Speaking for Iran, Not Iranian-Americans

November 23rd, 2009 at 11:31 am David Frum | 8 Comments |

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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.

Eli’s piece (read it here) triggered an intense reaction. Andrew Sullivan dismissed the piece as a neocon provocation, a big “meh.”

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!

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • democracy4all

    I’d like to thank you David for providing statistics to back the FACT that NIAC and Trita Parsi do not represent the Iranian people. They represent the Iranian Regime’s agenda in normalizing relations with Iran when the only beneficiary is the Regime itself. They are purposely putting American lives at risk and are advocates of eliminating any opposition. Trita Parsi was a colleague of former Iranian UN Ambassador Zarif. Anyone that attempts to facilitate meetings between the Iranian government and the United States clearly has a connection (evident by emails revealed this past week). While the Iranian youth are being hung by barbaric henchmen, Trita Parsi seeks to prevent funding of pro-democratic groups and worked hard with ex-con, former Congressman Bob Ney to defame Iran’s main opposition.

    The Iranian-American community has been following Trita’s moves and are not oblivious. They saw how his group was forced to end a propaganda meeting in California. They also are aware of his attempt to bring foreign agents of the Iranian Regime (Massoud Khodabandeh and gang) to DC to conduct a meeting against the Iranian opposition. Khodabandeh, a known agent in Europe, praises Parsi as a “moderate voice”. How sad! One of the very few people that has something positive to say about Parsi is a known agent of the Iranian Regime. Folks, these are not coincidences. The Iranian Regime has praised Parsi in Tehran and see him as their mouthpiece in Congress.

  • Teller

    David Frum wrote:

    ” Iranian-Americans, an immigrant community of 1 million”

    There are not 1 million Iranians in the US. This is a typical exaggeration immigrant groups engage in. According to the 2000 census there are about 280.000 Iranians in the US. This is also the result you get in you look at

    immigration statistics, about 350.000 Iranians entered the US since 1970 (some may have left).

    http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/stp-159/STP-159-iran.pdf

  • Teller

    “NIAC has opposed all efforts to promote democracy – including seeking to defund democracy advocacy – and is a late comer to the human rights cause.”

    In fairness that is because they make the judgment (which may or may not be true) that American democracy advocacy in a conspiratorial and nationalistic country is counter-productive.

  • MI-GOPer

    You know, it’s interesting how effective groups like NAIC can really be in defrauding those in the public marketplace of ideas intent on discussing the truth. They lie, they spin, the defraud –like the Democrats in the US.

    It’s like the US Democrats saying they opposed a Culture of Corruption in DC only to have the most corrupt, longest serving bribe-taking politician take a leadership spot in the House Democrat Caucus… it’s like the US Democrats saying the war in Afghanistan was the real “War of Necessity” only to dither to a point where they’re afraid of making a decision that may undercut their base on health care reform.

    The NAIC is a lot like the US Democrats and those polluting the White House. They hold the exact opposite view their leaders imply –in this case huge support of the I-A community or, for the Democrats, a mandate from da’ peoples– while working to foul the public market square so that true patriots, true reformers can’t operate or steer the agenda.

    I swear, the NAIC must have taken notes the last time ScreaminHowieDean was in town. They look more like the Democrats than even some of the party Democrats look. And they seem to be a tad more effective, too.

  • tdawg11870

    Of course, using this opportunity to mention that AIPAC espouses positions at odds with the vast majority of American Jewry would make me an antisemite, right?

  • James Powell

    Do your research:
    Iranian-Americans are far more numerous in the United States than census data indicate, according to research by the Iranian Studies Group, an independent academic organization, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The group estimates that the number of Iranian-Americans may have topped 691,000 in 2004—more than twice the figure of 338,000 cited in the 2000 U.S. census.

    NIAC is a lobbyist, we Iranians have known it for too long, it is the Americans who are just finding out.

    Besides, NIAC membership is around 2500 Max (NIAC refuses to disclose its membership despite the fact that it is 501c3 subject to FOIA), less than .003% which hardly qualifies it to represent Iranian American. Heck Trita is not even an American.

    Trita, last Friday, appeared on KIRN AM 670 radio and was lambasted by listeners and had to pack up and leave.

    FBI is checking the Alavi Foundation misdeeds. Tritas friends Nemazi and Bob Ney are already jailed for bribes and illegal activities, the noose is tightening around his neck…stay tuned!

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