In the previous article, we saw how the Iranian regime’s panic over the 2002 outing of its theretofore clandestine nuclear weapons program drove its subsequent decisions about how to deal with the publicity and mollify, or at least occupy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the United States (U.S.).
Having been well-trained by its mentors at the Soviet KGB, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) quickly established a two-tier system: those nuclear sites, such as Natanz, Isfahan, Arak, and later Fordow, that had been exposed were turned into show sites. IAEA inspectors were invited in, and the so-called EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), later joined by the rest of the UNSC to form the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and U.S.), began negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program.
The haggling went on for a decade and counting. At no time from 2003 to this day, however, did Iran itself willingly offer up (as obligated under its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory status) any information about other clandestine sites in its sprawling nuclear weapons program. For unexplained reasons, nor did the IAEA, P5+1, or UNSC compel it to despite an international sanctions regime ostensibly aimed at getting Iran to comply with six UNSC Resolutions demanding it halt all nuclear enrichment and come clean about its past nuclear activities with “possible military dimensions.”
While international trade relationships, intra-UNSC rivalries, and a reluctance to alienate Iran right out of the talks altogether might explain some of the failure to press Iran about the clandestine elements of its nuclear weapons program, at least for the U.S., there was another player involved in the game: the Iran Lobby.
As discussed in a February 2009 occasional paper by this author and published by the Center for Security Policy under the title, “Rise of the Iran Lobby: Tehran’s Front Groups Move On—and into—the Obama Administration,” “a complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran” had organized by the early 2000s to influence U.S. government policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A follow-on paper, “The Iran Lobby: Alive, Well, and Changing the Face of the Middle East,” published by the Center in October 2014, chronicled what I termed “the disastrous fruits of that network’s efforts.” The term “Iran Lobby,” by the way, was first noticed in the Iranian media itself, in 2007. It seemed a most apt description of the circle of influence operators that were pursuing and achieving positions of influence at the upper levels of U.S. national security then, and certainly all the more so, now.
After more than a dozen years of maneuvering behind the scenes of Washington, DC policymaking, the Iran Lobby today has succeeded in infiltrating the Department of State, National Security Council (NSC), and the nuclear negotiations themselves. Led by NIAC (the National Iranian American Council) and its founder and president, the Iranian-born Trita Parsi, the Iran Lobby counts among its affiliates and supporters a Who’s Who list of influential individuals and organizations ranging from former ambassadors and oil executives, to a bevy of Middle East and Iran experts from leading NGOs and think tanks.
The objective was always clear: shift official U.S. policy on Iran to a position supportive of Tehran’s agenda that sought protracted negotiations to buy time for its nuclear weapons development, financial concessions that eased sanctions and released frozen assets, and a conciliatory posture that eschewed any discussion of military options to deal with Iranian intransigence, ignored Iranian support for Islamic jihad (terrorism), pretended its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program didn’t exist, turned a deaf ear to non-stop genocidal threats against the Jewish State of Israel, and generally acquiesced in its regional geo-strategic ambitions.
Above all, there was to be absolutely no discussion of Iran’s parallel clandestine nuclear weapons program. Astonishingly, today, the Iran Lobby has achieved all of this and more.
Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership mocks the Obama administration, especially Secretary of State John Kerry and his hapless negotiating team. In January 2014, just weeks after the supposed landmark ‘breakthrough’ of the November 2013 “Joint Plan of Action,” Kerry’s Iranian counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, actually laid a wreath at the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hizballah terror chieftain responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans from the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing to 9/11.
The same month, Iran’s ‘moderate’ president Hassan Rouhani tweeted about how, in Geneva, the world powers “surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.” A senior Iranian TV commentator noted with rare honesty that the Geneva agreement was but “the Treaty of Hudaybiyya.” Following the 2015 April Fool’s Day ‘framework’ agreement, Iranian leadership figures were quick to describe the U.S. version as a “U.S. version” “lie” and declare it “not acceptable to Iran.” Meanwhile, Iran’s Bassij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi declared that “erasing Israel off the map” was “non-negotiable.”
And yet, the American team practically begged the Iranians to keep talking and give them something, anything to hold up as a ‘success.’
To understand this sorry state of affairs, it is only necessary to understand the function and purpose of hostile influence operations and how the Iran Lobby in America has finessed its way to turning U.S. foreign policy with Iran completely on its head. As described above, maneuvering Tehran-regime-friendly figures into positions of power and influence is the name of the game.
One Sahar Nowrouzzadeh could be Exhibit A for how this works: apparently a former NIAC employee, she now appears on a list of senior White House aides who attended a secure video conference on 31 March 2015 with the U.S. negotiating team in Lausanne, Switzerland. She is listed as the National Security Council Director for Iran.
Meanwhile, her former boss, NIAC’s Trita Parsi, appears in a photo published by the Iranian Fars News Agency, greeting Fereydoon Rouhani (the president’s brother) at the Lausanne talks. Parsi’s Facebook page shows another photo of the NIAC leader smiling at the talks alongside his Research Director, Reza Marashi, and NBC reporter Ann Curry. Marashi’s NIAC bio lists his former employment at the State Department’s Office of Iranian affairs. According to reports, at least Parsi has been present at previous nuclear negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, as well.
This is what a successful infiltration operation looks like. Apparently, Parsi thinks so, too, because on 2 April 2015, he posted the following on his Facebook Page:
“April 2 at 5:22pm ·
“Oops. Just realized I haven’t eaten lunch today. Been too busy gloating…”
Clare M. Lopez is the Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy.