Now that anti-regime protests in Iran and that regime’s murderous crackdown on protesters have been in the news for nearly three months, the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which many Iranian-Americans consider a lobbyist official for Iran, has been hastily renaming itself. Both Trita Parsi, founder and director of NIAC, and Reza Aslan, a former NIAC board member who has just resigned, have felt compelled to become strong critics of the regime. Ahlaf Kalam’s discussion of this “rebranding can be found here: “Prominent Pro-Tehran Group Now Claims to Be Anti-Tehran,” by Ahnaf Kalam, Focus On Western Islamism, November 30, 2022:
As the anti-regime demonstrations and subsequent crackdown sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in September escalate into a full-blown rebellion in Iran, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group Well-known think tank in Washington, DC, is trying to reframe himself as a critic of the Islamist regime for which he has served as an unofficial mouthpiece for the past two decades.
The rebranding effort is motivated by fears that it has promoted narratives that have distorted US foreign policy in the Middle East, said Hassan Dai, a well-known Iranian dissident and expert on the Tehran lobby in the United States. The NIAC-backed policies, Dai said, emboldened Iranian abuses against its own citizens and acts of aggression in Syria, which in turn served to destabilize the Middle East.
A large number of Iranian political activists and human rights advocates believe that NIAC’s main goal has been the promotion of US policies that helped the regime and harmed the interests of the Iranian people,” said Dai, who successfully defended himself against a libel suit brought by NIAC over its claims that the organization was closely linked to the regime.
“They know that the NIAC worked and collaborated closely with regime officials and they demand accountability,” he added. “NIAC is done.”
NIAC’s rebranding process began shortly after news of Amini’s death broke in September, prompting employees to express their support for the Iranian people as they demonstrated against the regime. NIAC even launched a “Solidarity Center” to show their support for the protesters. To establish good faith against the NIAC regime, its staff appropriated the anti-regime slogan “Mujeres, Vida, Libertad” as part of the Solidarity Center’s brand identity.
Iranian dissident Abdee Kalantari responded with scorn, declaring that NIAC had remained silent about the plight of women suffering under “sexual apartheid” in Iran for decades.
Such criticism led NIAC to respond by accusing its critics of spreading misinformation in the process. “We are not a lobbyist for any government, nor do we question the just demands of the Iranian people, we support them,” the group stated.
The idea that NIAC was not a lobby wing of the Islamic Republic of Iran is laughable, Dai said. “Visitor logs at the White House show that Trita Parsi [NIAC’s co-founder] he met with Obama officials 33 times between 2013 and 2015,” Dai said.
The story that Parsi and NIAC told about Iran while meeting with Obama officials, Dai said, was that friendly relations with the United States would increase the power of moderates within Iran’s ruling regime and, in turn, improve the practices of human rights in the country. NIAC also stated that the reduction in tensions between the US and Iran as a result of the Obama Administration’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would prompt Tehran to reduce its aggressive behavior in the Middle East, making the region more stable. .
None of these things happened, and as a result, US policymakers and the American people in general will have to deal with the prospect of further conflict. in the Middle East and the higher fuel prices that could result, Dai said.
Public disapproval of NIAC was not limited to just a niche of pundits and journalists. Shortly after NIAC began its rebranding campaign, a group calling itself “United Iranian Americans” launched a petition calling on the Biden Administration and Congress to resign from NIAC and sever all ties to the organization. . To date, the petition has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
Later that month, in another major blow to NIAC’s credibility, prominent Iranian-American professor and NIAC advisory board member Reza Aslan announced in a now-unavailable Tweet (Aslan deleted his Twitter account) that he would leave The charge. his position in the organization. His departure was necessary, Aslan declared, because even the word “NIAC” had “so many negative connotations” that his involvement with the organization hampered his ability to “hear and be heard at this time.”
“I have decided to step away from my advisory role in the organization so that barrier can be broken down,” he wrote.
Aslan also included a clear condemnation and denunciation of the Iranian regime, stating: “I believe that the Iranian regime is an illegitimate and murderous regime that must be fought with all our might.”
That’s Reza Aslan now, always a man with his eye on the prime opportunity, leaving the sinking ship of NIAC for fear that staying on board would interfere with his most important endeavor: the extravagant care and feeding of Reza Aslan. For years, Aslan, as a NIAC board member, supported his defense of the regime. The Iranian-American writer Roya Hakakian described him last November as a “defender of the mullahs.” -The regime that Aslan now calls “illegitimate” and “murderous” was just as “illegitimate” and “murderous” during the 43 years of its existence as it is today. But Aslan never raised such charges against the behavior of the Iranian regime until this fall, when the protests and their suppression were in the international news every day. .
NIAC, which has not responded to requests for comment. [from Ahnaf Kalam, the author of the “rebranding” article from which I have been quoting] he subsequently changed his tune and, in an emailed bulletin, declared as official policy that he no longer recognizes Iran’s regime as legitimate. Echoing Aslan’s sentiments, NIAC also added the stipulation that it would only support a revolution in Iran led by the people of Iran, and not a foreign country or external actor like the United States.
Iranian Americans across the country were not convinced. Among those expressing skepticism is Navid Mohebbi, defense director for NUFDI, a dissident organization opposed to the Iranian regime.
“I don’t think your new position is genuine, and it’s just a temporary position,Mohebbi told FWI [Focus on Western Islamism], adding that the organization “will eventually return to its original stance with a new and expanded audience who don’t realize they’re reading [Iranian] talking points.”…
Now that Trita Parsi and her brainchild NIAC have suddenly jumped on the bandwagon, or giant, of Iranian protesters, we should raise a skeptical eyebrow at their sudden green room makeover, before reappearing on stage, this time as principled supporter. of the protesters and sworn enemy of the regime.
Who are we going to believe? Those distinguished Iranian-Americans who have long signaled NIAC support for the regime, or Trita Parsi, who has been a supporter of the Iranian regime since 1997, and continued to be until the day before yesterday?