Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Kerry-Edwards campaign is headed toward a campaign finance scandal involving contributions on behalf of a foreign power, similar to allegations that plagued Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996. Instead of Communist China, this time the foreign power seeking to influence a U.S. presidential candidate is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s premier state sponsor of international terror.

The Chinese sought U.S. military technology to enhance their nuclear missiles. The record shows the Clinton administration provided them key assistance in that area.

The so-called “Islamic” republic of Iran is seeking from Mr. Kerry a series of concessions that would allow them to become a nuclear weapons power and circumvent the restrictions of the USA Patriot act to infiltrate intelligence agents and potential terrorists into the United States.

How could Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, who claim to be able to defend America better than President Bush, allow themselves to fall into such a trap? Top Kerry and Edwards advisers warned both candidates against accepting campaign donations from people with close ties to mullahs in Tehran months ago, sources inside their respective campaigns say. And yet, neither Mr. Kerry nor Mr. Edwards has done anything to distance himself from these donors. On the contrary, both have continued to take their money and promote their agenda.

Mr. Kerry adopted a key element of that agenda in last week’s presidential debate. If president, he said he would have “offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel” to Iran, to “test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes.” Mr. Kerry’s words brought comfort to Tehran’s top mullahs, who have been seeking to buy time from the international community for the past two years while they continue perfecting their nuclear weapons capabilities.

Even the International Atomic Energy Agency is no longer willing to certify Iran’s “peaceful purposes” in seeking nuclear technology. I heard that personally from the lips of IAEA Director General Mohammad el Baradei while reporting from Vienna, Austria, two weeks ago during a board of governers meeting on Iran’s case.

And yet, Mr. Kerry thinks the United States should open trade with Iran’s clerics, not isolate them — as if concessions could convince them to abandon their pursuit of 20 years duration in the face of U.S. and international punishment.

Mr. Kerry’s support for a pro-regime agenda is troubling as America enters an extremely difficult phase of the war on terror. Tehran’s mullahs are playing a sophisticated shell game with their nuclear capabilities. Like a drunken reveler at a county fair, Mr. Kerry has bought the empty shell, while proudly insisting that “as president, I’ll never take my eye off that ball.”

Top among the pro-regime fund-raisers who have contributed to the Kerry campaign is a recent Iranian immigrant in California named Susan Akbarpour.

Miss Akbarpour came to this country in 1997, claiming to be a political refugee. In seeking asylum, she told U.S. authorities she feared she would be persecuted if she was forced to return to Iran. And yet, in court records I examined in California and described in this month’s American Spectator, Miss Akbarpour maintained a privileged relationship with government agencies of the Islamic Republic, even after she came the United States. (Her lawyers deny this, but in the settlement agreement the disputed document is allowed to stand).

Here in the United States, Miss Akbarpour has become an outspoken public supporter of the regime — odd behavior for someone who claims to have been persecuted in Iran. She has been one of the privileged few admitted to closed-door meetings with regime officials visiting the United States, and has been videotaped by Iranian television reporters in Los Angeles screaming at pro-freedom demonstrators. As part of her effort to build a pro-regime lobby among Iranian-American high-tech executives, she has hosted conferences to promote venture capital investment in Iran, though the Clinton administration made it illegal for U.S. citizens and permanent residents to invest in Iran.

The Kerry campaign credits Miss Akbarpour and her new husband, Faraj Aalaie, with each raising $50,000 to $100,000 for the presidential campaign. Mr. Aalaie is president of Centillium Communications, a Nasdaq-listed software firm.

These contributions continue despite even though Miss Akbarpour was not a permanent U.S. resident when she made her initial contribution to Mr. Kerry on June 17, 2002, as this reporter first revealed in March. (To be legal, campaign cash must come from U.S. citizens or permanent residents).

Miss Akbarpour, her husband and members of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) hosted a fund-raiser featuring Rep. Anna Eshoo, California Democrat, last Sunday in California. Ms. Eshoo is a member of the House Permanent Select committee on Intelligence.

IAPAC’s agenda includes opening trade with Iran and ending the fingerprinting of Iranians coming to the United States, two measures with pro-democracy advocates say will bolster the rule of radical clerics in Tehran and allow them to more easily send intelligence operatives to this country.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards need to distance themselves from the pro-regime lobbyists who are raising money for their campaign. To start with, they might return money raised by Susan Akbarpour, some of which was donated illegally. They might also explain how they would help bring freedom to Iran, instead of bringing comfort to the ruling mullahs.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is author of “The French Betrayal of America” and others books from Crown Forum.

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