John Limbert will be the senior Iran official at the State Department, replacing Dennis Ross, who has moved to the National Security Council (and who has not been heard from publicly since). Should America be concerned? Yes. Limbert is not a neutral arbiter; he serves on the advisory board of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
What is the National Iranian American Council?
The Council is widely considered the de facto lobby for the Iranian regime in America. It opposes sanctions on Iran, soft-pedals any controversial events in Iran, and counsels "patience" regarding Iran's stance towards its nuclear program. The NIAC has been at the forefront of lobbying against continued congressional funding of the Voice of America Persia service, Radio Farad, and grants for Iranian civil society. To top it off, the NIAC has reportedly received funding from anti-Israel advocate George Soros, who at the very least was an honored guest and speaker at one of its symposiums. (He called for a more equitable Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and advocated for America to renounce regime-change as a goal).
The NIAC staunchly opposes any military attacks on Iran. In other words, it all but serves as Iran's embassy in Washington -- though the NIAC vociferously disputes this characterization. However, there is very little sunlight between the views of the regime and the NIAC.
The NIAC is also headed by the controversial Trita Parsi. Who is Trita Parsi?
He was born in Iran, but moved to Sweden at the age of four. He pursued a career in international relations, eventually leading him to found the National Iranian American Council (more on that tie later).
Parsi serves as an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, a "think-tank" that serves as one of the public-relations agencies for the Muslim world in Washington. The Middle East Institute is headed by Wyche Fowler, who has a string of what I called "Fowler Howlers" when I wrote about the Middle East Institute years ago. The Fowler Howlers were statements to the media that were so glowing regarding the Muslim world as to be synonymous with mirages.
Parsi also is the author of the book The Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States, which was an expanded version of his dissertation thesis. The book was warmly endorsed and recommended by none other than John Mearsheimer, Zbigniew Brzezinski (who served as Parsi's dissertation adviser), and the former Foreign Minister for the State of Israel who has become an appeasement-focused dove, Shlomo Ben-Ami -- recently seen speaking at the J Street conference. Treacherous Alliance delves into anti-Semitic canards regarding Jewish control of policy in Washington.
The Treacherous Alliance also traffics in conspiracy-mongering, blaming neo-cons (you know who they are) for trying to push America into war with Iran. Parsi distorts history and willfully mistranslates the Iranian call for Israel to be "wiped off the map." He omits Iranian responsibility for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed so many Americans. He characterizes Iranian rhetoric against Israel as just words. He also blames the West for ignoring and dismissing numerous efforts by the Iranians to accommodate the West and blames the problems between America and Iran on Israeli machinations to turn nations, including our own, against Iran. The book is replete with errors and misinformation. Both Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic take a skeptical view towards Parsi and the NIAC: Goldfarb calls him "the Iranian regime's man in Washington," while Goldberg accuses him of "doing a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime." The NIAC also has an ambitious plan that it unwittingly disclosed just a few years ago: enhance its power in Washington in order to help steer American foreign policy.
One curious fact is that board members of the NIAC contribute to J Street, the anti-Israel lobby that tries to pass itself off as "pro-peace" and supportive of Israel (just as the NIAC tries to palm itself off as being pro-American and pro-peace). Not so coincidentally, Trita Parsi himself was on a panel at the recent J Street conference.
There are a range of efforts that the NIAC has undertaken to enhance its power in Washington: it has placed interns in the offices of Congressmen; persuaded House members to sign a letter to President Bush in 2006 calling for unconditional negotiations with Iran's regime; and has, among other steps, hired the Iranian-American Press Secretary for Representative Marcy Kaptur (not known to be a stalwart supporter of the America-Israel relationship) to help improve their lobbying in Congress. The key goal of the NIAC, as made clear in their master plan, is to place its supporters into key positions of power in Washington.
Their efforts have reached fruition: the National Iranian American Council now has one of their own as the Iran man (literally and metaphorically) at the State Department. The caviar is flowing in Tehran.