[home][about][contact] [getting involved] [Educational][Academic] [Media Watch][Views]
Meir Javedanfar: Iran ‘Analyst’ as Pro-Israel Cipher
The impasse between Iran and the west has produced a bumper crop of Iranian opportunists who’ve latched onto a western gravy train as analysts, media commentators, political consultants, and think tank pundits. As opposed to genuine independent analysts with their own sources and expertise, this group caters to the interests of whichever particular group offers the most lucrative funding opportunities.
There is also an effort, often by pro-Israel interests, to parachute these individuals into the Beltway political mix. One of those who’s succeeded admirably at self-promotion and maximizing his meager credentials into a career as a B-list analyst of Iranian politics is Meir Javedanfar. According to the meager biographical details he’s offered, he was born in Iran and left in with his family 1987. There is a relatively large Iranian community in Israel so he may have emigrated to Israel though his bio doesn’t make this clear.
His academic career took him to a second-rank UK institution, Lancaster University, where he earned an MA in the International Relations and Strategic Studies program. A bio published at a speaker’s bureau says he has another MA in information management, but doesn’t name the school. Javedanfar doesn’t mention this degree in any of his other online biographies.
He has not published in peer-reviewed academic journals. He has no permanent academic position (he teaches one course on Iranian politics at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel’s private college). He is listed as co-author of one book, written with former Haaretz security reporter, Yossi Melman. The latter left his job shortly after WikiLeaks revealed that he’d been a previously unknown source (and possibly paid source) of Stratfor. Like all of Melman’s other work, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran is full of conspiratorial theories that paint Iran in the worst possible light and pose the nuclear threat in the most dire terms. In Gareth Porter’s review, he wrote:
"The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran takes on the highly charged issue of Iran’s nuclear program — a tricky project even under the best of circumstances, given the interests of all the relevant parties to the dispute in promoting their own version of reality. A critical challenge in carrying out such a study is to avoid becoming captive of an official propaganda line, and co-authors Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar have failed to surmount that challenge…. [It] tilts sharply toward the official Israeli view on virtually every question surrounding the Iranian nuclear program….
"The thesis of the book is clearly stated in the first four chapters: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous Islamic extremist whose determination to exterminate Israel and belief in the coming of the Twelfth Imam (the Mahdi) adds up to a desire for war against Israel, with nuclear weapons if possible."
Porter charitably posits that “his [Melman's] analysis has dominated in the conversation between the two coauthors.” But even if you consider that Melman wrote all this conspiratorial nonsense and Javedanfar served as little more than translator of the Farsi-language documents used in the preparation of the book, this still means the Iranian allowed himself to be sucked into a project involving extremist fear-mongering. I’m certain he did so willingly because associating himself with a figure like Melman would lend himself further credibility. Credibility is the currency of opportunists like Javedanfar.
Perhaps the most damning charge against him is that he falsely attributed quotations in order to “prove” his claim that Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons. He did this in no less a publication than The Guardian. There he propounded the questionable notion that Iran was hell-bent on getting a nuclear weapon (“Last week brought new indications that the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran want to make a nuclear bomb”). The evidence? A new IAEA report which, on further consideration, didn’t at all support the far-reaching conclusions that Javedanfar and Israeli intelligence wished to propagate.
Here is where the author crossed the line from political agitprop to outright fraud. He wrote:
'It [the IAEA report] stated that “Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.” '
Nima Shirazi first caught this fabrication in his blog, Wide Asleep in America (link above):
"Seems simple enough. But it’s a lie. The quote Javedanfar uses is not from the IAEA report at all despite what he writes; rather, it is swiped wholesale from the New York Times article lede on the IAEA report, written a few days earlier by the Times‘ resident Judith Miller clones, David Sanger and William Broad. The actual IAEA report does not make this claim. In fact, the words “evidence” and “trigger” are nowhere to be found in the IAEA report."
The fact that Israeli intelligence provided much of most incriminating “evidence” for the IAEA report and that Javedanfar published an op-ed that piggybacked on this questionable claim may not be an accident.
If you stop to think that Fareed Zakaria was suspended from CNN for plagiarism, what should the professional penalty be for false attribution of quotations? I would think it should mean career suicide. But apparently not for a man who has nine pundit lives.
Reza Sanati at AI Monitor, criticized a piece Javedanfar had published there:
"His argument is built upon a series of fallacies that taken together, present an inaccurate picture of the troubled relationship between Iran and the West, and ultimately makes escalation toward conflict far more likely."
Among the patently false claims Javedanfar made in his article was that Ayatollah Khamenei has “failed to convert his nuclear policies into a nationalistic consensus.”
In fact, every credible source both inside and outside Iran points to the nuclear program as being almost the only issue that unites all elements of the Iranian political system including leading reformers like Moussavi and Karoubi. A University of Maryland poll conducted by an Iranian researcher found that 85% of Iranians supported the program strongly. Either Javedanfar did not know of multiple instances of such polls and evidence, in which case he’s a woeful researcher; or he knew about them and simply disregarded them, which indicates a reckless streak.
In his article, Javedanfar argued that sanctions on Iran would cause economic collapse and force it to capitulate to western demands that Iran stop its nuclear program. Sanafi, along with most other independent Iran analysts, strongly disagrees. He believes that while sanctions will (and are) hurting Iran, they will not bring an economic debacle for the following reasons:
"…The nature of the Iranian economy, Iran’s projected hydrocarbon revenues and the coming end of the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration (and his policies)…Iran actually has a substantial non-oil economy with a large, diversified manufacturing base, one of Asia’s largest agro-business sectors and a burgeoning scientific community…Most Iranians, unlike their many neighbors, are not reliant upon oil…for their livelihoods.
"…While the sanctions have cut Iranian oil income…2012’s estimated oil income at $70 billion is still considerably higher than 2004’s figures of $37 billion…"
Sanati’s critique proves that Javedanfar is excellent at promoting the established wisdom of the anti-Iran policy community. But he appears to have no internal sources within Iran to inform of political and economic developments there. For that, he must rely on third-hand accounts in western media, which may be unreliable at best.
Proof of this may be found in his rebuttal to my claim that his lack of familiarity with sources or conditions inside Iran proves him not to be an authentic representative of Iran. He deliberately confuses the term “authentic” with “official” here:
"I have never claimed to nor have I had any contacts with the Iranian regime…I do not wish to have anything to do with the regime or its officials."
His response either shows he does not have adequate command of English vocabulary or that he has willfully misunderstood my claims about him.
Returning to Javedanfar’s CV, though he did write the Iran chapter for the PSI Handbook of Global Security and Intelligence, it was co-edited by Prof. Shlomo Shpiro. The latter specializes in national security issues at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University, which is known as Israel’s Orthodox institution of higher learning, with a generally right-wing political and academic orientation.
His bio says he worked as Israel correspondent for BBC Persian, was a member of the Club of Rome “TT30″ (Think Tank 30),” where he ran its Beyond Oil economic forecast group, and was an analyst for Jane’s Intelligence Digest. The only evidence of a Beyond Oil entity associated with TT30 is a blog whose last post was in 2005. Jane’s Intelligence Digest no longer exists and hasn’t been printed for a number of years. A query to the corporation that published it has not confirmed what he did for Jane’s and how long he worked there.
Javedanfar falsely implies an affiliation with Columbia University’s School of International Affairs by virtue of his membership in the Gulf 2000 Project, an e-mail listserv maintained by Gary Sick, who is on the faculty:
"A member of Gulf 2000 Project, which is run by the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University in New York City and staffed by internationally renowned experts in Persian Gulf states."
Membership in the listserv confers no special distinction and Javedanfar typically exaggerates his bona fides. I too was once a member, but left precisely because some poseurs like Javedanfar, some with no academic qualifications in the field, espoused especially robust pro-Israel views which were never rebutted by other members. There is an academic program associated with Gulf 2000 which hosts conferences and papers, but I’ve found no evidence that Javedanfar participated in any of its official University activities.
With such lean academic credentials, Javedanfar has done an excellent job parlaying them into TV and print media gigs for such outlets as BBC, Sky News, the CBC, RAI Italia, ABC Australia, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, the Boston Globe, and Haaretz.
On his website, he boasts of his participation in a BBC Persian panel at the London School of Economics. The Israeli foreign ministry has engaged him to speak at various local Latin American universities. He spoke at a 2007 conference co-sponsored by The Israel Project (TIP) on Iran in Latin America. He is also listed as a potential speaker in the group’s list of those able to provide the suitable pro-Israel political line to American Jews on a variety of topics.
To give you a sense of TIP’s political orientation, Josh Block, formerly chief media enforcer for AIPAC, is its new director. Here I described how Block frog-marched Chris McGreal, the Guardian Washington correspondent, out of an AIPAC conference to which he was fully accredited, under armed guard.
What’s shocking about the TIP event at which Javedanfar spoke, is that it was co-sponsored by the Hebrew University’s Truman Center, a well-respected academic institution. This is yet another example of how the ideologically driven pro-Israel advocates have co-opted the academic sphere; and how operatives like Javedanfar succeed in penetrating it as well.
One speaker’s bureau lists his fee as between $5,000-6,000. If you add all-expense paid travel to exotic places around the world, this gets to be quite a cushy gig.
He also claims to have been consulted by the State Department and Pentagon and lists further accomplishments:
"He has briefed government and intelligence officials from no less than 10 countries about Iranian politics, economy, security affairs, and the nuclear program.
"Mr. Javedanfar currently serves as a political adviser to the Spanish Embassy in Israel and also works as the in house Israeli affairs expert for BBC Persian."
But somewhat oddly, his own corporate consulting company’s website lists no clients at all. This is, to say the least, unusual for someone claiming to be a distinguished international consultant. Though of course it could indicate an individual conducting his career by the seat of his pants.
Javedanfar has a blog, Iran-Israel Observer, which catalogs his anti-regime views. He also publishes prolifically online at a variety of sites most of which have a distinct right-wing orientation. In that sense, he’s a bit like Daniel Pipes, who earned a PhD at a prestigious academic institution, but has eschewed academia for agitprop and pamphleteering. But unlike Pipes, Javedanfar can be taken into respectable company. He wears a suit at the dinner table and espouses views that are acceptable because they are not bellicose or outrageous.
At the pro-Israel, neocon-funded Pajamas Media (PJM) he published scores of articles between 2007-09. In his rebuttal to this article, Javedanfar claims he left PJM because his “opinions were not in line with theirs.” In truth, PJM essentially ran out of venture funding in 2009 and dumped many of its former contributors. Since Javedanfar has never previously disclosed his disgruntlement with PJM or reason for leaving, this claim must be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism.
He is also a contributor to RealClearWorld, a conservative news aggregator akin to Huffington Post. He blogs at Times of Israel, a newish right-wing English language news site. The financing for the venture comes from a right-wing U.S. Jewish hedge fund manager. The blog editor avoids any responsibility for the accuracy or editorial content of posts published by pointing to the policy that offers little or no editorial oversight of the product at all. This of course is a boon to people like Javedanfar.
Javedanfar has no strongly held views or discernible political orientation. You couldn’t say he’s liberal or conservative. He’s neither Likud nor Labor. While he’s certainly pro-Israel, he’s pro-U.S. as well. One of the few points that are clear is that he favors forcing Iranians into penury through the harshest possible sanctions (though this is a no-brainer since that is a western mainstream consensus position). But beyond that you know very little about his views. Does he support U.S. and Israeli-sponsored regime change? A military attack on Iran, which would of necessity damage civilian populations in some of its major cities near such facilities? You’d never know about these questions since he’s too smart to allow himself to be pigeon-holed. To do so would limit his value to his sponsors.
His views remind me of a jellyfish — soft and squishy. He can wriggle through any opening. That is the only way I can fathom that someone at a Beltway think tank lobbied to bring Javedanfar to the States on its dime. Thankfully, others must’ve voiced their own concern that such a figure could be given such a platform. The idea died a proper death.
The $64,000 question is why someone with such lackluster credentials would find the doors of power open to him. There is only one answer: he is Israeli-Iranian. He’s a twofer, representing the two different poles of this conflict. As such, he’s viewed as having a particular authenticity as a spokesperson for both sides. In reality, Javedanfar does not represent an authentically Iranian voice unless you consider monarchists and the MEK to be such. Leaders of the Iranian-American community with whom I’ve consulted have scoffed at the notion that he represents them. They consider him, at best, an opportunist, and not a very convincing one at that.
Anyone who associates with this man or hires him should know that besides being an intellectual poseur and fabricator, he’s little more than a cipher. He may be sincere and speak for himself. He may be on someone’s payroll. Either way, he represents nothing of substance or integrity. He’s an empty suit.
What especially annoys some who truly represent an Iranian-American constituency, is that there are a limited number of seats at the table inside the Beltway at policymaking venues. Those seats are filled with the usual suspects: administration officials, think-tank scholars, politically connected academics. But few of them are truly independent voices that represent an alternative to the consensus discourse. When someone like Javedanfar is offered one of those seats there’s one less for legitimate figures. That serves to limit the diversity of debate over issues of moment like sanctions, military assault, nuclear proliferation, etc. If Israel can succeed at doing this then its own extremist views will be an easier sell.
That’s why it’s disappointing that a liberal news outlet like the Guardian includes Javedanfar as a regular contributor to its blog; or The Atlantic offers him a perch, where he sits alongside another Israel-booster, Jeffrey Goldberg. He’s been interviewed by D.C. center-left think tanks like the International Affairs Forum, on whose editorial board Steve Clemons sits. Last September, Robert Wright’s BloggingheadsTV featured him paired with Matt Duss (Javedanfar did several other video gigs there as well) of the Center for American Progress. The Iranian pundit was also featured in a J Street video and endorsed the group in his own blog post (likely because he hadn’t been offered any speaking gigs by AIPAC).
Meir Javedanfar is simply the Zelig of the Iran punditocracy, a wonder of malleability. It’s shameful that these otherwise respectable media outlets have been taken in by him.