The U.S. midterm elections saw a divided America as
Republicans deepened their hold on the Senate while Democrats took over the
House as many pundits predicted. Voter interest and participation were high but
exit polling of top concerns amongst voters bears little fruit for the Iran
lobby or the mullahs in Tehran who were hoping for signs that a blue wave might
help bring down new economic sanctions.
According to most exit polls by news organizations, Americans
cited healthcare and immigration as their two biggest concerns with the economy
following up in third place. The plight of the mullahs was not high on anyone’s
list of concerns.
The political environment is dramatically different than it
was in 2014-15 when the Obama administration committed itself fully to pushing
through a nuclear deal with Iran no matter the cost and that cost was high
coming in the form of billions of dollars in cash, sanctions relief and removal
of conditions that allowed Iran to develop long-range ballistic missiles,
sponsor terrorism across Europe and start two wars in Syria and Yemen.
That deal was sold by the Obama administration and supported
by the Iran lobby’s “echo chamber” on the idea that Iran was headed towards a
more moderate course and was receptive to diplomacy and wanted to rejoin the
community of nations.
Unfortunately for the Iran lobby, the Iranian regime’s
actions since then has blown those ideas out of water. It also didn’t help
advocates such as the National Iranian American Council that as recently as
this summer and last month, Iranian intelligence services were foiled in
attempts to bomb a gathering of Iranian dissidents outside of Paris and
assassinate another in Denmark.
Any hope Iran could be perceived as a moderating force was
literally blown out of the water leaving the Iran lobby to scramble for any
rhetorical foothold with the U.S. media.
Since the knee-capping the Trump administration has given to
the Iranian regime through the withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the
re-imposition of economic sanctions and efforts to build a consensus among key
allies to no longer import Iranian oil, the Iran lobby has cast about wildly to
find any topic that might stick and help Tehran.
The NIAC has sought to attack the Trump administration on
its immigration policies. That went nowhere and in retrospect did not earn the
Iran lobby any favors amongst Americans concerned about the issue.
The NIAC sought to float the idea that the Iranian people
would be hurt and not the government. That idea also didn’t fly since the
suffering of the Iranian people at the hands of their own government has been
well-documented over the past year with violent and widespread demonstrations
The NIAC then tried to mock the president for his recent
“Game of Thrones” meme and outside of social media didn’t move the needle in
the midst of the midterm elections.
In short, few Americans give a hoot about anything the NIAC
has to say. It’s a mighty fall from the heady days of unobstructed access to
the White House and State Department previously enjoyed by NIAC officials
during the Obama years.
The NIAC is now finding itself playing a game of political
“Survivor” as it stands outside the flow of American politics on a lonely
island waving its arms and calling desperately for any journalist to pay
attention to itself.
All of which raises an interesting question: Is the Iran
lobby even worth keeping around anymore by the mullahs?
If the NIAC has outlived its usefulness to Tehran and has
never been fully engaged on issues of real concern to the Iranian-American
community then where does it go from here?
This may explain why its founder, Trita Parsi, got out of
Dodge and quit the NIAC to pursue a more independent path and Jamal Abdi has
been left to try and figure out how to keep the increasingly irrelevant
Abdi has tried to take credit for the midterm election
results by issuing
a statement denouncing Republicans who lost their seats and trumpet it as a
movement back towards Iranian engagement.
“Across the country, candidates dedicated to overturning
Trump’s outrageous and discriminatory Muslim ban and stopping war with Iran won
big. To have a check on Trump is a huge victory for the Iranian-American
community, our country and the global community,” Abdi said.
It’s worth noting that Abdi focused on opposition to the
administration’s immigration policies and opposing war with Iran, but made no
mention of Iran’s horrific human rights record, its abuse of Iranian women or
the sponsorship of terrorism in France and Denmark.
He goes on to mention the backing of several candidates, but
it remains to be seen if any of them are going to heed the NIAC’s call to place
Iran back at the top of the foreign policy agenda in terms of moving diplomacy
forward when the mullahs seem only intent on killing as many Iranian dissidents
as possible both inside and outside of Iran.
There may come a time in 2020 when endorsement by the NIAC
will become as desirable as an endorsement by the KKK.