As Congress moves ahead with a flurry of new bills to stymie the Iran regime and hold the conduct of the mullahs in Tehran to some level of accountability, the Iran lobby, most notably the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), went into overdrive spitting out policy positions against any encroachment on Iran’s advances.
Specifically, the NIAC and its lobbying arm, NIAC Action, issued nearly identical denunciations of two pieces of legislation introduced last week. In the House, a Republican proposal entitled the “Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act” was passed out on a floor vote by a bipartisan majority of 251-173 and seeks to block sanctions relief granted under the nuclear deal until the Iran regime pays all legal judgements and fines levied against it by U.S. courts which found the regime liable for acts of terror totaling $43.5 billion.
This move follows a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to agree on hearing an appeal of a lower court decision awarding $1.7 billion in damages from Iran’s central state bank in a similar case involving reparation payments to the victims and families of Iranian regime terror incidents.
“The consideration of the bill undermines U.S. national security interests and the perception that the U.S. can abide by its international commitments. It also risks opening the door to reciprocal action in Iran, which could threaten to link its concessions to the U.S. to outstanding claims in Iranian courts,” said Jamal Abdi, executive director of NIAC Action in response.
But Abdi misses the essential point of the move and subsequent decision by the Supreme Court which is the nuclear deal never addressed the most pressing issues, which is the conduct of the regime, specifically its long history of support for acts of terror aimed directly at Americans.
The fact that the regime still holds U.S. citizens in its prisons despite a negotiation that yielded billions of dollars for the mullahs and not one U.S. hostage returned in exchange is more telling about the inadequacy of the nuclear deal and subsequent drive by Congress to act more forcefully than the Obama administration in addressing the rising dissatisfaction of American voters over the deal and perception the mullahs pulled a fast one on the U.S.; which is why the NIAC and other Iran lobbyist allies are left to sputtering short statements which condemn the bills, but spoke nary a word about the ongoing harm Iranian regime is visiting on Syria, Iraq, Yemen and by holding American citizens.
Nowhere was that misleading of the American public on better display than in an editorial by Bardia Rahmani in The Georgetown Voice, a student-run magazine, which makes the argument that the $100 billion in frozen assets to be released back to the regime under the nuclear deal is erroneous and that most of the funds would not be used in supporting terror groups or in proxy wars.
It is a remarkably naïve opinion if genuine and a blatant obfuscation if deliberate. First of all, the estimate of frozen assets to be released is closer to $150 billion if you count assets held by central banks around the world as part of sanctions levied under the United Nations and European Union and include assets held not only by the Iranian government, but private Iranian entities.
The mistake the editorial makes is drawing a distinction between private and public ownership of assets and industries in Iran. Virtually all the national economic infrastructure is owned in part or in whole by institutions controlled by Iran religious government. For example, its telecommunications industry is owned through holding companies controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The same goes for construction, banking, petroleum, agriculture, trade and even entertainment and media.
Returning these assets to these “private” entities is the same as returning them to the checking account for Ali Khamenei.
The editorial also makes no mention of the significant cash drain the regime has experienced in funding Hezbollah, the Syrian civil war to keep Assad afloat (that alone comes to the tune of $4 billion annually), Shiite militias in Iraq and Houthi rebel forces in Yemen as a shooting war with Saudi Arabia erupts. The threat of a wider conflict with Saudi Arabia was reinforced by remarks made by Iran regime brigadier general Morteza Qurbani who claimed over 2,000 rockets were awaiting orders from Khamenei to be fired at Saudi Arabia.
He explained that the lines of defense for the Iranian revolution are today in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. “We are ready to carry out the orders of Khamenei and move anywhere he wants,” Qurbani added.
The regime has diverted significant funds from its economy to fund these wars – an act Khamenei praises as a “war time economy” – and the regime shows no signs of slackening any of its funding priorities. This was evident in Hassan Rouhani’s decision to suspend social welfare payments to Iranian citizens, sparking large civil unrest as fiscal belt tightening took place throughout the regime.
All of which was supported by multiple news accounts of Iranian military forces being moved en masse to the Syrian border in preparation for large-scale direct military involvement coming on the heels of Russian air strikes against foes of the Assad regime.
Assad himself gave an interview to the regime’s Iran News Network in which he described a coalition between Syria, Russia, Iraq and Iran was the best hope for regional peace, which was an odd statement considering Assad’s brutal crackdown on democracy protestors originally started the civil war which led to his use of chemical weapons against his own people and caused a refugee crisis of four million Syrians fleeing the war zone and flooding into Europe.
All of this spin control was not just confined to Syria and Iran lobbyists, but reached all the way to Tehran as the regime’s parliament took up the issue of swift passage of the nuclear agreement, but the debate and parliamentary moves were revealing since the regime was already gaming the deal by making a distinction that the regime was only “suspending” its nuclear activities and not removing them, thereby allowing for the future swift restart of the program.
By Michael Tomlinson