Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’

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Ney was subsequently convicted and sentenced to a federal prison term for conspiracy and making false statements in relation to the Jack Abramoff lobbying and bribery scandal of 2006. Ney reportedly accepted bribes from Abramoff and two foreign businessmen in return for using his congressional position to assist their illegal circumvention of U.S. sanctions on selling U.S.-made aircraft parts to Tehran.

Amirahmadi served more recently as professor of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. In late 2008, however, he left Rutgers and now teaches in the Department of Sociology at Kings College, Cambridge.

Even before Amirahmadi’s departure from the United States left the future of the AIC in doubt, Tehran decided that a more intensive effort was required to promote the Iranian regime’s agenda in U.S. policymaking circles.

In part, Tehran viewed AIC shortcomings as due to a failure to attract the Iranian expatriate community to its program. The 2000 formation of the Supreme Council for Iranians Living Abroad (a.k.a. the Secretariat of Supreme Council for Iranian Expatriates) established the official authority that henceforth would direct the Iranian regime’s program to infiltrate Iranian communities abroad, create entities to pose as their ostensible representatives and work to promote policies favorable to the regime. The Iranian president heads the Council and the Ministers of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and Intelligence are Council members who collaborate to implement Council initiatives.37

The National Iranian-American Council

The National Iranian-American Council  began its existence as a concept proposed in a 1999 paper written by Trita Parsi, then a young Iranian-Swede living in Stockholm, and Siamak Namazi, a young businessman who lived in Tehran. The title of the paper was “Iranian-Americans: The Bridge Between Two Nations.” It was presented at a conference organized by the Iranian regime in Cyprus. (The paper is listed on Trita Parsi’s personal website at www.tritaparsi.com but is blocked to readers.)

The Parsi-Namazi paper explicitly proposed the formation of an Iranian lobby in the U.S. capital to promote Tehran’s interests in Congress and oppose the powerful Israeli lobby, the American Israeli Political Action Committee. Two years later, in 2001, Parsi came to the United States to pursue his graduate studies but also went to work as a managing director for Hooshang Amirahmadi at AIC.

As it happens, Parsi took a second position as an assistant in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Bob Ney.  Even though Parsi and his friends were unable to prevent the renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) in 2001, Tehran seems to have had faith in the Iranian-Swede’s abilities. The mullahs chose in 2003 to transmit what was purported to be a proposal originated by the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Tim Guldimann, for negotiations between Iran and the United States through Parsi and his boss, Rep. Ney.  The latter delivered it to the White House.38

While nothing came of the initiative at the time, Parsi’s usefulness had been established. And so the National Iranian-American Council was created. Parsi and three other individuals named on the NIAC website formed the organization  as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 entity in 2002, claiming its “express mission [is] to promote IranianAmerican civic participation.”  Importantly, such a tax status is not supposed to be used by lobbying organizations. 

Center for Security Policy

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