There Goes the NIAC…Again!
This article was written in response to National Iranian American Council’s article recently posted on the Huffington Post titled: As Sanctions Ratchet Up, Iranian Americans Bear Increasing Burdens. Despite my numerous attempts, unfortunately, the Huffington Post’s moderator(s) refuse to publish my comments regarding the article, thus depriving its readers from hearing alternative perspectives on Iran. NIAC has embarked on a campaign of disinformation intent on advocating policies that are favorable to the Iranian regime. Unfortunately, it has used the Iranian-American community as a propaganda tool to convince American policy makers that it represents our views.
There is a preponderance of publicly available NIAC documents that clearly show NIAC is at the service of the Islamic Republic. NIAC’s pretense of being a voice for human rights and other gimmicks are cleverly orchestrated to exploit the Iranian-American community and masterfully hide its true intentions. Many of NIAC internal documents attest to this fact. NIAC is not alone in its efforts to support the Islamic republic and covering up crimes committed by the regime.
A complex network of individuals and organizations with direct ties to the clerical regime and with a deliberate synchrony are hard at work to influence the U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic. Iranian lobby network, spearheaded by partnership of radical Islamists, liberal and left leaning individuals and organizations, Iranian cultural centers, religious organizations and pro regime entities, includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia, the legal profession, and the think tank world, who serve as mouthpieces for the mullah’s party line.
NIAC: With a new push for even more “crippling” Iran sanctions coming out of Congress, and renewed signs from the president that further sanctions may be in the offing, it is more important than ever for Americans, particularly Americans of Iranian descent, to evaluate the unintended impact these sanctions are having here in the U.S.
PDMI: The question to be asked of NIAC and other regime apologists is why sanctions are imposed on Iran in the first place? For the past 32 years various U.S. administrations have tried unsuccessfully to court the mullahs. Any attempt at dialogue and diplomacy with Iran has failed. The regime is intent on ensuring its survival and wiping Israel off the map by developing its nuclear weapon’s program. Sanctions are a way of pressuring rouge countries such as the Islamic government in Iran to change their behavior, short of resorting to a disastrous war. Yes, NIAC is right. Sanctions do affect Americans and Iranian-Americans, but only those who want to do lucrative business with Iran and not the ordinary Iranians. Ordinary Iranians have been suffering under the theocratic regime for 32 years. Unemployment is in double digits. Inflation is at 30 percent annually. Corruption is rampant and almost legal. Political prisoners fill the Islamic Republic’s prisons. For NIAC to claim that sanctions hurt the ordinary people is simply dishonest. Sanctions are targeted at regime’s top echelon. NIAC ignores the fact that the world community will not tolerate an Islamic government with nuclear weapons. The alternative to sanctions is war. Let’s not buy into NIAC’s fuzzy logic and avoid war at all cost.
NIAC: Yesterday, the civil rights organization Asian Law Caucus released its latest guide, The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You, which lays out some of the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iranian Americans and provides guidance for how to navigate the maze of new and existing restrictions.
PDMI: NIAC and its proxies actually are providing Americans and Iranians with tools and legal expertise to legally get around Iran Sanctions. ALC claims to be a center for advancing justice. Even though ALC is careful that the publication should not be regarded as legal advice, ALC’s 24 page report is compiled with pro bono assistance from the WilmerHale law firm with “expertise” on Iran sanctions and a cast of pro regime Iranians. The ALC is ill-advised to engage in Iranian political affairs and perhaps it should advocate for human rights and speak against the brutal repression of basic human rights by a criminal regime. ALC should realize that there is a clear distinction between the Iranian people and the Iranian government. Iranians do not recognize the Islamic Republic as a legitimate government and neither do they believe NIAC represents their interests. 97 percent of Iranian-Americans surveyed believe that NIAC is a lobby organization for Islamic Republic. Sanctions are aimed at changing the behavior of the Iranians officials who disregard the basic human rights of the Iranians. Stories of rape, floggings, hangings, stoning, and killing of Iranian pro-democracy protesters since June 2009 and for that matter for the past three decades, are well documented. Perhaps it would be more appropriate for ALC to address the human rights violations by China, North Korea, Pakistan, and other Asian countries, not Iran, where it does not have the knowledge or the expertise!
NIAC and its proxies act as if the Iranian regime has the right to smuggle goods from abroad for its nuclear, missile and conventional weapon’s programs. Homeland Security agents have arrested many Iranians who have attempted to smuggle F-14 fighter aircraft parts for use by the Iranian military. Most Iranians and entities arrested for violating sanctions have had proven ties to Islamic Republic, buying arms, laundering huge sums of money, exchanging millions, not thousands.
NIAC: Last year, when Iranian-American Mahmoud Reza Banki was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for facilitating remittances between families in the U.S. and Iran, shock waves rippled through the Iranian-American community. That’s because even under ramped up sanctions, Iranian Americans are still legally permitted to send family remittances to loved ones in Iran. However, because banking sanctions have closed off most of the legal channels for such transactions, many turn to workarounds that may seem innocuous, but are often illegal.
PDMI: Most Iranians arrested have been involved in purchasing arms and sensitive technologies in defiance of the international embargo. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has identified numerous cases in which U.S. actions have led to the arrest of Iranians believed to be in the regime’s smuggling core. In May 2008 Iranian citizen Amir Hossein Ardebili pleaded guilty in the United States to charges of buying arms equipment for the ministry of defense. In March 2009, U.S. authorities arrested Majid Kakavand for sending electronic equipment usable in military, avionic and aerospace programs. In March 2009, U.S. authorities arrested Hossein Ali Khoshnevisrad, an Iranian national, during a layover at a U.S. airport for allegedly buying U.S. military aircraft parts illicitly through his Iranian trading company, Ariasa, and an Irish trading company Mac Aviation Group, on behalf of Iran’s Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) and Iran Aircraft Industries (IACI). In January 2010, German authorities arrested Amirhossein Sairafi, an alleged Dubai and Iran-based middleman who transshipped vacuum equipment believed to be for nuclear gas centrifuge plants in Iran. Sairafi allegedly managed a front company out of Dubai and Iran called AVAC to receive U.S.-origin items from a middleman stationed in California.
For NIAC to claim that innocent Iranians are arrested for spurious charges by the U.S. authorities is intellectually dishonest and misrepresents the facts. NIAC should be investigated for violation of tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws. Anecdotal stories by ALC are carefully crafted to give a human face to otherwise illegal smuggling activities by the regime.
NIAC: The ALC effort is important in ensuring that Iranian Americans understand their rights and don’t end up unintentionally violating the law. But even with this understanding, many Iranian Americans have been unable to avoid the chilling effect caused by the increasing breadth of sanctions. Banks have frozen the accounts of Iranian Americans who simply checked their bank balance online from Iran. In at least one case, a bank closed an account when it determined its customer was a “resident” of Iran because she had been thrown in jail on frivolous espionage charges.
PDMI: Let’s not forget that Trita was Congressman Bob Ney’s chief of staff in Washington when Bob Ney was caught trying to smuggle aircraft parts to Iran. Former congressmen Bob Ney pleaded guiltyand served two and a half years in prison for trying to circumvent Iran Sanctions, while Trita Parsi continues to pressure Congress about the sale of aircraft parts to Iran.
NIAC: Website owners have found that certain web hosts refuse to allow Iranian IP addresses to access their sites. Iranian Americans who formerly worked and retired in Iran report that they are now unable to receive their pensions here in the U.S. due to banking restrictions. Charity and relief organizations have been shocked when, despite going through the long and arduous process of obtaining a U.S. license to work on humanitarian projects in Iran, they are suddenly and wrongly dropped by their financial institution. And researchers have been unable to conduct studies or obtain grants related to Iran because of concerns about sanctions.
PDMI: This is yet another of NIAC’s disingenuous and distorted statements. Such statements made by NIAC simply lack validity and are designed to mislead the American policy makers.
Fact: IRI has imposed the strictest filtering on the Internet and does not want Iranians access information about demonstrations, rapes, hangings, unemployment, poverty and prostitution, drug trafficking and human smuggling committed by regime handlers. Iran recently announced that it wants to create its own Internet (Intranet).
Fact: NIAC was complicit about identifying the Iranian NGOs using NED funds. Many humanitarian NGOs were identified and closed down during the Khatami era and NIAC was at the center of it. NIAC is guilty of helping a criminal regime and should be tried in the US courts. There are too many documents and facts linking NIAC to the Islamic government in Iran. In 2007, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which is a recipient of NED funding, wrote a letter objecting to the “Democracy Fund” money (70 million) being included in the fiscal year 2008 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
Fact: The US prominent universities are filled with so-called Iranian experts from Harvard to Princeton. Yet, they only spew their liberal and leftist, anti-Semite and America and Israel bashing ideology. They never denounce Hezbollah or Hamas or acknowledge them as terrorist organizations. They do not recognize Baha’ism as a religion. Even though they claim to have escaped regime’s atrocities, they never write about crimes committed by the regime. Iranian petro dollars are invested on American campuses and classrooms where future diplomats are created. Such students will continue to apply the principles that they have been receiving by pro Hamas professors sitting on Jihadi grants. Neither NIAC nor the Iranian regime is interested in facts. Information on political prisoners, refugee, economy, torture and killings are ignored or sugarcoated by these “so-called” academicians and researchers.
NIAC: None of these activities are illegal, but the broad, untargeted nature of Iran sanctions have convinced companies and banks that facilitating such activities is simply not worth the risk.
PDMI: During a recent campaign to ease sanctions on Iran organized by NIAC and NIPOC, titled U.S. Iran Sanctions, How Does it Affect you?, there were four companies that sponsored the February 26th event in California. All were in the business of selling sensitive technologies; telecommunication, sophisticated applications, military equipment, chemicals, oil and gas and nuclear technologies. Not a single one of them dealt with food and medicine to ease the pressure on the ordinary Iranians. The big oil and Iranian front companies are salivating to do lucrative business with Iran at the expense of human rights violations and contrary to their company’s code of conduct. Nokia, Siemens, Sony come to mind who have admitted helping the regime to crackdown on dissidents.
NIAC: Even with these difficulties, many, if not most, Iranian Americans would be happy to make these sacrifices if doing so held the promise of helping improve the situation in Iran. But the results we have seen from broad sanctions have consistently been the opposite. Economic sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not stopped or even stemmed the human rights abuses in Iran. They have failed to change the Iranian government’s behavior for over three decades and have hurt, not helped, the Iranian people.
PDMI: Despite Trita’s whining’s, sanctions are working. Iranian-Americans want the strictest form of non- food and medicine sanctions against the criminal regime. 80 percent of Iran’s economy is controlled by the IRGC. “I think our discussion (on Iran) today was really about the fact that the sanctions have ended up being more effective and more severe than perhaps we might have expected before the U.N. resolution was passed,” Robert Gates said emerging from talks with France’s Herve Morin. Secretary Gates continued by saying the U.N. sanctions approved in June had provided a crucial legal platform for individual nations to enact additional measures.
NIAC: For instance, restrictions on aircraft parts and repairs have helped leave Iran’s civilian aircraft fleet in disrepair, resulting in at least fifteen Iranian plane crashes in the past decade.
PDMI: Iran leases most of air fleet. Many civilian air fleets are Russian made and Iran freely trades with Russian and China purchasing military and civilian aircraft parts.
NIAC: We also now know that, in June 2009, as Iranians took to the streets to demand accountability from their government in the face of brutal repression, U.S. sanctions were preventing Iranians from accessing even the most basic communication software and hardware.
PDMI: Iranians took to streets demanding regime change. They shouted that Mousavi was a pretext and the entire regime was the target. They already knew the regime was corrupt. They demanded a secular democracy for Iran. Iranians effectively used Twitter, Facebook and the Internet to send videos of regime’s brutality while NIAC advised president Obama to say nothing and remain quiet. The Iranian government lowered the Internet bandwidth almost to zero to prevent protesters from uploading videos of the brutal atrocities and shootings during protest. Yet NIAC never complained and instead advised the American policy makers to raise the software purchase limit to $20,000. NIAC has forgotten that Iran does not honor copyright laws and most sophisticated applications are readily available for less than 5 dollars all over Iran. Also, Iran’s’ telecommunication is owned by the IRGC, and therefore the bandwidth is controlled by the IRGC, in case Trita and Mr. Abdi have forgotten.
NIAC: Fast forward two years and many of these sanctions remain in place, new ones have been ratcheted up, and even more may be on the way. Meanwhile, Tehran continues to put thirty years of experience in leveraging the sanctions to use by enriching government officials and further consolidating their share of Iran’s economy by controlling the sale of sanctioned products.
PDMI: Mullahs defiance of the international laws and UN mandates necessitates the need for strictest sanctions. The alternative to sanctions is war. Nobody wants war as much as NIAC using the threat of imminent war as a scare tactic. Actually, NIAC’s attempts to prop a criminal regime and buy it time to develop nuclear weapons will have disastrous consequences for Iran, and will ultimately lead to confrontation with the West.
NIAC: Hopefully, efforts like those of the ALC to educate the Iranian-American community can help ensure that innocent people do not unknowingly get swept into the wake of the broad sanctions or have their rights violated. But going forward, we will need to continue to press policymakers to pay more attention to the unintended consequences of these sanctions.
PDMI: ALC should focus on protecting and defending human rights and not appeasing a criminal regime. We will be more than happy to meet and inform ALC on complex matters related to Iran if they wish to engage. As a non-profit, ALC might be violating federal laws by engaging in politics and supporting the Islamic Republic. Hopefully by having the strictest sanctions imposed on them, the regime will be forced to observe International laws and adhere to Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
NIAC: With Congress considering oil embargo measures that will make Iran policy look even more like the policies carried out on Iraq — which failed to depose Saddam, resulted in humanitarian disaster, and ultimately ended in war — elected officials must hear this message.
PDMI: The Iranian-American community demands the strictest sanctions against the regime. For as long as the regime is able to sell the Iranian oil at $90 plus a barrel, it will continue to threaten its neighbors, finance its terror proxies, and develop its nuclear weapon’s program. Sanctions are the best way to convince the regime to change its behavior and avoid a costly and dangerous war.
NIAC: It is critical that Americans, and especially Iranian Americans, take action to oppose sanctions that invite dangerous outcomes for the U.S. and the Iranian people, and fail to discriminate between Iran’s government, the Iranian people, and Iranian Americans.
PDMI: Iranians-Americans are well aware of NIAC’s games. ALC should not be conned by NIAC and should denounce regime’s violations of human rights. ALC must not inadvertently serve as a mouthpiece for the regime, and instead should help expose regime’s blatant human rights violations in Asian countries.
NIAC’s strategy, ever since its inception, has been to infuse human elements to hide and advance its hidden agenda. On various occasions NIAC has exploited Human Rights (even though Trita Parsi has clearly stated that NIAC is not a human rights organization and it does not possess the expertise), discrimination, student visas to appeal to Iranians and distance itself from the lobby role it is engaged in. ALC’s publication might as well have been written by NIAC since the intent and message is uniquely similar to Trita writings and speeches aimed at easing of Iran Sanctions.