NIAC is recognized as a lobbying organization by the Iranian regime
NIAC has identified itself as a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization but has faced controversy in the past over allegations it has worked closely with the Iranian regime.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) was founded in 2002 by Trita Parsi, an Iranian-born dual citizen of Iran and Sweden, former employee at the Swedish mission to the United Nations, and a vocal champion of President Obama’s controversial Iran nuclear agreement. Parsi has consistently diminished the magnitude of the threat of the Iranian regime while simultaneously blaming most of the Middle East’s troubles on U.S. policies in the region.
NIAC was born from a 1999 white paper written by Parsi and an Iranian-born businessman seeking expanded commercial ties with the U.S. This white paper set out the new strategy for advancing their foreign-policy vision: holding “seminars in lobbying for Iranian-American youth and intern opportunities in Washington D.C.” and reducing “the taboo of working for a new approach on Iran.” These were key elements of their cultural and institutional strategy aimed at reshaping public debate on Iran policy, recognizing that their position was not shared by most Iranian Americans, much less the country at large. Just over two years after the white paper’s publication, co-author Parsi formally founded NIAC.
Since its 2002 founding, NIAC’s vision for getting Washington to remove sanctions against the Iranian regime and to reduce or even end its military engagement in the region, including strategic ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia, has drawn the attention and support of a variety of predominantly left-of-center philanthropic foundations.
In 2015, NIAC also launched NIAC Action, a lobbying arm that expanded its reach directly into American electoral politics. Interestingly, when it was first unveiled, then-executive director Jamal Abdi proactively announced that NIAC was “not lobbying on behalf of the Iranian government.” NIAC defensively re-announces this claim often, and it’s the subject of several prickly paragraphs on its website.
Since then, NIAC Action has boasted of its role in the 2016 defeats of Senator Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), whom it labeled “the top Iran hawk in Congress,” as well as several other members of Congress it labeled “hardliners” who lost their seats in 2018. In this presidential-election cycle, it has predictably endorsed Joe Biden.
A review of NIAC policy stances reveals that the organization frequently echoes Tehran’s rhetoric in redirecting blame at the U.S., not the regime, for Iranian aggression and malfeasance. Its messaging this month, for example, is that U.S. sanctions — not the Iranian regime currently spending nearly $7 billion on its terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and billions more on corruption, foreign-arms export and nuclear-weapons development — is to blame for Iranian poverty and suffering. Last December, it outrageously alleged that the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and U.S. forces elsewhere in Iraq were not the fault of the regime-backed militias that carried out the attacks, but rather of President Trump. NIAC has called the U.S. Treasury Department’s efforts to restrict banking from Iran “disruptive and discriminatory,” bitterly noting that U.S. financial institutions “proved immune to NIAC’s . . . reproach,” with seemingly no recognition of the genuine risks posed by banking ties with a regime considered the largest state sponsor of terrorism. In 2019, NIAC president Jamal Abdi echoed an Iranian regime conspiracy theory that Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman — allegations that were corroborated by the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, and regional allies — were false-flag operations “orchestrated” by the Trump administration to provide a pretext for war with Iran. The list of similar regime-sympathetic positions held by NIAC goes all the way back to its founding.
The Iranian regime’s human-rights record has been so horrific that analysts everywhere — including those at NIAC — have been unable to ignore them. While NIAC has joined in acknowledging some of these egregious violations, it has yet to join in supporting punitive measures or seemingly any other policies designed to hold the regime accountable for them. A review of 18 years of NIAC’s political and policy stands reveals that virtually nothing gets in the way of its insistence that the U.S. pull back all aspects of opposition to the regime.
On Capitol Hill and elsewhere, calls are now mounting for a thorough investigation of whether NIAC is operating as a lobby for the Iranian regime or other Iranian entities in violation of U.S. sanction statutes, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and other federal laws.
NIAC has helped persuade many elected officials to embrace Iran-appeasing positions, including the flawed Iran nuclear agreement and restored trade relations, despite the vast public skepticism and opposition to those ideas. This approach has proven especially popular on the left wing of American politics. In January, NIAC organized a “No War with Iran Strategy Call” with senators and then-presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and it has welcomed Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) to speak at several of its conferences. Its alumni have gone on to work in a variety of offices in the U.S. government, from the offices of Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) (the latter of whom called U.S. sanctions “criminal” in March) to roles specifically connected to the Iran nuclear deal on President Obama’s National Security Council.
# Person of interests:
NIAC has been the Iranian regime’s primary outlet in Washington. NIAC members have direct contacts with the clerical regime in Iran and have acted as the chief deal makers for Tehran in Washington.
– Jamal Abdi – President
– Nicole Ataei – Director of Finance and Administration
– Ryan Costello – Policy Director
– Donna Farvard – National Organizing Director
– Nilofar Ganjaie – Deputy Executive Director
– Shervin Ghaffari – Policy Analyst
– Hamid Jahangard – Advancement Director
– Mana Mostatabi – Communications Director
– Assal Rad – Senior Research Fellow
– Sina Toossi – Senior Research Analyst
– Ehsan Zahedani – Community Relations Manager
Board of Directors
– Ladan Manteghi – Chair, Georgetown Business for Impact Initiative
– Ardavan Badii – Founder and President of The Bullion Bank
– Payman Jarrahy – OB/GYN, New York Hospital
– SIOBHAN COLEY-AMIN – Attorney, Vennable LLP
– MAX SAFAVI – CFO, COO
– AHMAD SHAMS – Founder & Chairman, Merex Inc.
– MASOUD LOGHMANI – Business Executive
# Spreading Propaganda in the United States:
NIAC was founded in 2002 by Parsi, an Iranian-born dual citizen of Iran & Sweden, former employee at the Swedish mission to the UN & and a vocal champion of Obama’s controversial Iran nuclear deal.
– Parsi close to Iran’s deputy FM Seyed Abbas Araghchi during the 2015 nuclear talks with the Obama admin.
– Parsi with Hassan Rouhani’s brother Hossein (right) & nuclear negotiator Majid Takht Ravanchi (second from right) during the 2015 nuclear talks.
March 2006 Parsi met the Iranian ambassador to UN Javad Zarif in New York who gave Parsi a copy of Iranian 2003 offer to US for “grand bargain”. Parsi gave the copy of the offer to the press and using this issue, he launched a large scale media campaign to present Iran as the party that seeks dialogue and peace and frame the US as the party that seeks war and confrontation.
Parsi & NIAC have long opposed any sanctions & designations by the U.S. against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. In 2007, Parsi wrote “Terror Label for Guard Corp Entrenches US-Iran Enmity,” originally on NIAC’s website then taken down.
NIAC continued pushing this policy in 2017 as reports began circulating of the Trump admin possibly designating the IRGC.
“Don’t Label the IRGC,” originally on Foreign Affairs
“Save the Iran Deal” – Article published on their official website
Damning evidence: Airfare provided by NIAC for two Iran intel agents, Massoud Khodabandeh & his wife Ann Singleton, to come to the U.S. in 2008.
Library of Congress issued a Pentagon-requested report describing the two as recruited by Iran’s intel (MOIS) in the 1990s.
Iran lobbyists have established ties with Sen. Warren. Warren voiced gratitude for an endorsement from NIAC member Reza Aslan. Aslan has close relations with Iran’s regime & also makes disgusting remarks on Twitter.
NIAC outrageously alleged that the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and U.S. forces elsewhere in Iraq were not the fault of the regime-backed militias that carried out the attacks, but rather of President Trump.
2019—NIAC president echoed Iran’s conspiracy theory that Iran’s attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman—corroborated by the US, UK, Germany & regional allies—were false-flag operations “orchestrated” by the Trump admin to wage war on Iran.
Iranian regime insider explain that NIAC was established by Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran.
NIAC is a lobby group in the U.S. pushing Iran’s talking points.
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) November 26, 2020
Negar Mortazavi and Yasmine Taeb are former members of Iran’s lobby arm NIAC. Mortazavi is also very fond of Iran’s chief apologist Zarif. (Note: Iran’s officials only allow pictures with Iranians who are their utmost loyalists.)
Listen to how Mortazavi justifies the crimes of #Iran's regime.
This is the hallmark of Iran's network of apologists & lobbyists in the West.pic.twitter.com/QGoWz8iNf0
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) November 26, 2020
One individual is Hoda Katebi, a regular at events held by NIAC. Katebi had called for burning the U.S. flag after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the world’s number one terrorist.
– In a January 2020 letter to Attorney General William Barr, Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), and Mike Braun (R., Ind.) urged the Department of Justice to “review the activities of [NIAC] and its sister organization NIAC Action for potential violations of [FARA].” They note that despite “NIAC’s innocuous public branding,” there are real concerns about the organization’s possible regime connections, including that Trita Parsi “had arranged meetings between Javad Zarif, Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations and [now-former] foreign minister, and members of Congress” to help push the regime’s agenda, and that NIAC’s former acting policy director Patrick Disney had admitted in 2008 that he believed “we [NIAC] fall under this definition of ‘lobbyist.’” The organization did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the Senate letter or related issues. (An Iran lobby in America – October 20, 2020)
– In 2019, thousands of users on Twitter have been using the hashtag #NIACLobbies4mullahs to express their anger toward the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), alleging the lobbyist group does not represent their interests but rather those of the Iranian regime.
“#NIAC is the most dangerous organization ever established & run by #Iran’s Islamic Regime abroad. Members of #NIAC are a bunch of fanatics & opportunists disguised as academics & intellectuals to serve the regime & protect its interests in the #US,” Babak Taghvaee tweeted using the hashtag.
– In 2015, two circuit judges and a senior circuit judge from the US federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia forced NIAC to pay $183,480.09 in monetary sanctions to a blogger named Hassan Daioleslam. The court decided NIAC had to reimburse the blogger for the money he had spent fighting a defamation lawsuit NIAC brought against him in 2008, which was decided in his favor and dismissed in 2012. (Iranian Regime using NIACLobbies4mullahs to express anger toward US-based lobby group – May 28, 2019)
It is undeniably plausible that NIAC is “conducting lobbying and public-relations activities in coordination with or on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran,”. The American people deserve to know if NIAC is being illegally used by an Iranian regime that routinely wishes “death to America” and funds terrorism throughout the globe to advance policies favorable to its interests. Attorney General Barr, therefore, should act promptly in honoring the senators’ request for a federal investigation of NIAC’s activities and funding sources.