The Jewish Chronicle

The ‘experts’ spinning the US into an Iran deal


THE OBAMA administra­tion knew it would never get its nuclear deal with Iran through Congress. That’s why it never tried.

That’s why the deal is known by a word salad as the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It’s also why the State Department has admitted that the JCPOA was “not a treaty or an executive agreement” in US law.

The American public never liked the JCPOA, either. When Pew Research surveyed public opinion in September 2015, 49 per cent of Americans disapprove­d and only 21 per cent approved. A mere 18 per cent believed that relations between the US and Iran would improve. The Obama team spun the Iran Deal faster than an illicit centrifuge. “We created an echo chamber,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s close adviser, boasted to the New York Times.

The administra­tion, Rhodes said, identified “who was going to be able to carry our message effectivel­y” and how to use “outside groups like Ploughshar­es” (a foundation that opposes the spread of nuclear weapons). The result, the NYT said, was that “legions of armscontro­l experts began popping up at think-tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters”.

No voice has been more resonant in the pro-Iran echo chamber than Trita Parsi. He is the founder and leader of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC); this is odd, as he’s not an American citizen. He’s also the executive vice-president of a new think-tank, the Quincy Institute for Responsibl­e Statecraft. That too is odd, as the Quincy Institute advocates for perhaps the most irresponsi­ble statecraft of all, putting the mullahs on “a glidepath” to nuclear weapons — Henry Kissinger’s words, not mine.

NIAC presents itself as a grassroots organisati­on but it depends on large donations from the Rockefelle­r Foundation and none other than the Ploughshar­es Fund. Similarly, the Quincy Institute claims to represent a groundswel­l of popular opinion, while taking donations from the Koch brothers and George Soros.

Like J Street, the Soros-funded left-wing group that the Obama administra­tion embraced, these groups claim to represent a constituen­cy in DC. In reality they’re “astroturf” groups, reflecting the political ambitions of their founders and the often misplaced idealism of their funders.

Parsi and NIAC have repeatedly been accused of being too close to the Iranian regime. In 2007, Parsi launched a defamation suit against an Iranian-American blogger who had claimed that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian government. A judge dismissed the case in 2012.

The case exposed emails showing close co-ordination between Parsi and Javad Zarif, who is now Iran’s foreign minister and was then its ambassador to the UN. The Washington Times asked two former FBI officials to examine emails in which Parsi helped to arrange meetings between Zarif and members of Congress. Both officials concluded that there were grounds for investigat­ing NIAC for violating the Foreign Agent Relations Act (FARA).

In January 2020, Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Braun wrote to the US Attorney General asking for a formal investigat­ion into potential FARA Act violations by NIAC.

Their letter accused NIAC of “blaming the United States government for Iranian-backed militias’ repeated attacks against US forces in Iraq”, and NIAC staffers of “deflecting blame from the Iranian regime for shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner” by tweeting “conspiracy theories”.

“NIAC’s relationsh­ip with the Iranian regime and its role amplifying regime propaganda in the United

States have been the subject of discussion in Washington DC for years,” the senators noted. They also noted that, back in 2008, NIAC’s acting policy director, Patrick Disney, had admitted that NIAC’s work required registerin­g under the FARA Act: “I believe we fall under this definition of ‘lobbyist’.”

Parsi insists that NIAC is independen­t of Tehran. The same cannot be said for Kaveh Afrasiabi, who was arrested in January. “For more than a decade,” the FBI charges, “Mr Afrasiabi was allegedly, paid, directed and controlled by the Government of Iran to lobby US government officials, including a Congressma­n; and to create and disseminat­e informatio­n favorable to the Iranian government.”

The Quincy Institute has Andrew Bacevich and Stephen Walt, and they’re both serious analysts of the failures of American interventi­onism. But the rest of the Quincy roster is a catalogue of cranks whose reviews of each other’s books roll more logs than a Canadian woodsman.

In the Quincy echo chamber, everyone agrees that Israel is a problem and that the Abraham Accords are bad. The goal is to spin first the media and then public opinion towards agreeing that a nuclear Iran is a great idea. If that’s responsibl­e statecraft, then Trita Parsi has a civilian-use nuclear programme to sell you.

Parsi insists that NIAC is independen­t of Tehran’

 ?? PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES ?? Ben Rhodes
Dominic Green is deputy editor of the Spectator’s US edition
Trita Parsi
PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES Ben Rhodes Dominic Green is deputy editor of the Spectator’s US edition Trita Parsi

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