About this document
This document is prepared to provide a rather comprehensive overview of NIAC, an organization that was created under conspicuous circumstances in 2002, although the roots of its creation can be traced back to 1997 when Trita Parsi started his lobby. In preparing this document we have meticulously tried to make it factual and have provided copies of original documents and sources. To facilitate its readability, every section is started with a short overview with option to read more (including relevant documents). This document is arranges as follows:
The defamation lawsuit and NIAC's internal documents
In 2008 NIAC brought a defamation lawsuit against one of its critics Hassan Daioleslam to break him under financial burdens of the lawsuit and as a result, silence all other critics. Daioleslam hired a lawyer and started to fight back. After a short time, his personal resources were gone and he realized that such endeavor cannot be sustained by him alone. He asked for help. The Legal Project at the Middle East Forum, and the law firm of Sidley Austin, rose up to the challenge and graciously extended a supporting hand and Daiolesalm was able to defend himself and defaet NAC in the court.
The lawsuit obliged NIAC to release part of its internal documents that turned to be devastating for the organization and revealed Parsi's ties to the Iranian government. This report is largely based on NIAC's internal documents released during the lawsuit that the court has permitted their public release.
On September 13, U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissed the lawsuit and in his ruling wrote:
That Parsi occasionally made statements reflecting a balanced, sharedblame approach is not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the regime. Given the other evidence defendant amassed to support his 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. (p. 12)
In a second ruling, judge sanctioned NIAC and Trita Parsi for discovery abuses including false declaration to the court and ordered them to pay significant part of Daioleslam's legal expenses. In his ruling judge wrote:
"In awarding sanctions, the Court is mindful not just of the need to compensate defendant (Daioleslam), but also of the need to deter plaintiffs (NIAC and Parsi) from future discovery abuses."
Why this document? NIAC's lobby and its influence on US policy with Iran
National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a Washington based advocacy organization that "officially" favors dialogue between US and Iran and claims to defend the interests of Iranian American community. On its website, NIAC declares to be a "household name on Capitol Hill" that exerts influence on US policy with Iran.
During the 2008-2010, NIAC coordinated a large coalition of some 20 groups known as "Campaign for New American policy on Iran" that brought together representatives from USA*Engage (pro-trade lobby), Open Society, left, peace and religious groups. Since 2010, the CNAPI format has ceased to exist but these groups continue to work together and NIAC remains the leading voice among these groups.
NIAC is the administration's main interlocutor on Iran issues, US embassies continue to invite Parsi to speak at events organized and sponsored by their embassy, he is invited to brief the State Department officials, teach classes for them (paid for) and most prominent State's officials speak at NIAC's event.
In a series of emails the State Department officials coordinated a joint lobby in Congress to raise funds for an initiative that would allegedly facilitate better relation between Iran and the US.
In another series of emails, the US Consular official based in Dubai asked NIAC to help the Consulate in its outreach program towards Iranians. The American official suggests funding NIAC through a detour in order for the funds to be untraceable.
Meanwhile, NIAC is viewed by many Iranians to be the Iranian regime's lobby in the US. The government press in Tehran calls NIAC the "Iran lobby in US."
NIAC's internal documents obtained during the defamation lawsuit show that the organization's main activity has been a large scale lobby for a "friendlier" policy with the Iranian regime. The documents show that NIAC's president Parsi has coordinated his lobby with Iranian officials and peoples who maintain close ties with the inner circle of the regime.
Recently, the Library of Congress released a report on Iranian intelligence ministry and named two individuals as the agents of Iranian secret services. (pages 26-27) Both persons have collaborated with NIAC. In 2008, NIAC organized a Congressional briefing in Washington for these Iranian agents and paid their travel fare but the US Homeland Security intervened and stopped them from boarding the London flight to Washington.
NIAC's documents suggest that the organization has violated various lobbying laws such as Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Logan Act and Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA).
NIAC's internal documents also show that NIAC defrauded the congressional appropriated funds from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
NIAC's influence on US policy with Iran and its relation with US government and Congress justify a scrutiny of its ties with the Iranian regime.
Pentagon Report on Iranian Intelligence agents Who Collaborated with NIAC
The Library of Congress has released a report prepared by Pentagon on Iranian intelligence ministry, their techniques in recruiting agents in Europe and the US and in infiltrating US academic institutions and Iranian-American organizations. The 64 page unclassified report published by Washington press and Farsi media names two individuals as the agents of Iranian secret services. Both persons have collaborated with National Iranian American Council (NIAC) led by Trita Parsi, a Washington based advocacy group viewed by many Iranians to be the Mullahs' lobby in US. The government press in Tehran calls NIAC the "Iran lobby in US."
The Pentagon report names London based Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife Anne Singleton as the recruits of Iranian intelligence services. (pages 26-27). NIAC's internal documents obtained during a defamation lawsuit, (that NIAC lost) show close collaboration between NIAC and these two individuals. In 2008, NIAC organized a Congressional briefing in Washington for these Iranian agents and paid their travel fare but the US Homeland Security intervened and stopped them from boarding the London flight to Washington.
Furthermore, the report identifies several websites such as Iran Interlink as being operated by the Iranian intelligence agency. (p. 41) NIAC also collaborated with H. Sobhani, editor of Iran Interlink. Sobhani wrote an article and labeled Daioleslam a terrorist. Then, Trita Parsi and NIAC used this article in a large scale campaign against Daioleslam to discredit him and eventually use it in the defamation lawsuit. Parsi further instructed numerous friendly websites to use Sobhani's article and smear Daioleslam.
This new credible revelation by the Pentagon and the Library of Congress about NIAC's collaborators raises serious questions about US National Security as NIAC maintains intimate relations with US government.
In 1996, Parsi, an Iranian-Swedish student living in Sweden met Siamak Namazi from Tehran, a partner and director at Tehran based firm Atieh Bahar, a group of companies that help foreign corporations to do business in Iran. Atieh Bahar has close ties to the regime and maintains numerous joint ventures with the government.
Parsi's lobby over the past 15 years has been shaped by his ties to Atieh Bahar and Namazi family. He worked for them and was paid by them, they planned and worked together to create a lobby in US, advance this lobby and Parsi sent regular reports to Atieh Bahar's directors about his lobby.
In 1997, a year after he met Siamak Namazi, Parsi founded a small lobby organization called "Iranians for International Cooperation" (IIC), to pressure US Congress to lift sanctions and adopt a friendlier policy with Iran. This small lobby organization was limited to send letters and petitions to the Congress.
Parsi's main partner was Bob Ney with whom he coordinated this lobby. Parsi knew Ney since early 1990s when he came from Sweden to US as an exchange high school student and was hosted by then Ohio Senator Ney.
In 1999, Parsi and his Atieh Bahar partners planned for a bigger role in US-Iran policy arena in Washington. Parsi and Siamak Namazi co-wrote a project that they presented in a conference in Cypress. In this paper, they argued that an Iranian American lobby should be created in Washington to compete with AIPAC and legitimize a friendlier policy with Iran.
The Cypress conference was organized by Hossein Alikhani, an oil businessman who spent some time in US prison for violating US sanctions against Libya. In Cypress conference, Bjan Khajehpour, the chairman of Atieh Bahar and Baquer Namazi, Siamak's father were also present.
In 2000, Parsi went to Iran and together with Atieh Bahar directors and Baquer Namazi, elaborated on their plan to create an Iranian American lobby in Washington.
Detailed story and related documents
In 1997, Trita Parsi living in Sweden, founded a small lobby organization called: “Iranians for International Cooperation” (IIC). Parsi described IIC's goal as: “our agenda is topped by the removal of US economic and political sanctions against Iran... IIC is capable of organizing the grassroots and pressure US lawmakers to pose a more Iran friendly position.”
1996: Trita Parsi met Siamak Namazi, an oil consultant from Tehran
In 1996 Trita Parsi living in Sweden, met Siamak Namazi from Iran, partner and managing director of Tehran based Atieh Bahar. (Parsi's declaration to Washington Times)
Atieh Bahar, a Tehran based firm with multiple ties to the regime and Iran's economic Mafia
Atieh Bahar is a group of companies with diverse activities mainly in oil business. Atieh helps foreign companies to do business in Iran, acts as intermediary between them and the government, maintains close ties with the regime and has multiple joint ventures with the government.
2000-2001: Parsi worked as a lobbyist in a lobby firm in Sweden
Document: CV written by Trita Parsi
1999: Cypress conference and roadmap for an Iranian lobby in US
Parsi and Siamak Namzi presented a joint paper in a conference in Cypress and argued for the creation of an Iranian-American lobby in US which would be similar to AIPAC. In this paper they proposed 3 recommendations
- Seminars in lobbying for Iranian-American youth and intern opportunities in Washington DC... Arguably an Iranian-American lobby (which is different from a lobby group purely pursuing the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran) is needed in order to create a balance between the competing Middle Eastern lobbies. Without it, Iran-bashing may become popular in Congress again.”
- Increased awareness amongst Iranian-Americans and Americans about the effects of sanctions, both at home and in Iran.
- The taboo of working for a new approach on Iran must be further legitimized.
2001: Parsi was hired as the development director of AIC and immigrated to US
American Iranian Council (AIC) is a pro-engagement advocacy organizations based in Washington. AIC is supported by large US corporations notably oil giants that seek business with Iran.
Document: Hooshang Amirahmadi, AIC president's letter
June 2001: Parsi begun consultations for the creation of NIAC. He was helped and instructed by Baquer Namzi from Tehran.
These documents are the reports of Parsi's consultation with his partners to create a lobby fight US sanctions against Iran. In one document, Parsi declared that Baquer Namzi from Tehran has given them instruction to conclude their discussions and give the result to William Miller. Miller was a board member of AIC, an anti sanction lobby in US.
Who is Baquer Namazi and why did he help Trita Parsi to create NIAC?
Baquer Namazi was the co-director of Hamyaran, a semi governmental organization that was created in 1998 by the government to monitor the activities of Iranian NGOs and coordinate their relation with foreign organizations. Hamyaran was also designated by Iranian foreign ministry to coordinate relation with Iranian expatriates. The other co-director of Hamyaran was a deputy minister for 18 years till 2008.
2002-2003: Trita Parsi, president of NIAC, sent reports to Atieh Bahar in Tehran and was paid for his work
Parsi profited from his presence inside the Congress and his close relation with Congressman Bob Ney to prepare reports about the latest developments regarding Iran and sent these reports to Atieh Bahar company in Tehran. Atieh published these reports for their clients mostly foreign diplomats stationed in Tehran. Atieh paid Trita Parsi for his work
2005-2009 Trita Parsi and Atieh Bahar officers from Tehran coordinated their efforts to lobby in Washington against sanctions and pressures on Iran
Corrupted Congressman Bob Ney was Prasi's boss and partner for 10 years
Parsi's main collaborator in Washington between 1997- 2006 was the corrupted Congressman Bob Ney. They worked together to influence Congressional policy toward Iran. In a document prepared by Parsi, he explained the nature of his relation with Bob Ney:
“The first achievement of IIC can be traced back to the summer of 1997 when Trita Parsi worked as a political consultant for Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio. Congressman Ney was at the time a proponent of the US’s isolation policy of Iran and had contacts with the Mujahedine Khalq terrorist organization. Mr. Parsi was hired to consult the Ohio Congressman on his policy vis-à-vis Iran, and persuade him to reconsider his position in favor of a pro-dialogue, pro-engagement policy.”
Some of Parsi's CV and letters written by him explaining his relation with Bob Ney:
Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney lobbying and corruption scandal and revelations about the creation of NIAC in 2002
The Jack Abramoff scandal and Bob Ney's conviction, revealed that in 2002-2003, they were hired by Iranian regime related people and were paid to lobby and remove sanctions on Iran. At the same period of time, Ney and 2 lobbyists also worked with Trita Parsi to launch NIAC's lobby to remove sanctions.
A: 2002-2003: Congressman Bob Ney and 2 Washington lobbyists Roy Coffee and Dave Distefano were hired by a London based arm dealer to lobby against US sanctions on Iran and help the Iranian regime buy a VIP aircraft
2002: Trita Parsi and Bob Ney, accompanied by 2 Washington lobbyists worked together to create a parallel organization to NIAC that would undertake its lobby activities. In a memo to Coffee, Parsi explained the goals of his lobby
“Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination. Since the lobby will be spared from creating a grassroots network of its own, the initial focus on non-controversial issues will only serve to establish credibility within the community, and not massive support (which would necessitate the complete avoidance of issues such as US-Iran relations).”
Iran’s 2003 Grand Bargain Offer, Bob Ney and Parsi's role
In April of 2003, Sadegh Kharazi, the Iranian ambassador to France asked Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, to take the Iranian secret proposal known as "grand bargain offer" to US government.
The corrupted Congressman Bob Ney and his assistant Trita Parsi played a key role in this issue. Following the decision taken by Kharazzi and Guldimann in Tehran, the Swiss ambassador went to Washington, met with Bob Ney and gave him the proposal. Trita Parsi was assigned by Ney to "manage the issue". At the time, Trita Parsi worked for corrupted Congressman Bob Ney and advised him on Iran issues.
According to Guldiman memo, the Iranian offer was so secret that only four persons in Iran were informed :
"Kharazi told me that he had two long discussions with the leader on the roadmap. In those meetings which both lasted two hours, only President Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi were present. The question is dealt with in high secrecy. Therefore no one else has been informed.”
The secrecy of Iranian offer implied that only 4 people were informed in Iran meaning that the Revolutionary Guards, the National Security Council, the cabinet ministers, and the Iranian parliament were all kept in the dark on this historical shift in Iranian foreign policy. Under such conditions, we note the extraordinary level of trust between the Iranian regime, Bob Ney and Trita Parsi.
2006-2007: Parsi's collaboration with Iranian ambassador to UN
In 2006, Trita Parsi president of NIAC met with Javad Zarif the Iranian ambassador to UN and they coordinated to influence public opinion, and prevent harsher policy toward Iran. According to Parsi's emais, they launched two interrelated campaigns:
First, They used the "grand bargain" story, the alleged peace offer that Iran secretly sent to US 3 years earlier in 2003 and George Bush ignored. Zarif gave a copy of Iranian offer to Parsi and he gave the copy to the press and used it in a large scale campaign to present Iran as the party that seeks dialogue and peace and depict George Bush administration as the part that rejects Iranian extended hand because Bush wants to invade Iran and does not seek a peaceful resolution to Iran-US standoff. Tens of articles, interviews and conferences presented Iran as a victim of US warmongers, influenced public opinion and prevented tougher sanctions against Iran.
Second, after meeting Zarif in March and April 2006, Parsi launched a project called "Iran negotiation project". He arranged the meeting between US Congress members who opposed Bush's Iran policy and Iranian ambassador Zarif. This campaign influenced Congressional policy with Iran and helped to prevent harsher sanctions against Iran.
Parsi's email exchange with Zarif also show that he informed the Iranian ambassador on Congressional activities related to Iran.
NIAC arranged meetings between American officials with Ahmadinejad's deputies
Pasri played a key role to arrange the meeting between US politicians and Iranian officials including Ahmadinejad deputy Hashemi Samareh. NIAC lobbied the US officials to meet with Iranians.
Governmental press in Iran considers NIAC as "The Iran lobby" in Wahington
See screen shots of regime controlled newspapers
"Campaign for New American Policy with Iran (CNAPI)" the pro-engagement lobby
the invasion of Iraq created a strong anti-war movement in the US that opposed American policy in the Middle East. After 2005, some of the anti-war and left organizations came together and formed a coalition that asked for softer US policy with Iran to prevent a new war in the region.
The interest groups and trade lobby that also seek better relation with Iran, joined this coalition and CNAPI was formed that brought together representatives from USA*Engage (pro-trade lobby), Open Society, left, peace and religious groups.
In 2006 NIAC started to work with the anti war coalition and was a key player in the creation of CNAPI. Later in 2008, NIAC became the coordinator of this coalition and successfully transformed the anti war coalition to a large scale lobby that asked the removal of sanctions and pressure against Iran.
During the coalition's monthly meeting in December 2008, NIAC representative declared that they are now the “center of gravity on Iran issue” in the Congress, pointing to their political weight in Washington.
Since 2010, the CNAPI format has ceased to exist but these groups continue to work together to shape US policy toward Iran. Recently, NIAC coordinated 26 groups to urge the Congress to support engagement with Tehran.
NIAC and its partners' influence have considerably diminished since 2010 as the President Obama's outreach was declined by the Iranian regime and consequently, harsher sanctions were imposed against Tehran.
NIAC, CASMII and FOR (Iran), used American anti-war movement in a pro-Tehran lobby campaign
Following the US led invasion of Iraq, a vast and popular anti-war movement was created in the US that opposed George Bush's foreign policy in general and his Middle Eastern policy in particular. In 2005, after Ahmadinejad became president and Iran resumed its nuclear activities, the hostilities between Iran and the West increased and the fear of a new war in the region became more real.
Some of the American "left" and anti-war groups started a large scale campaign to oppose US policy toward Iran and claimed that the Iranian nuclear program or its alleged terrorism are pretexts used by Bush administration to wage a military attack against Iran.
In 2005 Iran launched an ambitious plan to connect with such anti-war groups, recruit amongst them and use their social network in a grass root lobby to influence public opinion and prevent tougher policies against Iran. (See Iranian foreign ministry document projecting more support to anti-war groups in the West)
Thus, the Iranian government created an organization called "Campaign against Sanctions and military intervention in Iran" (CASMII) in both England and the US. CASMII has "anti-Imperialist" positions and together with Washington based NIAC (National Iranian American Council) have bridged Iran with US anti-war movements, successfully shaping the Iran debate within American left peace groups. (See this video in Farsi on CASMII) - (See also this email in which Baquer Namazi who worked with Iranian regime, explains NIAC and CASMII's joint campaign to use the American peace movement and create a pressure group in Washington)
In September 2008, 150 representatives of US peace groups participated in a reception with Ahmadinejad in New York, Some of themof them praising the Iranian regime and offering help to combat US pressure and sanctions against Iran. (See documents)
Since 2005, CASMII, NIAC and the Iran section of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) has sent hundreds of US activists to Iran in "peace trips" organized and monitored by the regime. Upon their return, many of these activists participated in grass root lobbying in favor of Tehran. (See documents)
In February 2012, Iran utilized these friendly groups and successfully organized "anti-war" demonstrations in several US cities. Public and court documents show that CASMII and FOR (Iran section) have worked closely with Ahmadinejad's office to recruit among US peace activists using them in lobby activities in the US. (See documents)
Furthermore, according to these documents, CASMII and FOR have been member partners in a large coalition of US organizations (CNAPI) that lobby for a friendlier policy with Iran. (See documents)
CASMII and FOR's partnership with influential US organizations and foundations that have access within US government bodies should be setting off alarm bells as Iran could eventually use its extensive connection to American anti-war movements and send its terrorist agents disguised as peace activists using their to provide logistic support.
NIAC and CNAPI lobbied to prevent nomination of Denis Ross by President Obama
In 2009, as President Obama was planning to nominate Denis Ross as "Iran envoy" at the State Department, NIAC coordinated a large scale campaign to prevent such nomination for Ross's alleged loyalty to Israel and being hostile to Iran.
NIAC's joint lobby with USA*Engage
USA*Engage is the lobby organization that represents NFTC, a coalition of large US corporations. Behind the scene, USA*Engage has closely worked with NIAC to lobby the Congress and prevent the imposition of new sanctions on Iran.
While Trita Parsi was engaged in lobbing since 1997 and NIAC in large scale lobbying since 2006, they continued to file fraudulent tax returns reporting zero percent lobbying until November 2009 when Washington Times decided to run a story on NIAC's unlawful lobbying. After November 2009, NIAC continued to underreport its lobbying activities to IRS.
NIAC defrauded Congressional funds
NIAC received more than $200.000 of congressional appropriated funds from NED and Eurasia Foundation. NIAC’s internal memos suggests that NIAC lied to NED and violated many of the rules governing the use Congressional funds. NIAC's violations include:
· Financial fraud
· Reporting false results on the work specified in the grant award
· Failure to perform the work specified in the grant award
· Collaboration with the Iranian regime
Trita Parsi and NIAC's anti Israeli crusade
During the past 15 years, TritaParsi has tried to depict Israel as the main hurdle preventing any possible rapprochement between Iran. Parsi has always tried to frame his lobby as a battle against AIPAC, “David versus Goliath: a smaller grassroots Iranian-American movement (NIAC) on one side and the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) mega-lobby on the other.”
NIAC and Parsi have justified the Iranian regime's hatred toward Israel and have paled its flagrant anti Semitism.
NIAC's anti-Israeli crusade has effectively helped institutionalization of anti-Semitism in different ways:
· In an effort to acquit Iran and blame Israel for US-Iran standoff, Parsi uses deceptive myths about Israeli extraordinary power to impose its will on the entire civilized world. The US, Europe and United Nations seem to be forced to fulfill Israeli dictate.
· Parsi and NIAC's relentless PR efforts to pale and justify the Iranian regime's anti-Semitism, legitimizes the anti Jewish hatred and assists the Mullahs to spread their dangerous ideas.
· By presenting the Iranian regime as a victim rather than partly responsible for the Middle East turmoil and hostilities toward United States, he has influenced US policy towards easing pressure against Iran. This has tremendously assisted Iran to advance its nuclear program and its hegemonic drive in the region. This has resulted in the spread of fundamentalism and anti-Semitism in the region.