Tehran’s Favorite “Lobbyist”

The infamous Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’s has a well-known saying: “If you tell a lie big enough and repeat it often enough, and the whole world will believe it.”

Trita Parsi’s preposterous and naive attempt to besmirch the reputation of the main Iranian opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) as a “terrorist” group smacks of pure desperation to lay lie upon lie in order to build a metaphorical dam against a growing tide ofsupport for the MEK in Washington and around the world.

That is, of course, not unexpected. Parsi is the head of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a group widely considered as a “de facto lobby” for Tehran in Washington. Parsi himself has been the subject of an investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, which “revealed that most of the millions of dollars of federal funds received by NIAC were not used for their intended purpose and that he was working with a regime-controlled front posing as an Iranian nongovernmental organization.”

And in 2009, it was revealed that NIAC may have violated lobbying rules and tax evasions after the group’s own internal memos came to light as a result of a court order. According to the Washington Times, “Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif – and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act – offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.”

In October 2006, Parsi e-mailed the Iranian regime’s UN ambassador. The email, one of a long series of messages between the two, reveals how Parsi acted as the middleman between regime officials and several members of Congress in order to prop up support for the regime on Capitol Hill: “There are many more that are interested in a meeting,” Parsi wrote, “including manyrespectable Democrats. Due to various reasons, they will contact you directly.”

Parsi’s intense lobbying campaign for better relations with the regime and also forpreventing the delisting of the MEK has clearly nothing to do with the Iranian people’s interests. Far from it, its main motivation is to ensure that the regime’s interests are preserved by keeping the MEK constrained and under constant pressure. The fact that, on several occasions, the regime’s official at the UN praised Parsi’s articles as “excellent,” serves to reveal the mainbeneficiaries of his efforts in Washington.

Parsi’s lobbying campaign to prevent the delisting of the MEK has clearly nothing to do with the Iranian people’s interests. Far from it; its main motivation is to ensure that the regime’s interests are preserved by keeping the MEK constrained.

The truth is that the Iranian regime has been involved in a multi-million dollar campaign to discredit the MEK and curtail the organization’s activities in the West because it fears and sees first-hand the organization’s social base inside Iran. A May 7, 2008 Wall Street Journal report said, “Iranian officials for years have made suppression of the MEK a priority in negotiations with Western governments over Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues, according to several diplomats who were involved in those talks.”

And how conveniently Parsi disregards the following fundamental facts about the case:

The main motivation behind the State Department’s listing was to curry favor with the mullahs. In September 2002, for example, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Clinton Administration, Martin Indyk, told Newsweek, “[There] was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. Top Administration officials saw cracking down on the [MEK], which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace, as one way to do so.”

In July 2010, the US Court of Appeals in D.C. “ordered the State Department to review its designation of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran as a foreign terrorist organization, strongly suggesting the designation should be revoked,” according to the Washington Post.

The July ruling states, “Some of the [State Department] reports included in the Secretary’s analysis on their face express reservations about the accuracy of the information contained therein.”

In 2004, after an exhaustive 16-month investigation of each and every MEK member in Iraq by seven different US agencies, including the State Department, the US Government acknowledged that “there was no basis to charge anymember of the group [MEK] with the violation of American law,” according to the New York Times.

The State Department’s own top counterterrorism official, Dell L. Dailey, advised to have the MEK removed from the list in 2008, but then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected the proposal, according to the New York Times.

In June 2008, the United Kingdom removed the MEK from its terror list after a special tribunal called the proscription “perverse,” and the English Court of Appeals saideven the government’s classified and secret material “reinforced” its view that the MEK is not involved in terrorism. The European Union also decided to take the group off its list in January 2009 after the Court of First Instance ruled that the EU’s evidence “is manifestly insufficient” to justify the continued designation of the MEK.

The French Judiciary dropped all terrorism and terrorism financing charges against the MEK after an eight-year investigation.
The fact is that the terrorism label against the MEK has been challenged, discredited, and deflated not by “lobbyists,” as Parsi naively claims, but by high-ranking international courts and judges, not just in the US, but in the European Union and Britain as well, unless Parsi wants to claim that the judges were on the payroll of MEK, too!

It is ironic to see Parsi, who is engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to prevent the MEK’s delisting, accuse prominent former US officials supporting the MEK, which include three former chairmen of theJoint Chiefs of Staff, two former heads of the CIA and a former FBI director, nine former State Department officials, an Attorney General and the First Secretary of Homeland Security, of being essentially on the MEK’s payroll! Does Parsi consider himself more patriotic and protective of US national security interests than the likes of General James Jones, General Hugh Shelton and General Wesley Clark.

In a speech before tens of thousands of Iranians in Paris on June 18, 2011, Secretary Tom Ridge said that during the “entire period of time” he served in Washington, “we looked at threats and we looked at terrorist organizations, those individuals or those groups that were threatening the security, the safety of the United States of America never once, not once, never ever, ever, ever did MEK appear on a list as being a threat to the United States of America. They are not a terrorist organization.”

But, Parsi thinks his evidence trumps all this national security intelligence. He flaunts as one of his “sources” a discredited report by RAND against the MEK. But he deliberately forgets to mention that the individual who oversaw the compilation of that report was James Dobbins, who is a leading expert with the Campaign for a New US Policy on Iran (CNAPI), which was created by (guess who?) Parsi himself!

Needless to mention, a 134-page book was published in January 2010, which provided a plethora of evidence, documents and statements disproving RAND’s biased and ill-intentioned assertions.

A central part of NIAC’s agenda is to dissuade dissidents abroad from speaking out against the regime. Those who do speak out are branded – you guessed it – as “warmongers.” In fact, in January 2008, during a meeting on Capitol Hill, when asked why NIAC and Parsi have been silent on the killings in Iran and why they refuse to talk about human rights violations in Iran, Parsi himself said, “NIAC is not a human rights organization. That is not our expertise.” It certainly isn’t. It certainly isn’t when it comes to the Iranian regime, but somehow NIAC becomes the foremost expert on these issues when it comes to the MEK. Go figure.

In an August 2006 letter to the Iranian regime’sambassador to the UN, Parsi revealed his amicable relationship and close cooperation with the regime official in the context of opening up some political breathing room for the regime in Washington. “Hope all is well and that you are back from Tehran,” Parsi wrote to Javad Zarif, adding, “Would love to get a chance to see the proposal [from Tehran] or to understand more what it entails.”

Is it any wonder then, that in an internal email to anNIAC project manager, Parsi reassured him that going to Iran will not carry any risks because “NIAC has a good name in Iran”? He added, “In fact, I believe two of our board members are in Iran as we speak!” There was no mention, however, of what possible instructions those two board members came back with.

Ali Asghar Tasslimi is an Alumni of NC State University in Mechanical Engineering, a human rights activist and an independent investment banker. Mr. Tasslimi’s youngest brother was executed by the Iranian regime in the early 1980s. He was 19.