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NIAC rebuts MKO and FrontPage Magazine’s untruths and fabrications
Washington DC - The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has been the target of several erroneous, maliciously defamatory opinion pieces by Kenneth Timmerman and Hassan Daioleslam in Frontpage Magazine. The articles are riddled with inaccuracies, misquotations, incorrect links and references to figures that played no role in NIAC's inception, operations, or its development over the years.
The two articles are written by a neoconservative author (Kenneth Timmerman) and a Marxist Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) supporter (Hassan Daioleslam), whose group has been identified by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (Daioleslam's article was initially published on a MKO website prior to be being used by Frontpage magazine).
The real reason for their unprovoked attacks on NIAC seems to be to silence an independent Iranian American voice opposing war with Iran.
Proponents of war between the US and Iran seek to equate opposition to a US-Iran war with lobbying for the Iranian government. This, however, is erroneous and disingenuous. In fact, the causality is likely reversed: War would strengthen the Iranian government, just as it did in 1980 when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran. NIAC’s position on this issue is clear: War between the US and Iran would devastate the region, be counter to US national interests, undermine America’s position in the region, strengthen rather than weaken the Iranian regime and lead to tremendous loss of innocent life on both sides.
As NIAC's activities have grown and become increasingly effective at preventing a US-Iran military confrontation, naturally it has attracted the ire of people who support war. By deliberately providing a false choice between the Iranian government and the MKO, the authors assert that the Iranian-American community cannot adhere to alternative positions, independent of the Iranian government or the MKO's militant agenda.
Opposing a military engagement with Iran has been on NIAC's agenda since its members cast their votes in near unanimous numbers against a military confrontation. Concerned about the devastating potential for the loss of life that would stem from a war with Iran, NIAC and the Iranian American community have stepped up efforts to prevent a war. For the past 12 months, NIAC has worked to stimulate debate to include a variety of perspectives from Iranian Americans, to the dismay of certain groups on the far left and far right. Much indicates that Mr. Diaoleslam and Timmerman are sensing their influence waning and resorting to desperate misinformation tactics.
NIAC continues to promote the interests of the Iranian-American community and ensure that a multitude of voices are heard in debates held in Capitol Hill concerning US-Iran relations. NIAC believes that fringe elements in the community should not be allowed to continue to monopolize the discussion over this issue, and by that, misrepresent the multitude of views of the Iranian-American community.
Still, though NIAC disagrees with Mr. Diaoleslam and Timmerman's support for a US-Iran war, we welcome their inputs into the debate. We are, however, dismayed that instead of intelligently contributing to the discussion with facts and reasoning, they have relied on defamation, intimidation, and personal attacks.
A list of Timmerman and Diaoleslam’s numerous misleading and false assertions can be found below.
Mr. Timmerman’s article in FrontPage Magazine, April 23, 2007
- Mr. Timmerman’s article accuse Dr. Parsi of violating Federal Law by acting as an intermediary between Iran and the United States during a 2003 Iranian proposal to the US for negotiation. A Washington Note article is referenced to support the author’s dubious claim. However, the article only indicates that Mr. Parsi, as an advisor to Congressman Ney, was aware of the Congressman’s role in passing the 2003 proposal from a Swiss diplomat to Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. The authors ignore the fact that nothing in the Washington Note article asserts that Mr. Parsi was directly involved in the transfer of the proposal. Rather, the Washington Note article only reveals that Congressman Ney received and delivered the proposal to Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. Mr. Timmerman’s transparent misconstruing of these facts is very disturbing (and perhaps revealing).
- Mr. Timmerman speculates about NIAC’s sources of funding. However, there is no need for speculation since, as a 501 c (3) non-profit, NIAC’s financial records are available to the public. They are a part of the public record and are available to anyone interested. NIAC’s funding comes primarily from Iranian American donors and respected foundations like the Ploughshares Fund, Tides Foundation, the Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy. NIAC does not accept any funding from any government agency, including those of Iran and the US.
- Mr. Timmerman equates opposition to a US-Iran war with support for the Iranian government. Nothing could be further from the truth. NIAC believes that Iranian Americans are double-stakeholders in attempts to avoid war – as Americans, they don’t want to see a single American life lost, and as Americans of Iranian descent, they don’t want to see their friends and family in Iran getting bombed. The images of the devastation in Iraq should serve as a deterrent against prospective wars in the region. In this, NIAC agrees with the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations that diplomacy, not military confrontation should be the way to resolve US-Iran tensions. Misconstruing the Iraq Study Group and NIAC’s opposition to war and preference for diplomacy as “lobbying for the Iranian government” reveals more about Mr. Timmerman’s agenda than that of NIAC.
- Mr. Timmerman references a February 17, 2007 C-SPAN interview as he identifies Mr. Parsi as a sympathizer of the Iranian government. On the contrary, during the interview, Mr. Parsi noted that if Iran is involved in killing American troops in Iraq, then that is a very serious accusation that “needs to be dealt with.” He later identifies Iranian Americans as “primary victims of the [Iranian] regime.” Finally throughout the interview, Mr. Parsi insists that the US should follow the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation to pursue diplomacy with Iran, a strategy that is advantageous to US interests.
- Mr. Timmerman attacks Bruno Pellaud for asserting at NIAC and the New America Foundation’s conference on Capitol Hill on February 17, 2007 that the IAEA has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Although NIAC is not responsible for the views of the speakers at its conference, we feel Mr. Pellaud, as a former IAEA Deputy Director, is an important authority on this issue whose voice is useful to this debate. We disagree with Mr. Timmerman’s efforts to stifle the debate by attacking those who disagree with him. We also find it unfortunate that Mr. Timmerman conveniently ignores other speakers at the conference who openly criticized the Iranian government, including Matthew Levitt, Senior Director at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the Bush Administration, who spoke extensively about “Iran’s support for terrorism.”
While NIAC disagrees with Mr. Timmerman’s support for war, it welcomes an open and exhaustive debate on this issue. In fact, Timmerman was invited to NIAC and the New America Foundation’s conference on Capitol Hill, where he actively participated on the record in the discussions. We believe that it is important to discuss these crucial issues in the open rather than resorting to personal attacks and defamation.
Daioeslam’s article in FrontPage and MKO websites (April 16, 2007)
- Mr. Daioleslam's article is full of fiction, misquotations and fabrications. It makes the spurious and unfounded claim that NIAC was founded by Roy Coffee, Dave DiStefano, Representative Bob Ney, and Trita Parsi as a lobbying organization for the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the contrary, NIAC was founded in early 2002 by Alex Patico, Trita Parsi, Babak Talebi, and Farzin Ilich as a 501 c (3) non-profit education organization with the express mission to promote Iranian-American civic participation. Neither Mr. Coffee, DiStefano, nor Representative Ney had any involvement in NIAC’s inception. In addition, NIAC has no ties whatsoever to the government in Iran. Years ago, Roy Coffee and Dave DiStefano, independent of NIAC, were briefly involved in trying to create an Iranian-American lobby group whose focus was on easing visa restrictions, promoting cultural ties, and improving the image of Iranian-Americans in the United States. That group, whose activities were never designed to address US-Iran foreign policy, never materialized. Mr. Daioleslam has mischaracterized the mission of this group and confused it with NIAC.
- The articles accuse Mr. Parsi of violating Federal Law by acting as an intermediary between Iran and the United States during a 2003 Iranian proposal to the US for negotiation. A Washington Note article is referenced to support the author's dubious claim. However, that article merely portrays Mr. Parsi, as an advisor to Rep. Ney, who was aware of the Congressman's role in passing the 2003 proposal from the Swiss Ambassador to Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. The authors ignore the fact that nothing in the Washington Note article asserts that Mr. Parsi was directly involved in the proposal's receipt or transfer.
- A prime example of Mr. Dailoeslam’s distortions and fabrications is his reference to an alleged interview conducted with Trita Parsi by Aftab newspaper. No such interview was ever granted to Aftab. In fact, the interview was conducted with Radio Free Europe, a US government-funded radio program. Following poor journalistic standards, Aftab reprinted the interview without declaring its origins, and then added a commentary that in many ways contradicted and distorted Parsi’s interview. Mr. Diaoleslam references Aftab’s commentary and claims – falsely – that Aftab’s writings are the words of Mr. Parsi. NIAC finds it unfortunate that Mr. Dailoeslam deliberately misleads his readers by making false claims that English readers with no knowledge of Persian cannot easily verify independently.
- Mr. Daioleslam cites a paper written by Trita Parsi and Siamak Namazi as a roadmap for a new Iranian-American lobby in the US. Mr. Daioleslam asserts that the paper advocates impeding Iranian opposition activities. In reality, the paper simply rejects the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) as a legitimate opposition group as it indicates that Iranian Americans do not view the MKO as their representative. By rejecting the paper’s proposal for an alternative mechanism that can allow a myriad of Iranian-American voices to speak, Mr. Daioleslam is asserting that Iranian Americans must either support the MKO or the Iranian regime. In reality, it is this erroneous dichotomy that Parsi and Namazi’s paper challenges by pointing out that the activities of the Iranian government and the undemocratic opposition have prevented the Iranian-American community from maturing politically in America and exercise their democratic rights in their adopted homeland.
- Mr. Diaoleslam alleges that Parsi and Namazi’s paper describes a roadmap based on 1) having “the appearance of a citizen’s lobby”, 2) “impede[ing] Iranian opposition activities,” 3) “infiltrate[ing] the US political system,” 4) “break[ing] the taboo of working with the Iran’s cleric rulers for the Iranian Diaspora,” and 5) improv[ing] the image of the Iran’s government abroad. All of these allegations are patently false. The paper is available online and we invite everyone to read it for themselves. A quick glance shows that the paper discusses how international affairs, US-Iran tensions, the behavior of the Iranian government and the Iranian opposition, have all served to impede Iranian Americans from maturing politically and achieve the voices in America’s democratic system they deserve as citizens of that country.
- Mr. Daioleslam takes several paragraphs from the Parsi and Namazi’s paper out of context, in order to make them appear supportive of the Iranian government. He does not mention that the paper argues that the legacy of Iran’s political system combined with discrimination in the United States has impeded Iranian American political maturity in the United States, to the detriment of the Iranian-American community itself.
- Mr. Daioleslam cites a quote from Roy Coffee, who he claims is a founder of NIAC. He has added the words “NIAC founder” to the citation as he deliberately takes the quote out of context. As explained earlier here, Roy Coffee had no role in NIAC’s inception or its development.
- Mr. Diaoleslam cites an Iranian.com article titled “If Mahdi Doesn’t Come” to assert that Trita Parsi claims that NIAC does no lobbying. Although, it is absolutely true that NIAC is not a registered lobby, the article cited does not include the quote referenced by Mr. Diaoleslam. Later Mr. Diaoleslam has a general and irrelevant link to NIAC’s website as an example of “NIAC’s lobbying activities.” Again the link does not support Mr. Diaoleslam’s false assertions.
- Mr. Diaoleslam characterizes NIAC’s Public Fellowship Program as an effort to draft the services of young Iranian Americans for NIAC’s alleged lobbying efforts on the Hill. In reality, the Fellowship program is the first Iranian American program aimed at securing attractive internship opportunities in Washington, DC for young Iranian Americans in order to provide Iranian-American youth with the same opportunities that other ethnic communities in America enjoy and enable them to provide to observe democracy and policy making first-hand. As a non-partisan organization, NIAC places these young and aspiring interns in both Republican and Democratic offices and organizations, as well as media and policy research organizations. Unfortunately, entities seeking to monopolize and minimize the voices of Iranian Americans in US policymaking oppose giving such opportunities to Iranian-American youth.
- Mr. Diaoleslam’s article incorrectly references an Iranian.com article that allegedly quotes Faramarze Fathnejad referencing “NIAC’s 20,000 members.” The link is incorrect and no trace of the quotation can be found. Mr. Diaoleslam also claims that NIAC only has 150 members. In reality, NIAC’s mailinglist reaches approximately 30,000 people and it has about 1,500 paid members. Additionally, Mr. Diaoleslam asserts, without evidence, that NIAC is supported by state-sanctioned Iranian newspapers and pro-government publications. This is without any basis in fact.
- Mr. Diaoleslam cites an Iranian.com article to make the assertion that Mr. Parsi and Houshang Amirahmadi worked to “organize capacity-building workshops for Iranian-American organizations with former lawmakers and lobbyists.” This allegation is completely false. In reality, NIAC as an organization has no relationship with Mr. Amirahmadi or his organization. The educational workshops NIAC organize are aimed at empowering Iranian Americans to participate in US civic and political life in their own individual capacities by showing how they can register to vote, write op-eds, communicate to lawmakers etc. The workshops are crucial towards raising the Iranian-American community’s civic awareness, which in turn is necessary in order to enable Iranian Americans to find a voice (or several voices) within America’s democratic system. NIAC strongly disagrees with those who prefer to keep the Iranian-American community uneducated about their rights and duties as citizens of the Unites States of America.
Despite Mr. Diaoleslam and Timmerman's attacks, NIAC will continue to empower the Iranian-American community to enrich the debates held on Capitol Hill over the US-Iran impasse and remain active on other issues of concern to the community. Its mission of enabling a wide variety of Iranian-American views to be heard will continue to be carried out without any diminution of effort as a result of attacks such as the one rebutted here.