By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
For many years, there have been suspicions that groups and individuals are covertly working on Tehran’s behalf to advance its agenda in the West. In an unprecedented move, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi recently admitted to these suspicions. He even boasted that Tehran has agents in the West, notably in the US, UK and Canada.
There are several reasons why suspected individuals or groups would deny having ties with Tehran. Firstly, when pro-Iran lobbyists do not disclose their lobbying business, they evade taxes by not reporting their revenues. Since direct transactions with Iran’s government and banks are illegal under US law, this suggests Tehran’s payments to agents and loyalists are transferred via third-party banks or countries. This allows them to hide their money offshore.
Second, in some countries such as the US, having political and financial ties with Iran is illegal. Third, in order to maintain credibility, Iran’s agents try to hide their connections to a government that is ranked a top state sponsor of terrorism and the world’s top executioner per capita. Fourth, the Lobbying Disclosure Act requires anyone making money from lobbying to register for the sake of transparency, so those who have not registered are violating the law.
More importantly, many believe Iran’s agents are operating not only in Washington, but in various sectors across the US, such as think thanks, businesses and universities. Nevertheless, pro-Iran agents portray its government as a victim in order to allow it to do as it wishes and avoid Western punishment for violating international law.
Iran’s agents work on two platforms: Religious (revolutionary and ideological) and political. Alavi described dual citizens in the US, UK and Canada as a “costless lobby group” for Tehran.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Michael Rubin, “a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, raised concerns about Alavi’s recent remarks. He noted that organizations pushing Iran’s agenda in Washington are obligated to disclose their work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, even if no money is exchanging hands as part of the relationship… ‘It’s not a witch-hunt, it’s a matter of law.’”
The website added: “Given Alavi’s recent disclosures, US officials would be wise to ‘ask the motivations of those fundraising for any group that seems more interested in defending Iran’s ballistic missile work than in human rights and cultural freedom,’ Rubin said.”
Iran’s agents turn a blind eye to its human rights abuses. They aim to enhance its global legitimacy, and justify its nuclear activities, ballistic-missile program and terrorism. These groups and individuals try to let Tehran go unpunished for its military aggressions, its damaging of US and regional powers’ national security interests, and its scuttling of their foreign-policy and economic objectives.
They also try to advance Iran’s Islamist and revolutionary principles in the West, including inciting anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Ironically, while they enjoy the fruits of living in the West, they inflict harm on it by advancing Tehran’s interests.
In response to Alavi’s remarks, US federal agencies should take serious measures to detect Iran’s agents and bring them to justice. A petition should be pursued, and Congress can be very instrumental in enforcing a law that preserves US national security against Iran’s agents.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.