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How Trita Parsi & NIAC Advance
 IRI Iran Agenda in USA?

 

How Trita Parsi and NIAC Advance IRI Iran’s Agenda in USA?
Hassan Daioleslam
hassan.dai@yahoo.com
July 14, 2017


Trita Parsi, top IRI Iranian Agent and Lobbyist in USA
Trita Parsi head of Iranian Fifth Column in USA
If lobby for the State Sponsored Terrorism (IRI) is a crime, then how come Trita Parsi is not being trialed for treason, jailed or at least deported?

How a small pro-Iranian lobby became part of a vast propaganda machine to push the nuclear deal that helped reshape the Middle East?

Since its creation in 2002, NIAC has dedicated most of its activities and resources to ease the pressure off the Iranian regime and helped Tehran to advance its strategic goals.


Trita Parsi, top IRI Iranian Agent and Lobbyist in USA celebrating the IRI - USA Nuclear Deal architected by Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, NIAC member and IRI Agent in the White House and fabricated by Hussein Obama the first American Muslim Socialist President!

For more information read:

Iranian Hezbollah Agents, Lobbyists and Media in USA (3 Parts)

Jahanshah Javid Hezbollah IRI Agent Cleans Track on Internet

Iran Movement Index

Shiite of the Season Series:

Trita Parsi Iranian Hezbollah Agent in America

Jahanshah Javid, Hezbollah in Disguise! (2 Parts)

Shiite of the Season Index

KIR Series:

KIR III: KIR Tower Lands in Washington DC

KIR IV: KIR Tower and Obama

Iran Animation Graphics Index

Bob Ney’s corruption scandal and the NIAC defamation lawsuit

In 2005, Jack Abramoff’s corruption and lobbying scandal became public. One of Abramoff’s main accomplices was Bob Ney, the former Congressman from Ohio, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Part of Ney’s corruption charges, exposed in DOJ documents were related to the bribes that he had received from 2 businessmen in London. They tried to buy a VIP airplane for the Iranian leaders and Ney had been hired to resolve the sanction issues prohibiting the export of airplane to Iran.


Hassan Daioleslam Investigative Author and Iranian Opposition Member
Hassan Daioleslam primarily exposed Trita Parsi and NIAC wide open

Prior to being caught by the law, Bob Ney was advocating friendship with Tehran and the removal of sanctions for almost ten years. During this time, Trita Parsi, a young Iranian-Swedish student was working as Ney’s foreign policy adviser. It was hard to explain why a Congressman with no official role in US foreign policy, had a foreign policy adviser on Iran. Parsi is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington-based pro-Tehran advocacy and lobbying organization founded in 2002. The governmental press in Iran considers  NIAC as the “Iran lobby” in Washington.

Following the Ney scandal, criticism against NIAC’s pro-regime activities mounted within the Iranian-American community. In 2008, NIAC and Parsi filed a defamation lawsuit against one of their critics who had exposed their tie to the Iranian regime. The purpose of the lawsuit was to break him under the financial burdens and as a result, silence all other critics. During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, NIAC was obliged to release a small part of its internal documents that proved to be devastating for the organization as they showed NIAC’s direct links with Iranian officials. In November 2009, the Washington Times ran a front-page article about these documents and wrote:

“Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif – and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act – offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws… the Times asked two former federal law-enforcement officials to review documents from the case showing that Mr. Parsi had helped arrange meetings between members of Congress and Mr. Zarif. ‘Arranging meetings between members of Congress and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran,’ said one of those officials, former FBI associate deputy director Oliver “Buck” Revell. The other official, former FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism Kenneth Piernick, said, ‘It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests.’”

Following the Times report, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl sent an inquiry to the US Attorney general asking him to investigate the group’s ties with the Iranian regime.

But in 2009, the Obama administration begun its conciliatory approach toward Tehran and needed NIAC’s help in mending rifts with Iranian leaders. Moreover, the White House needed NIAC, as an Iranian-American group to endorse and legitimize Obama’s friendly attitude toward the clerical regime, especially after the Iranian popular uprising of 2009-2010 was brutally crushed by the regime. As a result, NIAC gained influence in the administration and became a White House partner.

NIAC finally lost the legal action against its critic in 2012 as the court dismissed the defamation lawsuit and punished NIAC and Trita Parsi for discovery abuses including false declarations to the court and ordered them to pay a significant part of the defendant’s legal expenses. The loss was largely reported by the press impacting NIAC’s standing in Washington. Part of NIAC’s internal documents released during the lawsuit are posted here and some of them have been used to prepare this report.

Background on NIAC and Trita Parsi 

In 1997, Trita Parsi, a student living in Sweden, founded a small lobby organization called: “Iranians for International Cooperation” (IIC) that used its few Washington members to send petitions and letters to Congress members. IIC ceased its activities in 2002 and its web archive shows some grassroots activities against US sanctions on Iran. In an IIC document released during the lawsuit, Parsi explained IIC’s activities and goals: “IIC was founded in August 1997 by Trita Parsi, the present President … our agenda is topped by the removal of US economic and political sanctions against Iran… IIC is capable of organizing the grassroots and pressure US lawmakers to pose a more Iran friendly position.”

In 2001, Parsi moved to the US and became the development director of the American Iranian Council (AIC), an anti-sanction and pro-Iran advocacy organization that had been founded by its President Hooshang Amirahmadi in 1997. AIC was funded by US oil companies and received support from Tehran. In several interviews, Amirahmadi called AIC Iran’s “prominent lobby in the US that strives to defend the interests of Iran and oppose the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC.”  (Two interviews with government press in Iran here and here)
Shortly after his arrival in the US, Parsi began the consultation to create NIAC. Several emails by Parsi are related to discussions that he had with his partners about the legal format and the strategy of the new organization. In one of the emails, Parsi indicated that Tehran based Baquer Namazi was instructing him. Namazi was the co-director of Tehran based Hamyaran, a semi-governmental organization also known as the “Iran NGO initiative”.  The other co-director of Hamyaran was Hossein Malek Afzali, a Deputy Minister in Iran for eighteen years whose tenure ended in 2008. Hamyaran was created by the government to monitor the activities of Iranian NGOs and to coordinate their relations with foreign organizations. Hamyaran was also assigned by the Iranian foreign ministry to coordinate relationships with Iranian expatriates.

Does NIAC Represent Iranian-Americans?

NIAC was incorporated in early 2002 and presents itself as: “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision making by lawmakers.”

But a cursory review of NIAC activities and statements show that the group is almost entirely working to pressure US government to adopt a friendlier policy with Tehran and lift economic sanctions. A NIAC internal document released during the lawsuit, shows that the organization uses its pro-Iranian-American posture as a tool to advance its political agenda.

NIAC was registered as a 501c3 with restrictions for the amount of lobbying it could legally perform. In 2002, when NIAC was launched, Parsi and two Washington lobbyists worked together to create a parallel organization to NIAC that would carry out the lobbying activities. In October 2002, Parsi sent a memo to these two lobbyists, entitled “Towards the creation of an Iranian-American lobby”, and explained the real goal of his lobby activities:

“Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination… Despite its predominantly business oriented constituency, it is essential that the lobby creates a ‘human face’. The human element is essential both when it comes to attracting support among Iranian-Americans and when it comes to winning the debate and the votes on the Hill.”

NIAC claims that it is the largest Iranian-American organization in the United States, and hence solely equipped to represent the views of nearly one and a half million Iranian-Americans. This claim is deceitful and fraudulent.  NIAC’s internal documents obtained during the lawsuit show that the organization has systematically hyped the number of its members and misrepresented its constituency. For example, in 2005-2006, in several CVs that Parsi attached to his job application sent to US organization such as Amnesty InternationalSaban or Eurasia Fund, he falsely claimed 10,000 members for NIAC.

In a meeting with Senator Chafey’s office, Parsi repeated the same false claims and declared that a NIAC survey was sent to 10,000 members. NIAC document shows that only 224 members participated in the survey. The minutes of NIAC’s Board meeting in 2007 contains: “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”. Note that only about half of them paid their membership dues and should be considered active members. The same document shows that Alex Patico, NIAC co-founder and a board member felt that: “…. it would not be deceitful to mention NIAC as being comprised of 25,000+ members when dealing with the media and other inquiries.”

Another NIAC documents shows that the group only had 1068 members in 2008. It had 1100 in May 2009. In July 2009, less than 500 (including non-members) participated in a NIAC members’ survey. 275 of them responded to the questions. In December 2010, Trita Parsi claimed that NIAC had 4000 paid members and 43,000 active supporters.  However, during his testimony in May 2011 and under oath he admitted that 43,000 is simply NIAC’s mailing list. The real membership was only around 1000 members.

In fact, the vast majority of Iranian-Americans oppose the clerical regime and reject appeasement policies toward Tehran. For example, each year during the presence of Iranian President’s trip to New York to attend UN General Assembly, thousands of Iranian-Americans participate in anti-regime rally.

NIAC’s partnership with the trade lobby

American foundations are the primary source of income for NIAC. Its biggest donor is the Ploughshares Fund that for the last several years has supported various groups and individuals who advocate for a friendlier policy with Iran and the lifting of economic sanctions.

However, it is worth noting that US foundations usually act as a conduit for the funds that they receive from business interests and individuals. It is therefore difficult to trace the origins of the funds that NIAC or other organizations receive from these foundations. One example that illustrates this difficulty is the case of a $900,000 donation by Vahid Alaghband, a London based Iranian businessman to the Brookings Institution in 2007.

Alaghband is the chairman of the Balli group in London with multiple large holdings inside Iran. In 2010, Balli pleaded guilty to illegally exporting Boeing 747 Aircrafts to Iran and agreed to pay $15 Million in fines to the US government.

In 2007, while Alaghband was preparing the illegal sale of aircrafts to Iran, he donated $50,000 to the California based Parsa Foundation. In the same year, the foundation awarded a grant of $50,000 to NIAC. During the NIAC defamation lawsuit, the Parsa Foundation was subpoenaed and produced some of its email exchanges with Alaghband showing a scheme to use the Foundation to funnel a large donation to the Brookings Institution. Alaghband would donate $900,000 to the Parsa Foundation and the foundation would subsequently give the money to the Brookings Institution. Not surprisingly, at the time, the Brookings Institution was actively promoting a friendlier policy with Iran.

In fact, the American business interests are NIAC’s main allies in the US and could naturally provide financial and political support for the organization. In the 2002 memo that Parsi sent to his lobby partners in Washington, he explained this alliance and wrote: “Iranian-American organizations have in the past targeted the oil companies for financial support. This strategy has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the oil companies have been relatively dedicated to the cause and have been generous supporters of groups such as AIC. On the other hand, oil companies have a bad reputation among Iranian-Americans and are easily depicted as greedy and insensitive to human rights concerns in the media… The lobby should target business with positive images that have a strategic interest in trade with Iran.”

The alliance between the trade lobby and pro-Iran lobby goes back to the 1990s and specially 1997 when the so-called reformist Mohammad Khatami became president and launched a charm offensive to soften the western attitude toward Iran. The American business interests grasped the opportunity and launched a lobbying campaign to change US policy with Iran and remove economic sanctions. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), representing large US corporations, launched its own lobby arm called USA*ENGAGE joining forces with oil giants.

However, to bolster the legitimacy of their anti-sanction lobby, US business interests needed the input and support of Iranian-American organizations. In 1998 Gary Marfin, Conoco’s manager for government affairs, explained this strategy and declared that “the company’s alliance with Iranian-Americans is part of its general opposition to economic sanctions.”

On April 27, 2001, Peter H. Stone wrote in the National Journal about this alliance:  “Red Cavaney, the president of the American Petroleum Institute and his allies are in the midst of a lobbying campaign aimed at persuading members of Congress and Administration officials to relax sanctions against investments in Iran…. For extra help on the issue, oil companies are also banking on a grassroots organization of Iranian-Americans to lend a hand.”

The desire to have an “Iranian voice” in Washington to promote the removal of sanctions was also shared by the Iranian regime. Thus, the common cause between American business interests and the Iranian regime helped create several Iranian-American organizations, including NIAC that received simultaneous support from Tehran and the trade lobby in Washington.

Some of NIAC’s emails released during the defamation lawsuit show the nature and extent of NIAC’s joint lobby with USA*Engage.

NIAC collaboration with Iran’s ambassador to the UN

In August 2013, the newly nominated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a speech to the Iranian parliament and explained that during his tenure in New York as Iranian Ambassador to the UN, he established contacts with anti-Bush politicians to exploit political divisions in Washington on behalf of Iran. He declared: “I had the approval of the regime’s highest authorities and established contacts with anti-Bush politicians within the US to attempt to cause a division amongst the decision makers and neutralize the White House’s bellicose policy toward Iran.”

The email exchanges between Zarif and Parsi and NIAC’s public documents demonstrate that the organization and its President Parsi were Zarif’s main partner in this campaign. Washington Times and Bloomberg have reported on the Zarif and NIAC collaboration to influence public opinion and US policy toward Iran.

According to these emails, in April 2006, Zarif gave a copy of the so-called “Iranian 2003 offer for grand bargain” to Parsi that he subsequently released to the press and used in a campaign to prove that Iran was ready for peace and dialogue while the US was seeking war with Iran. A NIAC 2007 internal report released during the lawsuit detailed how NIAC used the “Grand Bargain” story to influence public opinion. The report concluded that NIAC’s campaign “succeeded in bringing wide range attention to Iran’s 2003 Grand Bargain offer“.

Zarif and NIAC’s collaboration was part of Iran’s large-scale media and PR campaign to influence public opinions in the West and counter US and international pressure and consequently, help Iran to continue its nuclear program.

During this time, Iran pursued an ambitious plan to connect with American anti-war groups, recruit amongst them and use their social networks in a grassroots lobby to influence public opinion and prevent tougher policies against Iran. NIAC and its President Parsi played a pivotal role in bridging the anti-war activists with the Iranian regime.

Tehran’s campaign to influence US policy

The Iranian government and its partners in the US have been pursuing a strategy to exploit political divisions in the US over its policy with Iran. In a meeting with members of parliament in 2013, Zarif declared: “We are mistaken in thinking there is a unified voice in America. By exploiting the political divisions in the US we can be the winners in the (diplomatic) arena, and, of course, we can take advantage of the Zionist regime’s weaknesses.”

The Iranian work plan to exploit political divisions in Washington is based on a campaign that depicts Israel as the bullying force behind sanctions and pressure against Iran. The Iranian leaders believe that the marginalization of Israel and the weakening of its influence in Washington will help Iran to attain its strategic goals.

Upon his return from New York in September 2013, President Rouhani declared: “The next thing we wanted to do in New York was to soften the negative atmosphere that the Israelis create in the US against our country. They fabricate lies to demonize our nation. We wanted to limit this space for the Israelis and make American public opinion aware that many of the things that are said against us, are not true. Of course, you know that Israel has a strong lobby in the US and a lot of influence in the Congress. They have done a lot of work and, we need to fill the vacuum and create a strong Iranian lobby in Washington that could counter AIPAC’s campaign against Iran. I think the Iranians who live there should take first steps in this regard. I proposed this in my meeting with the Iranians (in the US) and said that all Iranians in America are our voice and should echo the Iranian realities.”

In an interview with “Aseman” magazine on August 31, 2013 Foreign Minister Zarif explained that the government intends to dedicate resources, to mobilize the Iranian-American community and create a powerful lobby capable of opposing AIPAC.

Similarly, in his interview with Iranian TV on August 22, 2013, Zarif declared that AIPAC is forcing US politicians to adopt anti-Iran policies and asked Iranian-Americans to mobilize against the Israeli lobby in the US: “We see that sometimes, the US is carrying the interests of Zionist regime (Israel) on its shoulders. This overlapping of Israeli interests undermines America’s own interests. The Iranians should mobilize and confront this small group of warmongers that try to bully the US and expose their anti-Iranian and anti-American intentions. We should explain to the public that the ‘Iran threat’ is a myth fabricated by these warmongers. We should explain that the real threat is the Zionist regime and not Iran. The real threat in the region is the Zionist regime. The real nuclear threat is the Zionist regime, the threat against human rights is the Zionist regime. The real threat of war, expansionism and occupation is this regime.”

NIAC’s anti-Israeli campaign

NIAC and its President Parsi carry out the Iranian regime’s anti-Israel and anti-AIPAC campaign in the US. NIAC’s statements and policy positions and Parsi’s articles and book have essentially aimed to denounce and combat Israeli influence in the US. NIAC presents its campaign against Israel and its lobby in the US as a modern era “David versus Goliath battle”.

According to Parsi, Israel should be blamed because since 1992, for illegitimate and self-serving interests, it has been preventing a US-Iran rapprochement: “The US-Iran negotiations could damage Israel’s strategic standing, since common interests shared by Iran and the US would overshadow Israel’s concerns with Tehran and leave Israel alone in facing its Iranian rival….Israel is playing hardball to prevent Washington from cutting a deal with Tehran that could benefit America, but deprive Israel of its military and strategic supremacy.”

Parsi claims that in order to achieve this goal, Israel has been demonizing Iran: “For Israel, rallying Western states to its side was best achieved by bringing attention to the alleged suicidal tendencies of the clergy and to Iran’s apparent infatuation with the idea of destroying Israel. If the Iranian leadership was viewed as irrational, conventional tactics such as deterrence would be impossible, leaving the international community with no option but to have zero tolerance for Iranian military capabilities.” (Parsi’s book: Introduction, p.2) “Swiftly, a campaign was organized to convince the United States and the EU that Iran was a global threat.” (p.161)

For Parsi, the United States is a passive character that bows to Israeli pressure and adopts the policy dictated by Israel at the expense of American national interests. As a result, the US imposes sanctions on Iran and ignores the Iranian overtures for dialogue: “Washington started to adopt the Israeli line on Iran. In response to Israeli pressure—and not to Iranian actions—Washington’s rhetoric on Iran began to mirror Israel’s talking points… Washington’s recycling of Israel’s argument back to Tel Aviv reflected the success of Rabin and Peres’s campaign against Iran. Washington’s turnaround was a direct result of Israel’s pressure.” (p. 185)

Parsi has also argued that the tensions over Iran’s nuclear program was a smoke screen created by Israel. According to him, Israel was dictating to the US and the UN to counter the Iranian nuclear program: “Israel has been the primary force countering Iran’s nuclear advances. Though Israel presents the prospect of a nuclear Iran as a global rather than an Israeli problem, it has compelled Washington to adopt its own red lines and not those of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).”

In another article, Parsi concluded that the UN had bowed to Israeli pressure to counter the Iranian nuclear program: “With the issue of Iran’s nuclear program being taken up by the U.N. Security Council, Israel’s hawkish policy and AIPAC’s support for Bush administration hard-liners would appear to be paying dividends.”

NIAC’s mimicking of Tehran’s anti-Israeli campaign was well on display in March 2015 when Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Washington to address the US Congress. On March 2, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wrote on his English Tweeter account: “The day when Western people realize that their problems result from Zionism’s hegemony over governments they will make an inescapable hell for them.” A day later, he posted a new tweet and wrote: “In the past 50 years, how much money and reputation has it cost US to support Israel’s crimes? Who other than its nation has paid for it?”

Similarly, NIAC escalated its anti-Israeli campaign and bought a full page ad in the New York Times accusing the House of Representatives’ speaker of being “loyal” to Israel. (NIAC related video) Two weeks later, Parsi posted a tweet about Senator Lindsey Graham’s trip to Israel, and wrote: “Graham re-pledges loyalty to a foreign leader.”

NIAC and Pro-Iran Lobby under the Obama administration

In 2005-2006, a coalition of nearly 50 groups, mostly comprising of anti-war and progressive organizations formed a coalition to oppose America’s harsh policy toward Iran and prevent a potential war between the two countries. NIAC played a key role in shaping the coalition’s policies. One of the documents obtained during the lawsuit is a 2007 report titled “Lobby Groups” that Parsi wrote and sent to Siamak Namaz, his lobby partner in Tehran. Parsi explained how NIAC tried to transform this coalition into an anti-sanction pressure group:

“While these groups have focused extensively on passing measures to reduce the risk for war with Iran, little attention has been paid to efforts to intensify sanctions against Iran. However, initial efforts are currently being made to make align the trade groups with the pro-dialogue coalition and frame sanctions an initial step that invariably will lead to war. If such a coalition of pro-trade and pro-dialogue groups can be formed, the current momentum for sanctions may be significantly hampered.”

In 2008, the coalition was named “Campaign for New American policy on Iran” (CNAPI) and NIAC became its official coordinator.  CNAPI comprised of leftist and religious groups, Open Society, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and USA*Engage, the lobby arm of large US corporations. Several former politicians and diplomats also worked with CNAPI.

After Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential elections, during the monthly meeting of CNAPI, Patrick Disney, a NIAC lobbyist and the coordinator for CNAPI declared: “this is a chance to demonstrate that our group and our position is now the ‘center of gravity’ on the Iran issue.  With Obama in the White House, it is no longer acceptable for staffers to say they only hear from the far-right hawks on Iran–we’re here and we’re going to push for a positive agenda.”

In mid-2009 coalition partners ceased using the CNAPI name but it formed the nexus for continued collaboration between these groups and NIAC remains a key player in this coalition which the Iranian regime calls the “pro-Iran lobby in Washington” as its policy recommendations are overwhelmingly favorable to Tehran. These include the easing of economic sanctions (without asking too much in return), accepting a nuclear capable Iran, the recognition of Iran as a regional power, accepting the Iranian regime’s legitimacy and a strategic reconciliation and cooperation with Iran, akin to the rapprochement toward China in the 1970s.

Obama embraced these recommendations and believed the false assumption put forward by the pro-Tehran lobby that the US and the Iranian regime could be strategic partners in the region. If the US stops its animosity and adopts a less belligerent attitude toward Iran, the Iranian regime will reciprocate, the “moderate” factions will be empowered, the Iranian regime will gradually reform itself, its regional policies will change and it will become a successful regional power abiding by international rules, as President Obama explained during an interview on December 20, 2015.

In an interview with CBS in May 2015, Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained the administration doctrine on Iran and declared: “I think that the pursuit of the (nuclear) agreement is based on the President’s hope that over a ten-year period with the sanctions being lifted that the Iranians will become a constructive stakeholder in the international community. That– that as their economy begins to grow again, that– that they will abandon their ideology, their theology, their revolutionary principles, their meddling in various parts of the region. And, frankly, I believe that’s very unrealistic.”

The convergence of views between the Obama administration and the pro-Iran lobby helped NIAC and its partners to evolve from a pressure group to a White House partner. Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region spoke at the NIAC 2014 annual conference and in September 2016, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes spoke at the NIAC conference to highlight the White House alliance with the organization Similarly, Alan Eyre, the State Department’s Persian-Language Spokesperson regularly participated as a keynote speaker at the NIAC conferences and more amazingly, the State Department and US embassy in Jeddah organized a series of speeches for Trita Parsi in Saudi Arabia about US-Iran relations. This demonstrated the level of mutual understanding between the Obama administration and NIAC. It was therefore not surprising that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a former NIAC employee became National Security Council Director for Iran.  According to official records, NIAC President Parsi, visited the White House 33 times between 2013 and 2016 during the nuclear negotiations.

The partnership

Once in the White House, Obama extended a friendly hand toward the Iranian regime, sent two secret letters to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as well as a conciliatory video message to Iran’s leaders. A few month later, in June 2009, as the White House was trying to gain the trust of the Iranian regime, the rigged presidential election in Iran provoked a historic popular movement which gradually morphed to an anti-regime uprising that lasted almost a year and brought the regime to the edge of collapse. While millions of Iranian demonstrators were facing the regime’s brutal crackdown, thousands were arrested, beaten, raped and tortured and hundreds were killed, Obama ignored this defining moment and continued his overture toward the regime. This attitude angered the Iranian people who shouted in the streets and asked the US President: “Obama, Obama, are you with them (regime), or with us?”

A former administration official explained the main reason for Obama’s attitude to New Yorker: “The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters.”

At the same time, NIAC launched a media campaign to support Obama’s position. For example, Parsi wrote an article and defended Obama’s passive attitude: “the White House’s position has been on mark. The Iranians want to make sure that the world knows and sees what is happening on the streets of Tehran and other cities. And they want the US to stay out of the fight.”

Patrick Disney, NIAC’s policy director published an article titled: “On Iran, the Power of Obama’s Silence” and wrote: “For now, the Obama administration is just taking a step back and assessing the situation, and rightly so.  But the Obama administration is also making it perfectly clear that, regardless of the outcome of the next few days, they are committed to engage in direct diplomacy with the Iranian government. At this point, that’s the best we, as Americans, can do.”

In October 2009, in the midst of the Iranian uprising, the 5+1 countries led by the US begun the much anticipated high level nuclear talks. But in the spring of 2010, it became clear that Iran was stalling the talks and refusing to compromise. This was an important setback for Obama and the pro-Iran lobby and empowered the US Congress to pass crippling sanctions against Iran. On July 1, a reluctant Obama signed the “the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act” into law.

The US and European sanctions crippled the Iranian economy and social and political tensions mounted in Iran. Under immense pressure, Iran accepted to participate in a series of secret meetings with US officials in 2012 and 2013 in Oman. In August 2013, Hassan Rouhani became president with a mandate to finalize nuclear negotiations and remove economic sanctions while trying to get the maximum concessions from the US including the continuation of uranium enrichment in Iran.

The emergence of Rouhani’s government and the interim nuclear agreement in November 2013 strengthened the position of the pro-Iran lobby in Washington and encouraged the Obama administration to pursue its conciliatory approach toward Iran and at the same time, oppose more forcefully the opponents of his Iran policy, on top of the list being the US Congress. As a result, a more dynamic pro-Iran lobby willing to exploit political divisions in Washington became a full-fledged supporter of the Obama administration and as a result, a practical partnership emerged between them.

The administration began questioning the futility of sanctions against Iran even those previously signed by Obama and claimed that they have only pushed Iran to expand its nuclear program. In his weekly address on April 4, 2015, President Obama declared that “the sanction always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program.”

Then, during a Congressional hearing, Secretary Kerry went further and declared that a decade of resolutions and sanctions against Iran have been futile: “You just said decades of resolutions that they abandoned enrichment. What did they get you? What did those decades of resolutions get you? Meanwhile their program continues to grow. In 2003, my friend, they (Iran) had 164 centrifuges. Now they have 19,000. You know what Zarif said to me, you know what your sanctions have gotten you, is 19,000 (centrifuges).”

John Kerry’s remarks and use of the Iranian foreign minister’s argument was warmly welcomed by NIAC who used it as a talking point for its campaign. Similarly, the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif echoed Obama and Kerry’s remarks. In an interview with NBC on March 4, 2015 he stated: “I think President Obama was right in saying that the sanctions caused Iran to go from less than 200 centrifuges to over 20,000 centrifuges. I think the fact that the United States has recognized the futility of pressure against Iran, the futility of sanctions against Iran, the fact that they have recognized that sanctions don’t work, that pressure don’t work, that threats don’t work, the only way to deal with Iran is to be through respect and through negotiations.”

Supporting the Obama administration’s anti-sanction stance, NIAC and its partners campaigned aggressively against Congressional sanctions. Here are few examples. During this time, The White House, NIAC and its lobby partners tried to promote the narrative that the Rouhani government and the Obama administration were on the side of peace and moderation and on the other hand, the US Congress members who opposed a nuclear deal favoring Iran, were warmongers who follow the orders of Israel and were therefore, allied with Iranian hardliners.

For example, Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman called the US Senators who support more sanctions against Iran as warmongers and Obama criticized the Congress members who opposed his proposed nuclear deal declaring: “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.”

NIAC’s talking point “Obama and Iran’s Rouhani Must Seize the Moment In Spite of Hardliners”, its  promotional video titled “Seal the Iran Deal, and Vote for Peace” or the video “Seize the moment” illustrated NIAC’s efforts to promote this narrative.

The White House and the pro-Iran lobby worked together and created an echo chamber to advance a large scale media campaign designed to overcome the widespread opposition to the nuclear deal that was favorable to Iran.

Part of NIAC’s campaign to push for more concessions to Iran was the argument the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions will change Iranian foreign policy and its position toward the US. During a Congressional briefing, NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi declared that “Iran is currently seeking to move away from the relationship of animosity it has had with the United States to a state he described as “rivalry,” where mutual interests can be pursued while differences can be managed. Simply put, both sides need each other right now.”

In a statement supporting the nuclear deal, NIAC declared that: “this deal provides the Iranian people with the space to push Iran in the right direction: an Iran that respects human rights and pursues moderate policies internally and externally.”

In a memo published in April 2015 and titled “Truce: Iran, the U.S. and the Middle East After the Nuclear Deal” NIAC promoted this false narrative: “The nuclear deal now signals a degree of American acceptance of Iranian power in the region, and if the lifting of sanctions ends Iran’s status as a pariah state, does that mean that Iran will have fewer incentives to play the destabilization card? Such an outcome cannot be ruled out. In fact, if previous patterns hold, Iran is more likely to pursue a less aggressive foreign policy going forward… The first place to look is Iran’s posture toward Israel. Already, prior to reaching a final nuclear deal, Iran’s approach to the Jewish state has changed dramatically since U.S.-Iran diplomacy began in earnest under Rouhani. On the rhetorical level, Iran went from questioning the Holocaust under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tweeting Rosh Hashanah greetings to the Jewish people worldwide under Rouhani. It is reasonable to expect that this trend will not only continue, but will also be strengthened if a nuclear deal paves the way for a larger U.S.-Iran truce… Some would argue that the nuclear deal is destabilizing the region and increasing tensions. That is a misdiagnosis.”

Contrary to NIAC’s claims, the Iranian regime has intensified its holocaust denying and anti-Jewish hatred. In January 2016, as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day , he published a video titled “Are the Dark Ages Over” on his official website which included one of his speeches from two years ago in which he questions the reality of the holocaust. In May 2016, Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival inviting the usual despicable cast of characters from Europe and around the world with the Supreme Leader sending a message to the organizers of the event thanking and congratulating them.
Regarding NIAC’s claim that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions would moderate Iranian foreign policy, there is a large consensus that Iran feels emboldened to pursue its radical and hegemonic policies in the region. As CENTCOM Commander General Joseph L. Votel testified before the House Armed Service Committee in March 2017, “We have not seen any improvement in Iran’s behavior since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), addressing Iran’s nuclear program, was finalized in July 2015. Iran aspires to be a regional hegemon and its forces and proxies oppose U.S. interests in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria, and seek to hinder achievement of U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and some Central Asian States.”

In fact, NIAC’s activities since 2002 and particularly during the Obama administration eased pressure off the Iranian regime and helped Tehran to advance its strategic goals.

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