Hassan Dai, 13 Feb. 2013
Wilson Center supports and regularly invites speakers who are affiliated with Atieh Bahar, a company with close ties to Iran's economic mafia. Inviting Namazi or Khajehpour to speak about sanctions is like asking BP to speak about the oil leak
On February 8, Wilson Center held a briefing titled "Sanctions and Medical Supply Shortages in Iran" with two speakers, Siamak Namazi, an Iranian oil consultant from Dubai and Suzanne Maloney from Brookings Institution. Both speakers oppose sanctions against Iran and both depicted the US and EU sanctions as the main reason for the shortage of medicines and the suffering of Iranian people.
The fact that Wilson center has become a platform for anti sanction analysts does not surprise anymore but the choice of speakers and role of Haleh Esfandiari, the director of Middle East program to turn the Wilson Center to a backyard for Iranian businessmen with close ties to a specific faction of the regime crosses the redline.
For the past several years, the Center has supported and regularly invited speakers like Namazi or Bijan Khajehpour who are affiliated with Atieh Bahar company in Tehran, a firm with close ties to Iran's economic mafia. Public documents show that Atieh has been acting as an intermediate between Iranian regime and foreign companies. Atieh has facilitated transactions for the Iranian regime some exceeding billion dollar. Namazi and Khajehpour profit from business with Iran and US sanctions hurt their business. More than a year ago, Namazi spoke at Harvard to convince the business community that despite the sanctions, there are still "good" opportunities to do business with Iran.
While director of Atieh Bahar in Tehran, Namazi was also a fellow at Wilson Center and received financial support. Trita Parsi who worked for Atieh Bahar, also worked at the Center.
NIAC's internal documents obtained during a defamation lawsuit show that Atieh Bahar and NIAC coordinated a lobby in US to remove sanctions against Iran.
Inviting Namazi or Khajehpour to speak about sanctions is similar to asking BP to speak about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Just two weeks ago, after Khajehpour finished his talk at the center, an open mic caught unedited comments by Michael Adler, a Wilson scholar who complained that Khajehpoure has an agenda and Adler's colleague found Khajehpour biased.