Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and leading advocate for the U.S. government engagement of Iran, isn’t exactly a household name. However, he’s practically a rock star when it comes to writing about Iran. Prolific as they come, at times it seems as if he’s everywhere: the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, BBC World News, and even the Jewish Forward.
In the reportage and Op-Ed pages of major publications, Trita appears moderate when evaluating the rounds of failed nuclear negotiations between the West and Iran, in particular, and in assessing Iran’s objectives in general.
In his effort to come across as an objective observer, Parsi has no qualms about equating the criminal with the law enforcer in the Iranian nuclear crisis. Indeed, for him there is no difference between President Obama – the elected leader of the free world and a permanent member of the Security Council – and Khamenei, the dictator of a rogue state threatening the very global peace and security the Security Council presides over. And thus he wrote this eye-opening passage:
“What remains unclear, however, is what Obama is willing to put on the table. Thus far, White House officials have only indicated that Iran would be given fuel pads to produce medical isotopes and a promise not to impose new UN sanctions on Tehran.
This package is a non-starter to most observers – including to other P5+1 diplomats. The problem is not necessarily the demands, but the imbalance between what is demanded and what is offered.”
Sound suspiciously close to the “diamonds for peanuts” of Moussavian (see my recent post)? You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that.
Iran’s interests dictate his agenda: The removal of the “coercive sanctions” element from Iran-related diplomacy.
Yet recently, strangely enough, despite continued tumultuous developments on the Iranian front – the NAM summit in Tehran, the latest IAEA report, and the resumption of discussions on new sanctions – Trita Parsi has disappeared. Total silence. As if the ground swallowed him.
The New York Times and the Huffington Post seemed to have missed it, but it turns out that Parsi hasn’t had too much time lately to defend Iran – he’s been busy fighting a losing battle for his name.
For those unfamiliar with the court case, Sohrab Ahmari, an assistant editor at the WSJ, summarizes: “Hassan Daioleslam, a U.S.-based Iranian journalist, described NIAC and Trita Parsi as “key players in the lobby enterprise of Tehran’s ayatollahs in the United States” in a 2008 article. NIAC, he wrote, “is one of the Iranian regime’s Lobby arms in the US.” In response, Parsi filed suit in federal district court in 2009, alleging Diaoleslam had defamed him and his organization. The ensuing three-year-long legal and public relations battle concluded last week with United States District Judge John D. Bates’s ruling against Parsi’s claim.”
It is not just the courts who have confirmed this suspicious activity.
The NIAC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization and its head, Trita Parsi, has always been adamant that they do not partake in lobbying.
Internal documents picked up by the Washington Times show, however, that even registered officials at the NIAC, such as former policy director Patrick Disney, believed they should register as lobbyists: “I find it hard to believe that Emily [Emily Blout, legislative director at the time] devote less than 20% of our time to lobbying activity. I believe we fall under this definition of ‘lobbyist’”. He noted in an email. But NIAC’s tax forms do not represent this. In fact, the Times reported, “the group has declared that it spends none of its time lobbying.”
Trita’s lobbying has also included arranging meetings between Iran’s then serving ambassador to the UN Javid Zarif and members of Congress. Acting as an undeclared lobby group for a foreign government, violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act as well as lobbying disclosure laws.
Trita’s history speaks for itself. He founded an organization in the late 90s called ‘Iranians for International Cooperation’, an organization whose website stated that its aim was “to safeguard Iran’s and Iranian interests… the removal of U.S. economic and political sanctions against Iran, and the commencement of an Iran-U.S. dialogue.” A pro-Iran lobby group by definition. They were active until the NIAC was created.
Mr. Parsi, as well as organizing visits for Iranian officials, has himself been called to the White House, lectured to the CIA, and met with Secretary of State Clinton.
Tricky Trita is, just like slippery Seyed Mousavian (see previous post), a sophisticated spokesperson. He appears moderate. He even criticizes the regime every now and then. But a simple scratching of the surface again reveals the superficiality and shallow nature of this criticism.
Ahmari correctly highlights that “the court was unimpressed by Parsi’s supposed championing of human rights in Iran. “While Parsi does criticize Iran’s human rights record,” the court found, “his criticisms are tepid.” “Given the other evidence defendant amassed to support [Daioleslam’s] views, the Court sees no ‘actual malice’ in defendant’s decision to disregard occasional contrary statements and assume that they were made largely to burnish Parsi and NIAC’s image in the United States. After all, any moderately intelligent agent for the Iranian regime would not want to be seen as unremittingly pro-regime, given the regime’s reputation in the United States.”
Trita Parsi, who claims to represent Iranian-Americans, is not even a U.S. citizen. The Iranian-Swede is a foreign agent and a lobbyist working, as his former website stated, to safeguard Iran’s interests. The media – our source of information – must heed Judge Bates’ conclusions and be open and honest when they present us with Trita Parsi as an objective commentator and ‘Middle Eastern expert’. He is not. He is a lobbyist for the Islamic Republic of Iran.