In Iran's political establishment, as in others, there are often opportunistic figures who change their colors and views, apparently based on what they might gain politically and economically.
A current example is Reza Moridi, a Canadian citizen originally from Iran, who is currently a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in Ontario and the provincial government's Minister of Research and Innovation.
Originally, to benefit from the votes of Iranian-Canadian constituents, Moridi strongly opposed human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime and rejected the idea of rapprochement with Iran, currently the world leader per capita in executing people.
Previously, he had written a letter to Canada's then prime minister, Stephen Harper, urging "the Government of Canada to continue speaking out against the restrictions on free speech and democracy in Iran" and arguing that "The Iranian people must have the opportunity to voice their opinions freely and without fear of harm."
But his position soon changed dramatically. Suddenly, the Iranian regime's human rights violations, oppression, and interventions in other countries became less of an issue. He recently met with Canada's External Affairs Minister, Stephane Dion, to discuss further rapprochement with Iran's regime, and is currently calling on the Canadian government to re-open its embassy in Tehran.
Canada severed diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime in September 2012 to protest the support of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for the Syrian regime, as well as to protest Iran's financial, intelligence and military assistance to Syria's President Bashar Assad. Iran's support has made it a partner in the Syrian regime's bombing and killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and thereby complicit in Syria's crimes against humanity. Other crucial reasons included threats by Iran's leaders against Israel, as well as fears for the safety of Canadian diplomats when Iran breached international laws and began attacking foreign embassies in Tehran.
Through his policy shifts, Mr. Moridi has been totally disregarding Iran's and the Syrian regime's brutality, dehumanization, and subjugation of people. He has also been disregarding Iran's expansionist, imperialistic policies, Iran's threats to Israel, and Iran's violations of international and diplomatic norms. One would wonder whether Mr. Moridi is trying to pave the way to become the Canadian ambassador to Iran and serve Iran's interests?
Moridi has also been pressing the Canadian government to allow the Islamic Republic to reopen its embassy in Canada. Such a move would invite the Iranian regime to set foot in Canada, and further spread the anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda of Iran's current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
Reopening the Iranian Embassy in Canada would also help the powerful IRGC to penetrate Canada's society and exert its extremist Islamist influence there.
In an event in Ontario marking the third anniversary of Iran's rigged elections, and where the keynote speaker was someone who used to work with Iranian officials, Moridi stated that it was not a problem if someone worked for the Iranian regime for many years and then distanced himself from it. That means if someone helped Iran's regime in killing thousands of people for many years and stealing their property, and suddenly decided to leave the powers that be in Iran, he should not be held accountable?
In a recent meeting with Stephan Dion, Canada's foreign minister, Moridi also expressed the opinion that Canadian businesses are falling behind in doing business with Iran. As Iran's economy is controlled by the IRGC and the Supreme Leader, any business conducted on a state level only empowers and emboldens Khamenei, increases the stranglehold of IRGC and its Quds Force branch, which operates in foreign countries. Increased business with Iran would further help these organizations support Syria's dictator, Hezbollah and Shiite militia groups, and extend its ideological influence in the Middle East and beyond. This begs the question of whether Mr. Moridi has established connections with the Iranian business owners in Iran and Canada who are linked to IRGC.
Changing colors appears to be a normal condition for Moridi, and occurs in other contexts as well. To gain the votes of Iranian-Canadians, Mr. Moridi projects himself as the representative of the Iranians in Canada. But the real question is: is he representing the Canadian-Iranian community in Canada, or was he just collecting their votes to represent the Iranian and the Azerbaijani governments to Canada?
Reza Moridi is pictured above in a 2012 campaign video for Ontario Liberal Party leader Kathleen Wynne.
In an interview with the state media outlet of the Azerbaijani government, Moridi has been declaring his support for the authoritarian government of Azerbaijan -- where a majority of the population are Shiite Muslim and a few politicians on top seem to have accumulated most of the nation's wealth
It is often hard to tell if is Moridi representing the Iranian-Canadians or Azerbaijan. Is he an advocate of Azerbaijani separatism from Iran? In this video and statement to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto, he seems to be lobbying for the Azerbaijani government and representing them, rather than the Iranian-Canadians. He calls Azerbaijan a democracy. He ignores reports by Human Rights Watch that this is a country known for its human rights violations, torture and corruption. This issue also begs the question whether he is obtaining financial gains from politicians in Azerbaijan. He also reportedly argued that Azerbaijanis should be more organized and coordinated in denying the Armenian genocide, and that Azerbaijanis in Canada should also put more efforts in denying the Armenian genocide.
But when Moridi faces Iranians in Canada or appears on Iranian media outlets, he shows his other face, arguing that he is their representative and that he advances their cultural and political interests.
Although Moridi has ridden to his present position on the votes of Iranians in Canada, he has changed faces and seems to be representing the interests of several other governments and institutions -- including the Iranian regime, the IRGC business empire and its links in Iran and Canada, and the Azerbaijani government -- and not the cultural and political interests of Canada or the Iranian-Canadians who gave him a seat in the Ontario government.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American political scientist, Harvard scholar, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He can be reached at Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Dr_Rafizadeh