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Parsi: "Our Views on Ross May Resemble Tehran's"

4:02 PM, Nov 17, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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As NIAC prepared its duplicitous campaign to scuttle the appointment of Dennis Ross as the Obama administration's envoy to Iran, Trita Parsi and his policy director, Patrick Disney, conferred with their allies on two separate listservs to devise a strategy. The date was January 7, 2009, and as the administration started floating names to reporters, Disney suggested that the group and its allies (which presumably included J Street, already a participant in NIAC's Campaign for a New American Policy in Iran) to "start a conversation about what our response will be if Dennis Ross is named Iran envoy." Disney explained that "NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we're exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross." In the end, NIAC decided not to come out publicly against Ross, choosing instead to lobby Congress and the administration behind closed doors while sending out fundraising appeals casting Ross as a fellow proponent of engagement and a victim of the same "smears" being launched against NIAC.

Disney concludes that "if it's simply impossible for us to work with Ross, we should be in a position to say I told you so after he messes everything up." Eleven months later and everything is messed up, but not because of Ross. Indeed it seems like NIAC's strategy of engagement minus sanctions has not produced any result other than providing the Iranian regime with more time to work on their nuclear weapons program and kill dissidents. But Parsi was acutely aware of the fact that on this issue, like so many others, his views closely resembled those of the regime in Tehran. Parsi wrote,

From: Trita Parsi [mailto:tparsi@niacouncil.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:55 PM
To: Patrick Disney; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Just to add to Patrick's points: Coming out strongly against him will likely also make it more difficult for him to go the neo-con way. The pressure should be on him. He is so obviously conflicting with Obama's views so we could make that very clear - criticize him, without criticising Obama.

Also, by being on record now, we protect ourselves for the time when Ross does screw up - then our criticism will be consistent with what we've sai all along, and will be able to defend oursleves against any attacks that our views on Ross may resemble Tehran's.

Love to hear other ideas and views.

Sincerely,
Trita Parsi, PhD
President

Because Parsi and his group chose not to go on record with their objections to Ross but to lobby against his appointment behind closed doors, no one could connect the dots that both NIAC and Tehran happened to have the same view of the appointment. The effect of NIAC's duplicity is that the group was lobbying for Tehran's preferred outcome (the scuttling of the Ross appointment) while appearing before its members and the press as though it was supporting the administration approach. That is shady pool. But here's another question: how did Parsi know what Tehran's view of the Ross appointment was two weeks before Obama was even inaugurated? Is Parsi so plugged in to the regime that he would have a good sense of Tehran's disposition on this subject? Did Parsi simply assume that the regime would not welcome the appointment of a Jew as the administration's interlocutor? Or is there some other explanation?

And now that Ross has been moved out of the Iran job, and John Limbert, a member of NIAC's board, has been installed in his place, it seems fair to ask whether it was NIAC's objections or Tehran's objections that ultimately led to Ross's departure. Is there even a difference between the two?

The full email exchange after the jump...

-----Original Message-----
From: Trita Parsi [mailto:tparsi@niacouncil.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:55 PM
To: Patrick Disney; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Just to add to Patrick's points: Coming out strongly against him will likely also make it more difficult for him to go the neo-con way. The pressure should be on him. He is so obviously conflicting with Obama's views so we could make that very clear - criticize him, without criticising Obama.