being held under the auspices of the Iranian regime. During the conference, Parsi laid out his plan to introduce a pro-regime lobbying group to counteract the sentiments and influence allegedly purported by America’s pro-Israel and anti-regime advocacy groups.
Internal documents, unveiled as a result of the National Iranian American Council’s failed defamation lawsuit against an investigative journalist, reveal that Parsi had been maintaining a close relationship with Iranian defense Minister Javad Zarif for several years. Zarif was recently photographed laying a wreath honoring a former Hezb'allah commander who was responsible for the deaths of countless American lives, as he was the mastermind behind the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Additionally, Tehran media reported that Parsi’s close friend and confidant Siamak Namazi frequently met with Mohsen Rezai, former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). Rezai was at the helm of the IRGC in 1994 when 85 people were killed in an Iran-sponsored terrorist attack on a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Parsi was once employed on Capitol Hill as an aide to formerly jailed Republican Congressman Bob Ney, who was found guilty of receiving bribes from foreign lobbying groups. While Parsi was on the congressman’s payroll, Ney was found to be pushing for the relaxation of sanctions on Iran. Federal records subpoenaed in Ney’s prosecution provide documentation suggesting that Ney “personally lobbied” former Secretary of State Colin Powell to relax sanctions on Iran so the congressman’s overseas clients could sell U.S.-made airplane parts to the Iranian government.
As early as 2007, Arizona-based journalist and Iranian dissident Hassan Daioleslam began making the case that NIAC was a lobby for Iran. When NIAC became aware of the mounting evidence linking it to the Iranian autocracy, it sued Daiolelsam for defamation. Not only was the suit thrown out, but NIAC was forced to pay for Daiolelsam’s legal expenses. Afterward, in a desperate attempt to silence growing opposition, NIAC research director Reza Marashi falsely accused Daioleslam and his supporters of being mouthpieces for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a Communist-Islamist opposition group. To date, NIAC considers the “people behind the accusations against NIAC” as either “neoconservative activists” or “MEK supporters.”
Parsi and his ilk often like to pretend that the Iranian government is not a brutal theocracy run by one man, the Ayatollah Khamenei, but instead a "moderate" geopolitical actor. After the election of Hassan Rouhani, Parsi praised Rouhani’s “more open and moderate approach” while ignoring the fact that the mullahs allowed only eight candidates out of 680 who registered to run in Iran’s most recent presidential election. Under Rouhani, Iran’s human rights abuses have not subsided, but instead have reached record peaks. Since August, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office, over 300 people have been executed. Many of the individuals worthy of capital punishment were declared “Moharebeh,” or those who are “waging war against God” in Islamic law.
NIAC has revealed a disturbing trend by its refusal to take on and strongly condemn the atrocities committed by Iran’s chief decision-maker, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who has been in power unchecked as "supreme leader" since 1989. Instead, NIAC continues to shower newly elected President Hassan Rouhani with praise. The fact that Rouhani has no real power or decision-making authority, and is in reality comparable to a well-traveled press secretary, seems to have fallen upon deaf ears. When NIAC all too often refuses to strongly condemn the man behind the curtain running the world’s foremost sponsor of global terror, it should rightly heighten suspicion as to what its true agenda entails.
Follow Jordan Schachtel on Twitter: @JordanSchachtel.