With the potential announcement of an agreement between the Iran regime and the P5+1 group of nations, the scene will undoubtedly shift to Congress where both houses will have 60 days to review the agreement under legislation authored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as part of a bipartisan compromise.
With that upcoming debate, a fierce lobbying campaign will break out between those opposed to the agreement and the lobbying machine deployed by Tehran’s mullahs to get it passed. Chief among them will be the National Iranian American Council, the leading advocacy group for the Islamic state, which has formally launched its own full-fledged lobbying arm in anticipation of the fight ahead.
The creation of the lobbying group has come under intense scrutiny given its timing just before congressional review, as well as the need to funnel and direct funds towards supporting the Iran regime. The question of financial support for the NIAC has been a persistent question and a recent story by The Daily Beast shed new light on where the chief cheerleaders for Iran’s mullahs are getting their money.
The story, written by Michael Weiss and Alex Shirazi and contributed by Jackie Kucinich, examined contributions made by Vahid Alaghband, an Iranian businessman who’s Balli Aviation Ltd., tried to sell 747 airliners to Iran despite a federal ban on such sales. His company pled guilty to two criminal counts in 2010 and under the plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department, paid a $2 million criminal fine, served five years of corporate probation and paid an additional $15 million in civil penalties.
“…Alaghband stands out from the rest, because the beneficiary of his firm’s deals with Tehran was an Iranian airline accused by the U.S. government of working with the regime’s foreign intelligence operatives and shipping arms and troops to Syria,” said the article.
“Plus, if an agreement between Iran and the world’s major powers is concluded in the coming days—as is widely expected—operators like Alaghband could stand to benefit.”
The deep ties to the regime also included a conspiracy in to export 747 aircraft by first obtaining export licenses from the U.S. government and then using an Armenian subsidiary to buy the planes for Mahan Air, Iran’s largest airline, which the State Department believes is controlled by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Mahan Air was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2011 for “providing financial, material and technological support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF),” or the expeditionary arm of the Islamic Republic’s praetorian military division, now heavily active in both Syria and Iraq. At the time, the Treasury Department accused the Qods Force of “secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds” on Mahan flights.
In 2007, Alaghband offered to give a $900,000 donation over three years to the PARSA Foundation, intended for the Brookings Institution to support pro-Iranian rapprochement. This followed a previous donation of $50,000 he made to PARSA.
PARSA’s second-largest recipient of funding was the NIAC which received a total of $591,500 from the group, but funding is not the only link between NIAC and the Iran regime with other news organizations and Iranian dissident groups having pointed out close ties between NIAC leaders such as Trita Parsi with regime officials that came to light as a result of a failed defamation suit brought by Parsi against an investigative journalist.
All of which casts doubt on NIAC Action, the new lobbying muscle being deployed to help the mullahs. As noted in an article in Commentary Magazine, the launching of the lobbying arm was followed by an email sent by NIAC staffer Tyler Cullis (and not from the NIAC Action ironically enough) calling for the immediate lifting of the United Nations arms embargo as part of the nuclear agreement.
As Commentary Magazine writes: “What the vast majority of Iranian-Americans know, and what Congress should ask NIAC, is how lifting the arms embargo meant to repress Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is in anyway an interest of the United States, the Iranian-American community, or regional stability and security.”
“That NIAC would advocate the lifting of the arms embargo is both curious and revealing. Rather than promote Iranian-American political activism or public diplomacy, NIAC increasingly appears to align itself squarely with the publicly declared interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the article adds.
Indeed, the mere fact that the NIAC is hard at work sending emails to congressional staffers urging the lifting of an arms embargo designed to prevent the Iran regime from exporting arms outside of Iran is hugely significant and provides proof that the mullahs are not intent on fostering peace, but instead are desperate to gets fresh supplies of arms and ammunition to their Hezbollah proxies in Syria, Shiite militias in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen as three wars rage on.
As debate opens in Congress, it would be wise for Democratic and Republican staffers to look at the sender of these email missives and if it comes from the NIAC, they should send it straight to “Junk Mail.”