The Flaws In The Daily Beast's Hit On The National Iranian American Council

››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY & KATIE SULLIVAN

An anonymous writer claimed in a Daily Beast article that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) -- a key player in the Iran deal fight -- is connected to an Iranian family known as the Namazis, who supposedly support the deal only to make a "fortune" from future economic sanctions relief. But the author provides little evidence to support his claim of clear financial incentives in the slim connections between NIAC and the Namazis, while NIAC denies those alleged ties. The piece also rehashes "dishonest" attacks against NIAC and their connections to the Iranian regime. Moreover, experts say the sanctions relief will benefit the entire Iranian economy.

Pseudonymous Daily Beast Writer Claims That NIAC Defends The Iranian Regime

Daily Beast: NIAC Represents The "Iran Lobby," And Supports The Regime. A pseudonymous writer published an over-5,000 word article in the Daily Beast which claimed that the Iran deal was a victory for the current Iranian regime and the "Iran lobby." According to the author, that lobby is "publicly represented" by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). [Daily Beast, 9/15/15

Wash. Post: NIAC Is Frequently "Tarred By Critics As A Lobbyist For The Ayatollahs." The Washington Post explained that NIAC, "a nonprofit advocacy group that supports the current bilateral talks," frequently faces this type of criticism:

The National Iranian American Council, based in the District, has become a driving force behind the pro-diplomacy push. Its president, Trita Parsi, has been tarred by critics as a lobbyist for the ayatollahs, but he said the celebration in Iran over the framework agreement proved that his group was right to support the talks.

"Opponents said if we talked to Iran we would betray democracy, but seeing people dancing in the streets was the ultimate evidence that they were wrong," Parsi said. "The hope for change is in the society, not the regime." [The Washington Post5/21/15]

Daily Beast Writer Also Claims There Is An "Obvious Connection Between NIAC And The Namazi Family"

Daily Beast: NIAC's Iran Deal Efforts "Underwrite The Economic Interests Of One Very Well Connected But Low-Profile Iranian Family, The Namazis." The pseudonymous writer further claimed that there was an "obvious connection" between NIAC and the Namazi family, who supposedly "played a key role as intellectual architects of NIAC," suggesting that NIAC's efforts to secure the Iran deal were an attempt to financially benefit the Namazis.

The author provides no clear evidence that the Namazis will definitely financially benefit from the Iran deal. Furthermore, the claim that the Namazis and NIAC are clearly linked involves a convoluted series of connections.

As the article explains, the Namazi family consists of patriarch Mohammad Bagher Namazi, also known as Baquer Namazi; his two sons Babak and Siamak; and his niece Pari Namazi and her husband Bijan Khajehpour.

Pari Namazi and Bijan Khajehpour founded Atieh Bahar (AB) Consulting, which, according to the Daily Beast, "offered a range of legal and industrial services to foreign enterprises, most importantly the access it provided to the regime." Babak and Siamak Namazi eventually also joined AB Consulting.

AB Consulting matters because the man who founded NIAC, Trita Parsi, according to the Daily Beast was once paid by them to write a number of intelligence briefings.

Siamak Namazi also helped write a white paper with Trita Parsi which, according to the Daily Beast, "led to the creation" of NIAC. The white paper was for a conference in 1999, and it detailed how to better engage the Iranian-American community, which is much of what NIAC advocates today.

When NIAC was preparing to launch, Parsi also reportedly sought guidance from Mohammad Bagher Namazi.

And at least one former employee at AB Consulting currently works at NIAC, the Daily Beast reported. [Daily Beast, 9/15/15]

NIAC Pushes Back: Namazis Were Not Involved In Founding, And Have Provided No Financial Backing

Parsi, President Of NIAC: "I've Known Siamak Namazi For Years, But He Was Never Involved In The Founding Of NIAC." In comments to Media Matters, NIAC president and founder Trita Parsi explained: "I've known Siamak Namazi for years, but he was never involved in the founding of NIAC, which actually came out of 9-11... [the Namazi family] role in this, essentially, was nonexistent. We may have spoken to Mohammad Namazi on technical details and best practices for putting an organization together, because he has over 50 years of experience in NGO work, but he and his family were not involved in the founding." [Media Matters, 9/16/15]

Parsi: I Did Not Produce Work For AB Consulting. Parsi told Media Matters that he did not produce intelligence briefings for AB Consulting. The Daily Beast claimed Parsi was paid by AB based on an email from Bijan Khajehpour to Parsi, which said "I wanted to transfer some funds to your account." The Daily Beast also linked to a report about Tehran on AB letterhead, dated five months following the email and which did not appear to have Parsi's name on it, but which they claimed was a report "he sent."

The confusion, Parsi said, came from the fact that Bijan Khajehpour is both the founder of AB Consulting and, to this day, a "senior associate" at a separate British consultancy known as Menas Associates. According to Parsi, "when [he] was a PhD student," Menas Associates paid him for analysis briefings on media and politics "for three or four months or so," and Khajehpour helped arrange those payments. AB Consulting, and other companies, then purchased the analysis from Menas, which is why his work may have appeared under AB's letterhead. [Media Matters,9/16/15; Menas Associates, accessed 9/16/15]

Parsi: "I Thought It Was Realty Flattering That They Said A Paper I Wrote When I Was 24, Which Was Never Published, Was 'Influential.'" Part of the Daily Beast's case claiming a link between the Namazi family and the current work of NIAC is a white paper delivered at a conference in 1999, which was co-authored by Trita Parsi and Siamak Namazi. Parsi explained to Media Matters that in addition to Namazi not being involved in the actual founding of NIAC, that paper had little to do with his current organization, though he "thought it was realty flattering that [the Daily Beast] said a paper I wrote when I was 24, which was never published, was 'influential'" to the work of NIAC. [Media Matters, 9/16/15]

Parsi: Namazis Were Also Not "Big Financial Backers" To NIAC. Media Matters asked Parsi if the Namazi family had contributed financially to his organization in any way. He responded, "Not a dime." He noted that someone in the large family may have been a member at one point and paid minor membership dues, but he was unaware of any instances of that and insisted "they have not been big financial backers." [Media Matters, 9/16/15]

NIAC Has Frequently Criticized The Iran Government

Huff. Post: Accusations Of NIAC Working For Iranian Regime "Were Dishonest At Best And Defamatory At Worst." The Huffington Post reported that "[s]tarting in 2007, NIAC was accused of, among other things, being an arm of the Iranian government, receiving funds from Iranian nationals, breaking lobbying regulations and acting to subvert U.S. foreign policy." The article called the charges "dishonest at best and defamatory at worst" and that "NIAC provided evidence to the Huffington Post of many instances in which it was critical of the Iranian regime":

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an organization that promotes diplomatic engagement between the U.S. and Iran, sprung to prominence recently for its active media presence in the aftermath of Iran's disputed elections though its influence in the nation's capital had been felt long before then. But as NIAC's voice grew louder in foreign policy circles, so too did the vehemence of its critics.

Starting in 2007, NIAC was accused of, among other things, being an arm of the Iranian government, receiving funds from Iranian nationals, breaking lobbying regulations and acting to subvert U.S. foreign policy. The charges were dishonest at best and defamatory at worst. NIAC provided evidence to the Huffington Post of many instances in which it was critical of the Iranian regime. Its president Trita Parsi noted that the families of several board members have been tortured in their home country. Moreover, the good-government group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington could not immediately recall ever looking into NIAC's lobbying activities for evidence of illegality.

"I think the charges are absolutely baseless," said Steve Clemons, a bipartisan highly-respected foreign policy voice in the D.C. community and fellow at the New America Foundation. "I know Trita and I know many of the people involved in the organization... They are transparent and upfront. They take on their critics in public forums. That is what you are supposed to do in the think tank business... They have a perspective but it is done above board. I've also seen him say things that in no way would thrill the Iranian government." [The Huffington Post, 3/18/10]

NYT: NIAC "Has Been Critical Of The Iranian Government." The New York Times reported in an April 2015 article that NIAC is "a Washington-based advocacy group that supports nuclear negotiations and improved relations with Iran, although it also has been critical of the Iranian government":

The Vatan-e Emrouz newspaper, which supported the government of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Mr. Rezaian had collaborated with the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports nuclear negotiations and improved relations with Iran, although it also has been critical of the Iranian government. But inside Iran, hard-liners say the group is connected to another former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, known to favor ties and business with the West. [The New York Times4/20/15]

Mother Jones: NIAC Issued At Least 15 Statements In 2009 "That Criticized The Iranian Regime." Mother Jones wrote in 2009 that Trita Parsi, founder and president of NIAC, called claims he acted as "the Iranian regime's man in Washington" "'nonsense' and 'clearly a political campaign' against NIAC." The publication noted that "NIAC sent [the author] 15 statements and op-eds issued by the group this year that criticized the Iranian regime":

Parsi, whose group advocates negotiating with Iran, says he believes Goldfarb was indeed accusing him of toiling for the Iranian government. He insists that is "nonsense" and "clearly a political campaign" against NIAC. "Anyone who has followed NIAC knows how critical we have been of the Iranian government," Parsi says. After our conversation, a spokesman for NIAC sent me 15 statements and op-eds issued by the group this year that criticized the Iranian regime. [Mother Jones11/2/09]

Experts Support The Iran Deal And Note It Will Support The Whole Iranian Economy

CIA: Sanctions Relief Will Mostly Go To Servicing Iran's Outstanding Debts And Repairing Crippled Economy. The Los Angeles Times wrote that a report from the CIA determined that most of the money that would enter Iran after sanctions are lifted would go "into the country's flagging economy and won't significantly boost funding for militant groups":

A secret U.S. intelligence assessment predicts that Iran's government will pump most of an expected $100-billion windfall from the lifting of international sanctions into the country's flagging economy and won't significantly boost funding for militant groups it supports in the Middle East.

Intelligence analysts concluded that even if Tehran increased support for Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen or President Bashar Assad's embattled government in Syria, the extra cash is unlikely to tip the balance of power in the world's most volatile region, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence document. [Los Angeles Times7/16/15]

NY Times: "29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal." The New York Times reported that 29 of the nation's top scientists with an expertise in nuclear weapons issues wrote a letter to President Obama praising the merits of the nuclear deal, calling it "innovative" and "stringent":

Twenty-nine of the nation's top scientists -- including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers -- wrote to President Obama on Saturday to praise the Iran deal, calling it innovative and stringent.

The letter, from some of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the fields of nuclear weapons and arms control, arrives as Mr. Obama is lobbying Congress, the American public and the nation's allies to support the agreement.

[...]

Most of the 29 who signed the letter are physicists, and many of them have held what the government calls Q clearances -- granting access to a special category of secret information that bears on the design of nuclear arms and is considered equivalent to the military's top secret security clearance.

[...]

The letter uses the words "innovative" and "stringent" more than a half-dozen times, saying, for instance, that the Iran accord has "more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework." [The New York Times8/8/15]

Arms Control Association: Iran Nuclear Deal Is "Strong, Long-Term, And Verifiable." On August 17 the nonpartisan Arms Control Association released a statement from nuclear nonproliferation specialists backing the Iran nuclear deal and calling it "a net-plus for nonproliferation." The statement, which was endorsed by 75 experts, called the agreement "strong, long-term, and verifiable" and noted that it "advances the security interests" of the United States and its allies:

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

It advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community.

[...]

If all sides comply with and faithfully implement their multi-year obligations, the agreement will reduce the risk of a destabilizing nuclear competition in a troubled region - giving time and space to address other regional problems without fear of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons--and head off a catastrophic military conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

Though all of us could find ways to improve the text, we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement.

We urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the JCPOA. [Arms Control Association, 8/17/15]

Retired Military Leaders: Iran Nuclear Deal Is "The Most Effective Means Currently Available" To Ensure Iran Doesn't Get a Nuclear Weapon.  A group of retired U.S. military generals and admirals voiced their support for the nuclear deal with Iran in an August 11 open letter, writing that they "support the agreement as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons":

The international deal blocks the potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, provides for intrusive verification, and strengthens American national security. America and our allies, in the Middle East and around the world, will be safer when this agreement is fully implemented. It is not based on trust; the deal requires verification and tough sanctions for failure to comply.

There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table. And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.

[...]

If at some point it becomes necessary to consider military action against Iran, gathering sufficient international support for such an effort would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance. We must exhaust diplomatic options before moving to military ones.

For these reasons, for the security of our Nation, we call upon Congress and the American people to support this agreement. [Washington Post8/11/15]

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