The Magazine

Iran’s Chief Negotiator

Surprise, surprise: He has a long record of ­double-dealing.

Dec 2, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 12 • By CLAUDIA ROSETT
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Court documents show that the entire Alavi laundering scheme was run, in accordance with the direct orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by the ambassador at the Iranian mission to the U.N. This arrangement involved four successive U.N. ambassadors, including Zarif. According to documents, Iran’s chief negotiator at Geneva went to expensive lengths to hide Alavi’s illicit ties when he was at the U.N. In 2004, a New York outfit called the Hanif Partnership filed a lawsuit against Alavi, Assa Corp., and Assa’s offshore mother company—another front for Bank Melli—for breach of contract. The principal of the Hanif Partnership was a former president of the Alavi Foundation, Hossein Mahallati, who, according to federal prosecutors, “threatened to reveal in open court what he knew about Assa Corp.’s true ownership.” Zarif “told the Foundation to settle the lawsuit for $4 million.” 

If Zarif’s role in the Alavi saga has so far gone largely unnoticed, it is perhaps because the southern district court, in its press release on the forfeiture, did not mention Zarif by name. Unfortunately, U.S. policymakers, including Congress, have failed to look into the exploits of this pragmatic diplomat during his years on U.S. soil. However, given Zarif’s current incarnation as Iran’s man at the nuclear bargaining table, perhaps it’s time someone in Washington did.

Claudia Rosett is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and heads its investigative reporting project.

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