ISSN 2330-717X

Iranian Lobbyists Support Appeasement To Prop Up The Regime – OpEd

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Although the Iranian regime continues to project strength on the world stage, the truth is that the increasing number of protests and the uprisings that have occurred since January 2018 indicates that the regime is weak and struggling to maintain control. The Iranian people, tired of living in poverty and disease brought on by the regime’s greed and leadership, speak out through protests and demonstrations. These efforts are ongoing and, in some cases, result in escalating oppression by the mullahs and their minions. 

The regime whitewashes its actions through lobbyists and pro-Iranian organizations worldwide to spread the narrative that there is no alternative government for Iran but the regime and that the region’s stability depends on Iran. Any efforts to create meaningful change should involve efforts to reform the regime from within by moderates. Part of this narrative includes discrediting any pro-democratic movements, including the PMOI/MEK or the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). 

However, these resistance efforts have continued to repel efforts by the regime to paint them as terrorists. Therefore, the regime has used its spies and terrorists’ network to silence those speaking out against them and a continuing smear campaign. Assassinations throughout Europe can be tied back to the Iranian regime. Their use of Intelligence operatives as diplomats allows the regime to have access to all of Europe, thus giving Iran the freedom to move around without restrictions. 

Evidence of that is found in the 2020 trial of Assadollah Assadi and his three accomplices. They were charged with attempting to bomb an NCRI gathering in France in 2018. This gathering included the president-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, as well as leaders and activists from throughout the international community. 

Another example of this network is Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, who was arrested and charged with extensive violation of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration because he represented himself as an independent expert on foreign relations. On January 19, 2021, he made his first appearance in the U.S. Federal Court. Evidence was presented that Afrasiabi received at least $265,000 from the Iranian regime over the past 13 years. 

Afrasiabi also used the regime’s talking points to blame Iran’s current challenges on international sanctions, even as the Iranian people identify the regime as the source of their crises in their protests. The continued mismanagement of multiple crises throughout Iran demonstrates that the regime is willing to sacrifice the Iranian people’s goodwill for its interests. 

“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran. However, all the while, Afrasiabi was actually a secret employee of the Government of Iran and the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) who was being paid to spread their propaganda,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. 

His main task was implementing the regime’s demonizing campaign against the Iranian Resistance movement, primarily the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). This organization represents a pro-democratic alternative to the Iranian regime, one that the current Iranian leaders want to discredit to boost their standing at home and internationally. 

Afrasiabi’s actions provide one more example of how the Iranian regime has integrated its agents with policymakers and the current administration’s agents to push their agenda and foreign policy. In this case, and others like it, the international community should motivate a serious response to end its appeasement policies regarding the Iranian regime. 

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an NGO that claimed to have 4,000 individual donors but their funding sources are unknown, is the primary lobby group in Washington. The founder and former president of the NIAC, Trita Parsi, has a personal relationship with the regime’s senior officials, such as the mullahs’ Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Parsi would even send articles that he published to Zarif, and the two would correspond regularly.

“NIAC’s innocuous public branding masks troubling behavior. For example, on December 31, NIAC circulated an email memorandum blaming the United States government for Iranian-backed militias’ repeated attacks against the U.S. forces in Iraq and brazen attempt to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. On January 9, NIAC and NIAC Action staffers tweeted and retweeted conspiracy theories deflecting blame from the Iranian regime for shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing 176 individuals,” read a January 14, 2020 letter from Mike Braun, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, three U.S. senators. They called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the NIAC. 

NIAC’s disgraceful comments alone about the nationwide and widespread protests in Iran in 2018 and 2019, including blaming international sanctions instead of the 40 years of oppression and greedy economic policies. Clearly, the NIAC is a part of the regime’s lobbyist network. Their efforts are not for the sake of improving the lives of the Iranian people but supporting and propping up the Iranian regime. 

Parsi and NIAC’s goals are to portray the regime as a popular and stable ruling system, despite the evidence to the contrary. Afrasiabi’s arrest, the trial of Assadi and his accomplices, along with proof of how Iranian lobbyists’ network operates in the U.S. and Europe once again underlines the need for world leaders to act. 

The current appeasement policies are meant to keep Iran’s regime from developing nuclear weapons, but it has left the region vulnerable to its meddling and terrorist activities. The international community scene is changing, yet the Iranian regime’s foreign policies continue to focus on maintaining their power at all costs.

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Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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