Trita Parsi, the Iranian Regime's Man in Washington?
7:32 AM, Nov 13, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Today the Washington Times prints a blockbuster expose on NIAC, the National Iranian American Council run by Trita Parsi that has long been suspected of acting as an unofficial, and unregistered, lobby for the Iranian regime. These suspicions seem to have been well founded. Here are the facts as reported by Eli Lake in a story that relies on thousands of emails and internal NIAC documents that were obtained by the Washington Times and have been independently reviewed by THE WEEKLY STANDARD:
1. Trita Parsi claims to speak on behalf of Iranian-Americans, but he is not an Iranian-American. Parsi is not a U.S. citizen; he holds passports from Iran and Sweden. Parsi's allies claim his critics have unfairly questioned Parsi's loyalty to this country--or accused Parsi of dual loyalties. If Parsi's loyalties are divided (and it's not clear that they are), then they are divided between Sweden and Iran.
2. In fact, the evidence suggests that Parsi's loyalties are not divided at all but lie entirely with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Times reports that Parsi set up a group similar to NIAC in Sweden in 1997. The group's stated goal was to "safeguard Iran's and Iranian interests." That organization did not understand democratic reform as a core Iranian interest but rather sought to bolster the current regime by "the removal of U.S. economic and political sanctions against Iran, and the commencement of an Iran-U.S. dialogue."
3. Parsi is not registered as a foreign agent, but he seems to have engaged in the very activities regulated by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In particular, Parsi arranged meetings between members of Congress and senior Iranian officials, including the regime's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif. Lake quotes former FBI deputy director Buck Revell, who says that "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."
4. Parsi, an Iranian citizen who aims to "safeguard Iranian interests" and who arranges meetings on behalf of Iranian officials, has consistently opposed any U.S. sanctions on Iran and more recently has advocated for U.S. acquiescence to Iran's enrichment of uranium. These are the same positions advocated by the regime in Tehran.
5. The unofficial European spokesman for Iran's Green Movement, which has been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime in Tehran, tells Lake that, "Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic."
6. NIAC's own policy director, Patrick Disney, implicates Parsi in illegal activity in an email printed by the Washington Times. Disney writes that "Under this expansive view of 'lobbying,' I find it hard to believe Emily [Blout] and I devote less than 20 percent of our time to lobbying activity. I believe we fall under this definition of 'lobbyist.'"
These are the facts as reported by the Washington Times, but the emails also reveal financial ties between Parsi and an Iranian company with close ties to the regime. The emails suggest that Parsi's use of funds from the National Endowment for Democracy deserve close scrutiny, that he worked to dissuade dissidents from speaking out, and that he repeatedly attempted to intimidate the press to prevent these facts from seeing the light of day. But this isn't Iran, and the truth will come out.
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