FP: Hassan Daioleslam, welcome back to FrontPage Interview.
Daioleslam: My pleasure to be back.
FP: The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is hosting an event in the Senate next Tuesday. They are going to talk about the new president's policy toward Iran and Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Representative John Tierney (D-MA) are among the speakers. Trita Parsi, the president of NIAC, will moderate the conference.1 What do you think about it?
Daioleslam: There are 2 elements; first is the timing of the event and the rush of holding such conference only a few weeks after Obama's election. Second is the message they want to send.
FP: Let's start with the timing. Why so quickly?
Daioleslam: The timing of these meetings could have the impact of influencing the new administration's Iran policy from the beginning. It could create an environment in which Obama's presumed pressure on Iran would become more costly. Timing is very important. Let's look at an interesting interview given by Trita Parsi's former employer, Hooshang Amirahmadi2 who was in Tehran a few days ago and talked about this subject. He told the "Etemad" newspaper in Tehean that the "Iranian lobby" should act quickly to influence the next administration:3 He talked about the Washington bazaar:
"There is clash between various regional [Middle East] lobbies. Israelites will fast gather around Obama . Arabs will also spend their money to get close to Obama. Unfortunately, Iran is very lonely in Washington, and those few, like us, who defend the Iranian rights, are subject of unkind hostility in Tehran. These gentlemen [in Iran] do not truly understand what they do, and how they weaken our position. As a result the field is left wide open for Israelis and Arabs and enemies of Iran. Firstly, Iran should realize that, and empower its friends in Washington, especially in the next one to two months, which is the time [to do it].
Iranian leaders should pay attention to what is going on, and strengthen their friends. They [Iranian leaders] should have confidence in, energize, and trust their friends [in Washington] so they enter the arena. This is very important. Therefore the next two or three months are the time to conquer Obama's heart and mind and that of his teams. Anyone who acts faster will rest trouble free for the next 8 years. Anyone who does not go to that bazaar [marketplace] now, will have a tough time entering that bazaar in future."
FP: Who is Amirahmadi?
Daioleslam: He is the president of the American Iranian Council (AIC) founded in 1997 and funded by US business interests especially the oil industry.4 They were very active until 2001 and pushed for a rapprochement with the Iranian regime. They held exactly the kind of events that Parsi is going to hold next week in the Senate.
FP: Is there a relation between Amirahmadi's declaration and the NIAC's event?
Daioleslam: The answer is probably in another Iranian newspaper, Aftab. Recently, they published an interview with Trita Parsi and in the introduction, the editor wrote that NIAC is doing exactly the same activity as Amirahmadi, the only difference is that NIAC is more influential.5
"Houshang Amirahmadi founded his council, The American Iranian Council (AIC) in 1997. In 2001, Trita Parsi, as a young Iranian Swedish came to the U.S. and joined AIC as the managing director. In 2002, he [Parsi] with the support of the Congressman Bob Nay started a new organization called NIAC (National Iranian American Council). Since then Parsi has been able to achieve a superior status than Amirahmadi."
FP: Are they saying that NIAC or similar groups lobby in favor of the Iranian regime?
Daioleslam: When in April 2007, FrontPage magazine published my first article about NIAC's activities and its relation to the clerical regime, a coordinated campaign by governmental press was launched in Tehran to defend NIAC. Some Iranian newspapers called NIAC the "Iranian lobby." This is the exact term they used.6
FP: Let's go to the second point, what is the message they want to send by these kinds of events?
Daioleslam: If we refer to their past declarations, their massage is clear and simple: the Iranian regime is not a threat to either the West or the US. The reason for its nuclear program or regional expansion is because Iran is under threat. They feel lonely and vulnerable. Therefore, remove the threat from Iran and it will act reasonably. The same goes for human rights violations. Iran is under US threat and fears the policy of regime change, therefore, to improve the human rights situation, they are asking for the ceasing of pressure on this regime. Finally, if you listen to these "Iran experts," you should do exactly what Trita Parsi has been trying to say for so long, that the US should accept Iran's power in the Middle East. In an article in the Huffington Post of April 22, 2008 he asked: "Is the United States ready to share the region with Iran?" Parsi emphasized that: "Sooner or later, Iran and the U.S. must learn how to share the region."7
FP: If Iran is not a threat, and it is feasible to settle the differences between the US and Iran, why hasn't it been done yet?
Daioleslam: Here comes a central tenant of the pro-Iran campaign. It is very important to understand how they present their campaign. In a long article titled "Iranian lobby and Israeli decoy", I talked about this issue last year.8 The pivotal element in their campaign is Israel.
Similar to the Iranian regime's goal of putting Israel at the center of its foreign policy, its advocacy organizations have also concentrated their efforts on Israel. It is not accidental that Parsi's doctoral thesis and his only book are focused on the "Israeli problem."9
The Iranian lobby's campaign line is simple and efficient; Iran has always been ready to reach an agreement with the US, and the reason behind US hostilities and refusal to engage Iran, they say, is Israel. He wrote in 2006: 10
"For more than 14 years, Israel has been the primary force countering Iran's nuclear advances. Though Israel presents the prospect of a nuclear Iran as a global rather than an Israeli problem, it has compelled Washington to adopt its own red lines and not those of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT)...Under these circumstances, US-Iran negotiations could damage Israel's strategic standing, since common interests shared by Iran and the US would overshadow Israel's concerns with Tehran and leave Israel alone in facing its Iranian rival....Israel is playing hardball to prevent Washington from cutting a deal with Tehran that could benefit America, but deprive Israel of its military and strategic supremacy."
For Parsi, it was not only the US attitude towards the Iranian nuclear issue that had been dictated by Israel, but also the international community's decision to refer the Iranian file to the UN: 11
"With the issue of Iran's nuclear program being taken up by the U.N. Security Council, Israel's hawkish policy and AIPAC's support for Bush administration hard-liners would appear to be paying dividends."
FP: What is the purpose of this campaign? What do they expect from US?
Daioleslam: Interesting question. Only they can say, but it is interesting to see the result of the policies from the Clinton and Bush administrations. The best example is the experience during the past 2 years after the Baker-Hamilton report was released and the US intensified its efforts to accommodate Tehran. Robert Gates took the command as the Defense Secretary and together with Secretary Rice, they tried to approach Tehran. It is difficult to find a politician in the US more favorable to negotiating with Iran than Robert Gates. What has been the result of 2 years of rewarding Iran under Gates and Rice? He brought a clear and unequivocal response during his speech at National Defense University on September 29th. He said:12
"I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years. (Laughter.) I was in the first meeting that took place between a senior U.S. government official and the leadership of the Iranian government in Algiers at the end of October, 1979.
Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed. Some have gotten into deep trouble associated with their failures, but the reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship.
I just think this is a case where we have to look at the history of outreach that was very real, under successive presidents, and did not yield any results. I think until the Iranians decide they want to take a different approach, to the rest of the world, that where we are is probably not a bad place."
FP: Do you think they could paralyze Obama's policy toward Iran?
Daioleslam: I think that US policy will be finally dictated by the Iranian regime's behavior. Very soon, the new administration will confront the reality and will adopt a more robust policy than what President Bush has been pursuing. Very soon those who favor Iran will portray Obama as being under Israeli's order and infiltrated by NeoCons.
FP: Thank you Mr. Daioleslam.
Daioleslam: Thank you Jamie for inviting me.
2- See Parsi's resume posted on Web. Advisor to Bob Ney and director of AIC. Mr. Amirahmadi is president of AIC. See http://web.archive.org/web/20011120204601/www.geocities.com/tritaparsi/resume.html; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooshang_Amirahmadi.
3- Etemad newspaper, taken by Emrooz, Nov. 12, 2008, http://emruz.net/ShowItem.aspx?ID=18725&p=1
4- Look at this AIC document which talks about its creation and funding. http://www.american-iranian.org/aboutus/growthplan.pdf at 13 (listing several members of the board who are also executives at various oil companies).
For a complete documentation on AIC, go to my website and see this file: http://www.iranianlobby.com/pfiles/majmoe-asnad2_hoshang_amir_ahmadi.pdf
5- Aftab Newspaper August 5, 2008, http://www.aftabnews.ir/vdcc10q2b0q4m.html
6- Among them, see the 6 following government controlled newspapers: Ghods:http://www.qudsdaily.com/archive/1386/html/2/1386-02-01/page61.html
7- Trita Parsi: Can the US and Iran share the Middle East: Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trita-parsi/can-the-us-and-iran share_b_97670.html?show_comment_id=12663467