The Blog

Parsi, Limbert, and Zarif

1:33 PM, Nov 13, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Earlier this week, John Limbert, who was held hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran 30 years ago, began his job at the State Department as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran. Limbert also served on the advisory board of the National Iranian American Council, which the Washington Times reports today is almost certainly in violation of federal lobbying regulations and whose chief, Trita Parsi, seems to be working as an unregistered foreign agent, arranging meetings for Iranian officials with members of Congress and others. Among the emails obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD is a thank you note from Limbert to Parsi, who was kind enough to arrange a meeting between Limbert and the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, in early 2007. On February 26, 2007, Limbert emailed:

Trita,

I wanted to thank you for arranging the meeting with Ambassador Zarif. We had a very profitable session during my recent trip to New York.

Thanks again for all your help.

Regards.

When Limbert met with Zarif, he was just a private citizen, who for some unknown reason wanted to meet with the ambassador of a country that held him hostage for 444 days. Of course, Zarif is also in the news today for his illegal activities related to the Alavi Foundation, an Iranian front group that was managing more than $500 million in assets now seized by the US government. The rental income from these properties was being funneled back to an Iranian bank that the US Treasury Department says is providing support to Iran's nuclear program.

So just to be clear: Ambassador Zarif is not a good guy and he's not on our team. He's on Team Iran, he is complicit in the policies of that regime, and he does not hesitate to break the laws of this country even as he resides here under the auspices of the United Nations.

In a statement blasting Lake's Washington Times story, NIAC points to Limbert's history as a hostage and his role on the NIAC advisory board and asks "Why would Ambassador John Limbert, a former hostage imprisoned for 444 days by the government in Iran, join the advisory board of an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the very same government that imprisoned him? This claim is illogical at best and ludicrous at worst."

So why would Limbert want to meet with Zarif? It's certainly something most people would find odd -- why would a former hostage want to enjoy the company of the representative of the regime that took him hostage? The meeting was "profitable"? So if Limbert was happy to associate with Zarif, who today also happens to be at the center of "one of the biggest counterterrorism seizures in US history" per the AP, maybe it's not so illogical that he would join the advisory board of an organization that "supposedly" represents the interests of the very same government that imprisoned him? Who knows, maybe Limbert's got Stockholm syndrome.

Of course, I'm sure Parsi's defenders will not be troubled in the least by the fact that he is so close to an Iranian official, Zarif, who is brazenly violating U.S. law in a scheme to funnel money to the Iranian nuclear program. Nothing unusual or shady about that -- who doesn't have friends overseeing illegal real estate empires that are used to fund the nuclear programs of hostile, authoritarian regimes?