Are IRI Lobbyists a Real Force?
IRI lobbyist groups are a strange force in the U.S. created by Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). They date back to before the time of Khatami's presidency. The main individual behind it has been IRI's Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani.
What makes IRI lobbyist force astonishing is that it has successfully positioned itself as an important Iranian popular movement in the U.S., with a facade of independence and anti-aggression, and it has received the support of many Iranians who care for Iran's independence and do not know about the goal of the IRI lobbyists.
The only group that has seriously opposed the lobbyists has been MEHR human rights organization based in L.A., that has been trying to create a voting block of pro human rights Iranians, and its efforts have been blocked by the lobbyists in every step of the way, and the lobbyists having strong financial backing from IRI have had the upper hand in the U.S.
During the Shah's regime millions of dollars were spent by the Shah to create a force with a popular image supporting the Shah and the efforts were always unsuccessful. In contrast, IRI has achieved such a goal thanks to its anti-American slogans, and the leftists in the West who have traditionally entertained anti-American positions as progressive and anti-imperialist, have found this IRI lobbyist force a close ally and they have been reciprocally reinforcing each other.
There are a couple of Persian papers among the Iranian press abroad that have positioned themselves as the arbiters of who is independent and anyone frowned by them is labeled as CIA or monarchist or MKO. There are a number of Iranian papers in English published in the U.S. that follow the same line and do not say they are IRI lobbyists, but exactly push the positions of the IRI lobby groups.
One may wonder why these groups do not come and discuss their views openly but that is not how they work. They actually try to create the image that they are part of Iran's pro-Democracy movement wanting secular democracy, but they are quick to show that there is no chance for such an option in Iran, and they try to get the U.S. to remove the sanctions on IRI and to work with some IRI reformist faction of mellimazhabis as the best possible option.
The above is why they were very upset when I published my article in Persian two days ago about the reactionary reformists and their papers censored it abroad trying to push a Nobel Prize for Aghajari, whereas not only many papers abroad, but many inside Iran published my article despite the risk to them. And this shows the Iranians inside Iran are more aware that these IRI lobbyist groups do not represent them, although they have official and semi-official correspondents writing from inside Iran.
These groups try to create all kinds of problems for the critics of IRI lobbyists. They have many lawyers, have a lot of money, and pretend to be using these resources for civil rights of Iranians, but in reality they use their lawyers and money to suppress the opponents of IRI lobbyists right inside the United States. It may all sound bizarre how they are able to use all these pressure tactics on the democratic and progressive forces of Iran in a democracy like the U.S. but they do.
Three years ago I wrote a series of articles about sanctions and recommended that any lifting of US sanctions to be tied to IRI's observation of human rights in Iran, and mentioned South Africa's example of the time when Mandela had just been freed from jail and even then, he asked the world not to lift the sanctions until South African regime completely abolished apartheid.
The lobbyists did not like my writing and first accused me of being CIA, monarchist and MKO and when all that did not work and they saw I have many readers, they started character assassination and personal attacks and when I would defend myself, they would try to make it a personal battle and use their lawyers and money to pressure me and my site. This was all their silencing tactics to stop me from discussing the issue of sanction instead of coming forward and discuss their own views in the forums I discussed my ideas. Why not political dialogue instead of personal harassment?
This was all before the Sept 11th. After Sept 11th, they have been more careful but at any time they see the U.S. to be more conciliatory with IRI, they do not hesitate to use their financial position and lawyers to attack IRI opponents. They never come forward and say exactly what their position is, but it is obvious when amidst all the murders of dissidents and journalists in Iran, their papers and sites focus on publishing reports of the trips of their editors and reporters to Iran, and depicting a rosy picture of IRI as free for journalists, as if all the opposition is hallucinating when talking of murder of dissidents and journalists and the oppression inside Iran.
I am not saying all those who go to Iran are IRI agents and we know people like Zahra Kazemi who went to Iran and lost her life, but these IRI lobbyists are there not to report facts but to make reports to deceive the West of the real situation of human rights inside Iran.
One would never see any communiqués of groups like MEHR, that has really been fighting IRI crimes all these years, to be published by the sites and papers related to the IRI lobbyists. They all censor anything by MEHR.
Some of their agents even pose as monarchists or MKO and try to discredit the IRI democratic opposition with personal attacks and their goal is to show to the West that Iran's opposition is nothing and IRI is the choice now, whereas in reality Iran has one of the most mature opposition political groups in the whole of Middle East.
IRI lobbyists under the pretense of *unbiased*, monarchist or MKO, try to show a mass view of the opposition as strength and free independent thinking as a weakness, when the real characteristic of Iran's pro-Democracy movement in the last 20 years is the latter and not the former. The goal of the lobbyists is to convince the West that IRI is their choice to partner with, and to convince Iranians abroad that the best they can do for their homeland is to support relations with the IRI. But is the differences of thought a weakness as they want us to believe?
The differences of opinion inside the Iranian opposition shows its advancement and not its weakness, contrary to what the IRI lobbyists want the world to believe. And IRI paid agents write articles in the Western press trying to show that Iranian opposition is weak because of its multiplicity of views. As noted by Eric Hoffer, Nazi fascists used the same argument to show the weakness of the West referring to differences of opinion, but at the end, the world saw that free thinking individuals of the West were the real strong force; and not the "mass" or mobs of the fascists.
Nowadays sometimes the IRI lobbyists support the human rights condition that Europe asked for relations with IRI, whereas I was attacked by them exactly because of asking for HR conditions three years ago. The reason is that on one side the students' movement has grown inside Iran and on the other hand the world is more aware of IRI atrocities now and thus making it hard to call for unconditional lifting of sanctions. Even now, they are still not thorough in demanding HR conditions for relations with IRI.
We know the Shah was not able to create such a supporting force with all the money he spent. Why has IRI been able to do this so easily? The reality is that Iranian leftists have been the main part of Iranian intellectuals. And left oriented opposition has been infected with a virus called cultural relativism. This is an international phenomena like the pro-Nazi intellectual trend of early 30's among the New York intellectuals.
These intellectuals are not necessarily on the payroll of IRI but they work for it as if IRI is an underdog and a symbol of so-called anti-imperialist freedom. Nonetheless, at the same time, I should say that among them, the ones who consciously play the game of deception, and do not say they are part of the IRI lobbyist organizations, yet work for them and publish as if they are *unbiased* authors, are mostly direct agents of IRI.
Their tactics never amaze me. Both the leftists and Islamists who work for IRI lobbyists think they are helping an "anti-imperialist" cause. They are like shape-shifters to get to their goal and they never say clearly what their position is on IRI. For example recently they created a petition against an Iranian adjunct professor in DC to get him fired by misconstruing a statement of the professor about Iranian women out of context, and they even deceived some progressive Iranians to sign the petition.
Iranian genuine pro-Democracy movement still has not found the way to fight the IRI lobbyist force effectively. IRI lobbyists have the active support of Islamic Republic of Iran and are not just some naive independent professors like they pretend to be and they have used all their financial and legal facilities to silence Iranian human rights activists and free thinkers.
It is time for Iranians in the U.S. to stop the harassments of the IRI lobbyists. IRI suppressing Iranians inside Iran and these people continuing it outside Iran and even inside the Western democracies working against the freedom of thought and speech of Iranians. Their affiliates are like Jahadist groups intimidating the opposition to the Islamism, and they pretend it as if they are defending the rights of Muslim ethnic groups, whereas their goal is to stop the opposition to Islamist fascism for those Iranians living in the West.
MEHR is the only group seriously standing up to the IRI lobbyists and their recent announcement shows their genuine work for victims of IRI crimes and I hope more people join MEHR to build a real Iranian lobby and an Iranian pro human rights voting block.
Hoping for a Futurist, Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
Sept 5, 2003