Last week, Eli Lake of the Washington Times reported on new questions about Trita Parsi and his group, the National Iranian-American Council. Eli’s story focused on the question whether Parsi’s group had violated the laws on lobbying for foreign governments.
But Eli’s piece opened the way to more reporting about NIAC’s agenda and methods. How closely do its views align with the regime in Iran? How hard has it worked to silence other voices?
Here’s Michael Goldfarb noting that NIAC attempted to muscle the Voice of America’s Farsi service into disinviting guests who expressed views different from NIAC’s own.
Goldfarb: “The left often gripes about imagined efforts by the “Israel Lobby” to silence its critics. Here we have the Iran Lobby literally threatening media outlets with legal action if they continue to give voice to a NIAC critic.”
But the real headline news about NIAC is this. NIAC founds its legitimacy on its claim to speak for Iranian-Americans. This claim is demonstrably false. Not only does NIAC have almost no American membership (3,000 maximum of whom only 500 are active enough to answer a questionnaire), but its stated views diverge radically from the poll-measured views of Iranian-Americans as a group.
Zogby just released a poll of Iranian-American opinion commissioned by another Iranian-American group. You can read it here.
While NIAC is consistent with Iranian-American views in opposing military action against Iran, it diverges radically from its supposed constituents in every other way. What leaps out from the survey data is a community that is largely politically quiescent and generally accepting that the U.S. government should make Iran policy with U.S. interests uppermost in mind. That said:
- 59% of Iranian-Americans think that the top priority for any Iranian-American organization should be the promotion of democracy and human rights in Iran. NIAC has opposed all efforts to promote democracy – including seeking to defund democracy advocacy – and is a late comer to the human rights cause.
- Only 17% of Iranian-Americans thought an Iranian-American group should attempt to influence U.S. foreign policy toward Iran – NIAC’s stated purpose.
- Only 23% of Iranian-Americans agree with NIAC in wishing to see the establishment of diplomatic relations with the current regime. Only 18% wish to see economic sanctions removed, another NIAC priority. Fully 42% of Iranian-Americans favor a policy of regime change in Iran – which NIAC opposes.
For a vivid image of what happens when NIAC spokespeople address their community, watch this YouTube clip from a Los Angeles meeting here. It ends with the audience erupting into anti-regime chants, and driving the NIAC representative from the room!