Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi (center) has boasted that Tehran runs a lobby group in Washington that promotes the hardline agenda of his country's ruling mullahs. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
Iran's leaders have freely admitted that they have lobby groups and operatives in the West, including the US, working hard to advance Tehran's anti-Western, anti-American, fundamentalist ideas. Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi even boasted that Tehran runs a lobby group in Washington that promotes the hardline agenda of his country's ruling mullahs. According to the Washington Examiner:
"A 'lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran' is actively bolstering Tehran's status in the international stage and helping to sell and legitimize its nuclear ambitions as just causes to the globe, Alavi claimed."
The chairman of "Oil Contracts Restructuring Committee" in Iran, Mehdi Hosseini, when asked whether there are Western entities that pressure their governments on behalf of the Islamic Republic, stated: "Yes. They have done this in the past." These efforts, he added, "will help us and we should exploit these opportunities."
Recently, three Republican senators, Ted Cruz (TX), Tom Cotton (AK) and Mike Braun (IN) have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). The congressmen believe that this entity is a lobby group which is acting as a "foreign agent of the Islamic Republic." NIAC is not registered as a lobby group and has been reportedly operating for over a decade. The organization calls itself a "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing interests of [the] Iranian-American community."
According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act, anyone who is paid to lobby the US federal government is required to "register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives." The Senators who have urged the Justice Department to look into NIAC's activities, added:
"FARA [the Foreign Agents Registration Act] requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities. FARA does not compel any American to refrain from certain types of speech; rather, it helps guarantee transparency and accountability in our political system."
Intriguingly, according to the senators' statement:
NIAC's former acting policy director, Patrick Disney, admitted in internal emails that he and the organization's legislative director spent more than 20 percent of their time conducting lobbying activities. He wrote, "I believe we fall under this definition of 'lobbyist'...." Thus, as of 2008, senior NIAC employees openly acknowledged their role as lobbyists for Iranian interests.
In addition, the former FBI associate deputy director, Oliver Revell, stated:
"Arranging meetings between members of Congress and Iran's ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran."
Revell's statement came after NIAC's Swedish-Iranian founder reportedly arranged meetings between members of the US Congress and the Iran's then ambassador to the United Nations (and current Foreign Minister) Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to the Iranian American Forum:
"Some of these documents are posted here and reveal NIAC's relation and collaboration with Iranian officials and business interests inside Iran. They show that NIAC coordinated its lobby with the Iranian ambassador to the UN to influence the US policy with Iran. Some of NIAC's internal documents released during the lawsuit have been used to prepare this report."
Why do those who may lobby for the mullahs attempt to fly under the radar, act less conspicuously, and fail to register?
In democratic states, declaring a connection with an autocratic government that has been designated the "foremost" state sponsor of terrorism might run the risk of affecting the legitimacy and status of Iran's lobbyists.
Those who advocate for the mullahs in the US appear determined to satisfy Tehran by cajoling, prodding and persuading US policy-makers into believing that appeasement, the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a soft touch is the only way to contain the top state sponsor of terrorism.
Now is the time for the US and other Western governments to investigate and closely watch Iran's apologists who beat the drum for the anti-American and anti-Israeli Islamic Republic of Iran.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu