Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’

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The American‐Iranian Council  

The American-Iranian Council (AIC) was established in the United States in the 1990s with backing from multinational oil companies such as Aramco, Chevron Texaco, and Conoco Phillips.  Leadership figures of these corporations have served on the AIC’s board of directors. The AIC’s founder and president, Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, is an Iranian regime insider and close associate of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Amirahmadi also ran as a presidential candidate in the same June 2005 elections that ultimately brought Ahmadinejad to power.

While the AIC’s website states that its mission “…Provides for a sustainable dialogue and a more comprehensive understanding of US-Iran relations” and claims that, according to its vision, “The United States and Iran should and will work together, as their common interests far outweigh their differences,”  its apparent unofficial objective was to create a U.S. lobbying web to further the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.19

The following are among the prominent figures associated with this arm of the Iran lobby:

‘Chas’ Freeman

Ambassador Charles (“Chas”) W. Freeman Jr., president of the Middle East Policy Council, was a member of the AIC board of directors.  Freeman is reportedly the Obama administration’s pick to be the next chairman of the hugely sensitive National Intelligence Council, a position from which he would be able to exercise profound influence on U.S. policies towards Iran.20 Freeman served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He maintains close ties to members of the Saudi royal family and is a member of the Saudi-American Forum and a frequent contributor to the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service. In August 2006, Amb. Freeman was one of nearly two dozen diplomatic and military notables who signed the “Words, Not War, with Iran” statement.  Its short petition directed itself to the Bush administration and called for direct talks without preconditions with the terror regime in Tehran:

As former military leaders and foreign policy officials, we call on the Bush administration to engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions to help resolve the current crisis in the Middle East and settle differences over the Iranian nuclear program.

We strongly caution against any consideration of the use of military force against Iran. The current crises must be resolved through diplomacy, not military action. An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq, and it would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims elsewhere.

A strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran will serve the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and would enhance regional and international security.21

Richard Matzke

A former vice chairman of the Chevron Texaco Corporation, Richard Matzke, served as a co-chairman of the AIC. Matzke, who retired from Chevron Texaco in 2002 after some 40 years with the oil company, called in 2001 for a complete review of U.S. sanctions against energy investment in Iran saying, “It’s clearly time to reevaluate all sanctions but it’s a little early to tell what the Bush administration will do….They have serious issues to contend with. Iran’s not the highest thing on the priority list. But it will get there.” (Emphasis added.)22

At that time, Matzke added that he thought the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act was the “driver” behind existing sanctions on business with Iran, and noted that oil companies such as Chevron could play an influential role. “We’ve got to look beyond oil companies, but oil companies can be used as a framework for national dialogue,” he said.23 Matzke also was present, together with Exxon Mobil and Conoco representatives, at a September 2000 meeting in New York City with the speaker of the Iranian Majles (parliament), Mehdi Karroubi. According to the accompanying announcement made by AIC President Hooshang Amirahmadi, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways of working against U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.24

Center for Security Policy

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