Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’

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American Foreign Policy Project

Close to indistinguishable from the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran (CNAPI) in purpose and some membership names is the American Foreign Policy Project which launched on November 18, 2008 with the issuance of a “Joint Experts’ Statement on Iran” at a Capitol Hill panel presentation held in the Senate Hart Office Building. The event was moderated by NIAC’s Trita Parsi and featured talks by: AFPP “Experts” Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and James Dobbins; arms control advocate Joseph Cirincione, who was identified in the program as “an advisor to the Obama transition team”; and several others.

Led by Executive Director Richard Parker (who is a School of Law professor at the University of Connecticut), AFPP’s Experts list reads like a remix from other Iran Lobby entities  and includes: Ambassadors James Dobbins, William Miller, and Thomas Pickering; Professors Gary G. Sick and Juan R. Cole, Philip Giraldi, Stephen Kinzer, Trita Parsi, and James Walsh.

Explicitly billed as a program of advice for then President-elect Obama, the statement touted the extensive experience of its scholars, experts, and diplomats and urged the new administration to “deal successfully with Iran in the future.”84  Given the complexion of the signers, it should hardly come as a surprise that their “five-step strategy” urges the United States to abandon any thought of regime change in Tehran, acknowledge and acquiesce to Iran’s bid for hegemony in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the region, and re-engage in the Arab-Israeli “peace process.”85

Notable among the AFPP experts is former CIA counterterrorism expert Philip Giraldi On November 14,2007, Giraldi appeared on a panel co-hosted by the American Conservative Defense Alliance (ACDA, about which more will be said in a moment) and the Nixon Center with the theme of finding alternatives, any alternatives, to threats of U.S. military action against Iran.

In lockstep with fellow panelist, Trita Parsi, Giraldi downplayed Iran’s progress toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon, and called on U.S. policymakers “to stop the demonization process.” In any case, he declared obligingly, “I do not believe Tehran poses a real threat to the United States.”86

Interestingly, in September 2007, Giraldi had written an essay on the antiwar.com website, entitled, “What World War III May Look Like” that makes clear that Iran could certainly threaten the United States and its interests – assuming the latter attacked the former. The article presented a worst-case scenario in the event so-called neoconservatives in Washington got their way in pursuing a hard line against Iran.  The article works through a cascade of unintended consequences that wind up with rioting, fighting, and suicide bombings building inexorably to a nuclear crisis across the region.87

Another of Giraldi’s screeds, this one a vintage anti-Israel diatribe carried on the NIAC-affiliated CASMI website, dismisses the Iranian threat against Israel, attests to the essential rationality of the mullahs’ regime, and waxes histrionic about Washington neoconservatives.88  Giraldi, who served as CIA Chief of Base in Istanbul in the 1980s, should know better. In an exceptionally frank interview with Balkanalysis.com Director Christopher Deliso in September 2006, the former clandestine agent recounts working against the Iranian intelligence agencies and describes their success in discovering and assassinating the CIA’s agents in Iran, many of them regime dissidents.89 Yet, this is the regime he would now have the U.S. accommodate.

The presentation of AFPP’s Joint Experts’ Statement marks the latest realization of the Iran Lobby’s concerted, multi-year effort to gain access to the top foreign policymaking circles in Washington. . Offered in the confident expectation that the Obama administration will want to stake out a foreign policy on Iran that would be distinctly different from that of the Bush administration (which “the Experts” portray as needlessly confrontational and insufficiently respectful of Iran’s developing regional stature), the Statement’s Key Steps urge an approach that is conciliatory and multilateral. The Statement also addresses what it terms “Basic Misconceptions about Iran” and devotes a 2-page annex to addressing eight so-called “myths” about Iran. The entire publication might have been written in Tehran, so closely does it hew to the regime’s own propaganda. Its authors call into question the quality of their expertise by claiming that Iran is really not such a threat to U.S. interests, does not really want to “wipe Israel off the map,” does not actually mean [to acquire] nuclear weapons and is not ideologically motivated. 

Center for Security Policy

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