Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’

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Tehran’s front groups move on—and into— the Obama Administration

Clare M. Lopez

25 February 2009

A complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spearheaded by a de facto partnership between the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other organizations serving as mouthpieces for the mullahs’ party line, the network includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world.

This report documenting the rise of what can accurately be described as the “Iran Lobby” in Washington, D.C. is derived entirely from unclassified open sources and describes in detail the activities, linkages, and objectives of this alarming alliance between NIAC, CAIR and others that is aimed at co-opting America’s foreign policy in the Middle East and specifically with Iran. Understanding the involvement of the Tehran regime in the foundation and continuing activities of organizations like these and their allies will become increasingly important to understanding the extent of the regime’s influence on American foreign policy decisions regarding Iran.

As these organizations expand, multiply and, in the process, intensify their efforts to promote a shared and ominous agenda, it is imperative to recognize the role being played by what amount to their interlocking (or at least overlapping) boards of directors, donations from the same foundations and growing access to some key members of Congress and top levels of US policymaking circles.  Of special concern is the growing penetration of the Obama administration by a number of individuals with such associations.

To be sure, efforts at influencing U.S. decision-making are common among a host of legitimate interest groups, including many foreign countries. But in this context, where the guiding force behind such influence operations emanate from the senior-most levels of a regime like Iran’s – which holds the top spot on the State Department list of state-sponsors of terror, makes no secret of its hatred and enmity for the United States and its ally, Israel, and acts in myriad ways to support those who have assassinated, held hostage, kidnapped, killed and tortured American civilians and military personnel over a 30-year period – such operations must be viewed with serious concern.

Specifically, the de facto alliance between CAIR, one of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an unindicted co- conspirator in the 2007 and 2008 Holy Land Foundation trials, and groups such as NIAC and its predecessor, the American-Iranian Council (AIC), which long have functioned openly as apologists for the Iranian regime, must arouse deep concern that U.S. national security policy is being successfully targeted by Jihadist entities hostile to American interests.


This paper is meant to provide a Who’s Who-style catalogue of the organizations and individuals associated with the Iran Lobby in America.  Some of the most influential figures involved are surely witting that their actions serve to support the objectives of the mullahs in Tehran, while others may not realize that their actions inevitably result in such consequences. Either way, the group as a whole is openly portrayed in the Iranian media as the regime’s “Iranian lobby” in the United States.1

Some of these entities also share another connection – to Iranian and international business interests, especially in the oil industry. Whatever their differences, the members of the Iran lobby have one thing in common: They insist that the United States must adopt a new policy towards Iran of conciliatory negotiations without preconditions. 

Center for Security Policy

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