This is the second of a two-part article. The first was published on February 28 and introduced the so-called “Iran Lobby” and the anger directed towards it in the Iranian diaspora. This piece further unpacks some of the evidence that links some elements in the Iran Lobby with officials in the Iranian regime.
In my initial examination, I referenced the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) as one of the organizations associated with the “Iran Lobby.” This organization is viewed by some Iranians in the diaspora as the central entity behind the so-called “Iran Lobby.”
NIAC and its founder, Trita Parsi, have faced allegations of being the de facto lobby for the Iranian regime for years. Parsi and his supporters have dismissed these allegations as being pushed by trolls. In order to move past name-calling, it is worth looking at some facts.
In 2008, Parsi and the NIAC filed a defamation lawsuit against an Iranian writer who claimed the organization had secretly lobbied on behalf of the Iranian regime in the United States.
A defamation case is an interesting legal process because the accused has the right to use the legal process as a means to prove that their statements are actually true. Oftentimes, this includes conducting discovery and forcing the plaintiff — in this case NIAC and Trita Parsi — to surrender evidence that may not have been public otherwise. That is exactly what happened in this case.
During the lawsuit, internal emails were submitted as evidence, showing that NIAC’s employees referred to their activities as “lobbying.” Additionally, evidence also revealed that Trita Parsi had arranged meetings between members of Congress and Javad Zarif, Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations and later foreign minister.
Although many would consider these emails a “smoking gun,” NIAC, did not comply with all evidentiary requests from the court. According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, failure to comply with evidentiary requests can result in a range of consequences and perceptions, including the presumption that the information sought would be unfavorable to the party who fails to produce it. Additionally, failure to comply can lead to sanctions, such as fines, which is what happened in this case. The Judge actually imposed significant monetary sanctions on NIAC for its failure to comply with evidentiary requests.
In the court’s ruling, the Judge described the NIAC’s behavior as “inexplicable and unexplained.” He also stated that “failure to produce [these] emails were indefensible, and plaintiffs made no coherent attempt to explain either in their briefing or at the motions hearing why all of these emails would not have been produced.” As a result of its failure to provide relevant evidence to the court, NIAC lost the lawsuit and was sanctioned USD 183,480.09 by the court.
The available information suggests that NIAC has been involved in coordinated lobbying efforts with certain individuals in the Iranian regime. Additional evidence includes Trita Parsi’s background. He is of Iranian-Swedish origin and has served as the head of the NIAC. Some sources suggest that Parsi has connections to certain Iranian families with oil interests who have advocated for policies of rapprochement with Iran. Readers are encouraged to investigate these claims and draw their own conclusions.
It is worth noting that the push for engagement with the Iranian regime has taken place against the backdrop of decades of brutal repression within Iran. The country has a long history of human rights abuses, including suppression of political dissent, restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, and mistreatment of minorities and women. In 2019, the Iranian regime responded violently to protests calling for political and economic forms, resulting in the reported deaths of 1,500 people.
It is important to acknowledge that some individuals associated with the Iran Lobby have been subjected to comments that could be described as misogynistic and hateful. Such remarks are unacceptable and do not have any place in constructive dialogue.
However, it is important to recognize that there are factions within the Iranian community, including those who advocate for the restoration of the former ruling monarchy, that employ divisive and disrespectful tactics for political gain. Despite this, it is important to view the issue in a factual context and to empathize with the frustrations felt by many Iranians towards those who have served as apologists for the regime.
Perhaps the most telling perspective comes from dissidents fighting for change inside Iran. Atena Daemi, a prominent Iranian dissident inside the country posted a tweet in October 2022, in which she accused the NIAC of serving as a lobbyist for the regime and of whitewashing the crimes of the regime.
While the opinions of the Iranian diaspora are also relevant, ultimately it is the voices of those in Iran, such as Daemi, who are leading the fight for change, that will have the final word.