Iran’s Lobbies Under Scrutiny

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Senators called the Department of Justice to investigate the U.S. laws violations by the NIAC.

By Pooya Stone

On January 13, U.S. Senators demanded the “Department of Justice [to] evaluate whether an investigation of NIAC is warranted for potential FARA violations and to ensure transparency regarding foreign attempts to influence the U.S. political process.”

Senator Tom Cotton, along with Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Braun, in a joint letter urged Attorney General William Barr to launch an investigation about a “pro-Iran lobbying organization that has long faced accusations of acting as the Islamic Republic’s unregistered mouthpiece in America.”

In recent weeks, many talking points sponsored by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its sister organization, NIAC Action, condemned the precision drone airstrike resulted in the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF).

This matter gravely prompted the lawmakers to seek an investigation into NIAC’s purposes and functions which might be violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). They believe this “organization” honestly repeats the Iranian government’s propaganda regarding the U.S. counterterrorism measures in self-defense.

The NIAC calls itself a nonprofit organization devoted to “promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.” However, the Senators consider “NIAC’s innocuous public branding masks troubling behavior.”

How is a Washington D.C.-based organization is promoting the propaganda of a foreign power? The three congressional leaders mentioned that “on December 31, NIAC circulated an email memorandum blaming the United States government for Iranian-backed militias’ repeated attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and brazen attempt to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. On January 9, NIAC and NIAC Action staffers tweeted and retweeted conspiracy theories deflecting blame from the Iranian government for shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing 176 individuals. These disturbing actions are only the latest developments of this nature. NIAC’s relationship with the Iranian government and its role amplifying government propaganda in the United States have been the subject of discussion in Washington D.C. for years.”

Connecting to deep communications between the NIAC and the Iranian government’s officials, former FBI associate deputy director Oliver Revell previously made his opinion public. “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,” Revell commented.

The truth is NIAC’s Swedish-Iranian founder Trita Parsi was play-acting as a broker to deceive the Congress and the ordinary people about the miserable nuclear deal with Iran. He personally arranged meetings between Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations and current foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and members of Congress. In fact, senior NIAC employees genuinely conduct lobbying activities served the Iranian government’s interests. “The NIAC’s former acting policy director Patrick Disney also admitted in internal emails that he and the organization’s legislative director spent more than 20 percent of their time conducting lobbying activities. “I believe we fall under this definition of ‘lobbyist’…,” U.S. Senators refer to in their letter.

Senators considered the NIAC case an important matter regarding the deterrence of the U.S. political process from foreign attempts to influence.

“Were I running the counterintelligence program at the bureau now, I would have cause to look into this further,” Kenneth Piernick, a former FBI counterintelligence official, remarked in the wake of the disclosure of clandestine communications between the NIAC and Iranian authorities.

“The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found in 2012 the work of NIAC, which wasn’t registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, ‘not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the government,’” Lee Smith reported bout NIAC’s legal campaign against Hassan Daioleslam, an emigre Iranian who has doggedly exposed the truth about the organization.

In 2015, the Daily Beast published a further expose on NIAC authored by “Alex Shirazi,” an Iranian dissident. He chronicled NIAC’s evolution within the broader ambitions of NIAC sponsors who returned to Iranian public life following the death of Khomeini in 1989.

“While serving as president of NIAC, Parsi also wrote intelligence briefings as an ‘affiliate analyst in Washington, DC’ for [Atieh Behar], focusing on such topics as whether or not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would revive its anti-Iran campaigning on the eve of the Iraq war, or on efforts by the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), the Iranian opposition group that exposed Natanz in 2002 would get itself de-listed as a terrorist entity by the U.S. State Department,” Shirazi revealed in October 2015.

In conclusion, while tensions escalate between the Iranian government and the civilized world in different sectors like the government’s malign behavior in the Middle East and practically pulling out from the JCPOA, it is increasingly exposed that the Iranian government is the root of many problems inside Iran and abroad. On the other hand, the U.S. government should hear the genuine voice of the Iranian people and their organized resistance for government change and the establishment of a democratic government based on the ten-point platform of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. No doubt, siding with the tyrants and torturers of the Iranian people is nothing to be proud of.

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