Do progressive groups really want this?

A team of progressives has put forth a list of 100 names to serve in national security and foreign-policy capacities in the Biden White House. If personality equals policy, the pro-Israel community has reason to be concerned.

President-elect Joe Biden announcing his picks for his national security team. Source: Joe Biden/Facebook.
President-elect Joe Biden announcing his picks for his national security team. Source: Joe Biden/Facebook.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

The political pendulum has begun to swing, and rather rapidly at that. Whatever one’s personal feelings about President Donald Trump, his plan to isolate Iran in the international community and squeeze its economy with stringent sanctions has appeared to be working. And irrespective of how much one feels for the “plight of the Palestinians,” the Abraham Accords has produced something Israel and the Arab world has never witnessed before: four normalization agreements within the span of a few months with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

My fear throughout Trump’s presidency is that through no fault of his own, many Democrats will begin to associate pro-Israel policies with the Republican Party, or even more potentially alienating, with Trump himself, whom many view as nothing short of “radioactive.”

Many Democratic policymakers are now working on policies to compensate for what they perceive as the “sidelining of the Palestinians” throughout the Trump administration. In their attempt at “even-handedness” towards the Palestinians, we know that they will be more than willing to overlook the incitement, the terrorism and the inability to come down from the branch of maximalist demands.

Unfortunately, we are already seeing these patterns take shape. If personality equals policy, the pro-Israel community has reason to be concerned.

According to a Dec. 18 story in Politico, in a forceful effort to “shape more progressive foreign policy,” a team of progressives has put forth a list of 100 names to serve in national security and foreign-policy capacities in the Biden White House.

Certainly, they have a right to make their voices heard. Elections have consequences, and broadly speaking, their team won. Two among the many organizations that contributed these recommendations were the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), both of which were founded by Trita Parsi.

Not surprisingly, they nominated Parsi to oversee Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council. Just who is he?

Parsi was born in Iran, and at the age of 4 moved with his family to Sweden. Parsi first traveled to the United States in 1991 to attend high school in Ohio. There is no college degree listed in his bio, although he did get his master’s at the Stockholm School of Economics. He relocated to the United States, but has never become a citizen.

From 2001 to 2002, Parsi worked for former disgraced Sen. Robert Ney (R-Ohio), where he served as foreign-policy adviser. Ney was soon forced to leave office and served three months in prison for charges of corruption.

In 2002, together with Alex Patico, Parsi founded NIAC, which the Iranian government press office considers the “Iran lobby in Washington.”

On first blush, the mission of NIAC seems innocuous enough. They write: “We envision a world where the decisions that impact our community are made by our community. NIAC Action is dedicated to building political power for the Iranian-American community to advance peace & diplomacy, secure equitable immigration policies, and protect the civil rights of all Americans. NIAC, the 501(c)(3) sister organization of NIAC Action, is dedicated to educating & engaging the Iranian-American community in order to further advance these priorities.”

However, upon further examination, NIAC doesn’t represent the Iranian American community, most of which detest the regime in Tehran; rather, they represent the regime itself.

In 2007, NIAC faced growing criticism within the Iranian American community that the organization has strong ties to the Iranian regime and its goal is to lobby on behalf of the regime. In an effort to silence their critics, NIAC launched an intimidation campaign and went on the offensive against journalists, analysts, activists and media outlets that had exposed their affiliation in an effort to silence them.

They singled out one particular critic of the regime in order to make an example of him, Hassan Daioleslam, and in an attempt to silence him, filed a defamation lawsuit against him.

However, they were hoisted by their own petard. The lawsuit required NIAC to produce some internal documents that proved to be devastating for their case. In 2012, the court ruled in favor of defendant Daioleslam, and dismissed all charges against him. After four-and-a-half years of a legal battle, the judge ruled in favor of the defendant and expressed the concern that Parsi had been lying, and withholding and obfuscating evidence.

In a second ruling, the court ordered Parsi and NIAC to pay all damages to the defendant, amounting to $183,480.09. In the appellate ruling, the judges wrote: “Throughout discovery, the appellants (NIAC and Parsi) engaged in a disturbing pattern of delay and intransigence. Seemingly at every turn, NIAC and Parsi deferred producing relevant documents, withheld them, or denied their existence altogether. Many of these documents went to the heart of Daioleslam’s defense. The appellants’ failure to produce documents in a timely manner forced Daioleslam—whom they hauled into court—to waste resources and time deposing multiple witnesses and subpoenaing third parties for emails the appellants should have turned over. Even worse, the appellants also misrepresented to the District Court that they did not possess key documents Daioleslam sought. Most troublingly, they flouted multiple court orders.”

What is profoundly disturbing is that despite all this, some in the foreign-policy establishment really believe that Parsi would represent America’s national security interests and should direct our Middle East foreign policy.

These are the sort of folks who believe that negotiations are the sine qua non of foreign policy. They would create a world of illusions, willfully blinding themselves to any vexing facts of the true nature of the regime in an attempt to get back to the negotiating table. We have been down this road before. We see how Ben Rhodes of the Obama administration bragged about creating a team of “newly minted journalists” to “create an echo chamber, feeding back things we told them” without any effort towards verification.

We now know how the Iranians used the negotiations as a smokescreen as they jettisoned their outdated centrifuges for more advanced ones, which were spinning all along. And by now, they have 12 times the amount of highly enriched uranium than they would need to get a bomb.

There is a psychological temptation that many of us have in the West to project our own good natures onto the rest of the world. In our contemporary, relativistic world, many Westerners do not believe in the concept of “good” and “evil.”

This sort of psychology makes us capable of overlooking the sheer evil that Iran has become ever since the revolution of 1979. We forget how they took 60 American citizens and held them hostage, blindfolding them and parading them about in utter humiliation. We forget how, every Friday after prayers, we hear “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” shouted from the streets. We forget the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which left 241 of our marines killed.

We forget how at least 500 U.S servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan lost their lives, and even more lost their limbs, due to Iranian IEDs with Farsi imprints on them.

And those who like to think of themselves as humanitarian and compassionate forget about courageous and idealistic people like the dissident Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was just hung last Saturday in Tehran because he dared to run an opposition news site. Or the other 860 journalists who have been arrested and imprisoned in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Or Nasrin Sotoudeh, a female human-rights lawyer imprisoned for representing women arrested because they protested compulsory hijab laws. She is now serving out a 12-year sentence and has contracted COVID-19 in prison.

I have to ask my progressive friends: Do you really want to be in league with those who whitewash such unconscionable acts on the part of the regime?

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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