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Iran’s multifarious network of influence in the West

The “fake opposition,” run by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, mostly acts as padding for the Islamist regime abroad.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 17, 2019. Credit: Balk/MSC via Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 17, 2019. Credit: Balk/MSC via Wikimedia Commons.
Reza Parchizadeh
Reza Parchizadeh
Reza Parchizadeh, PhD, is a political theorist, security analyst and cultural critic. He is a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

The Trump administration placed Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of the Islamist regime in Iran, on the U.S. sanctions list a year ago this month. As expected, the leftist and liberal media in the West immediately made an outcry against the designation. That’s because they typically tend to portray Zarif as the moderate, peace-seeking diplomat who is at odds with the hardline, somber Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the brutal, missile-toting Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). What they always fail to mention is that Zarif is only an agreeable showcase for the same apocalyptic regime that chants “Death to America” and calls for the destruction of Israel, and is intent upon conquering the Arab world.

In fact, Zarif runs one of the most elaborate influence campaigns in the United States on behalf of Khamenei and the IRGC. What his extended overseas apparatus is focused on is to lower the defenses of the democratic world with sleek smiles and false narratives so that the IRGC can more destructively strike. As such, what Zarif does is as deeply disturbing and detrimental to U.S. security interests, the Mideast and world peace as the already terrorist-designated IRGC and its liquidated Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The Islamic Republic is a totalitarian, isolationist, interventionist and anti-Western regime. In order to overcome the problem of lack of domestic and international legitimacy, it has devised a mechanism that showcases the dictatorial and chaotic Islamist regime as “democratic,” “stable” and “popular,” with a fair degree of internal opposition as guarantee of its dynamism and openness. The “reformist/moderate” faction that the regime has been promoting with the help of the leftist and liberal media in the West for more than 20 years now is precisely the manifestation of that security project of creating a fake, state-run opposition that acts as a safety valve for the regime on the domestic and international stage.

Zarif is the puppet master of the Iranian regime’s “fake opposition” in the West. While in New York as Iran’s deputy representative (late 1980s) and then representative (early 2000s) to the United Nations, Zarif and a couple other functionaries best known as the “New York Boys” set the foundation stone for the Islamist regime’s lobby network in the United States. These interest groups would concentrate on cultivating connections and currying favor with the leftist and liberal media, organizations and politicians in the United States. In the meantime, they would plant regime assets disguised as “dissidents” in sensitive strategic areas such as human-rights organizations, universities, think tanks, state and private media, and even government agencies in the democratic world.

The Zarif-run fake opposition mostly acts as padding for the Islamist regime abroad. One of its functions is to persuade the West that the “opposition” does not want to overthrow the regime, but only wants to “reform” it. Another is that it constantly scares the Iranian people and the world community from the prospects of a regime change in Iran, and goads them to participate in state-engineered procedures such as elections and negotiations to generate legitimacy for the regime. Another function is to broker deals for the regime, whether with private entities or with governments. The most well-known example of these deals, of course, was the JCPOA, better known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with the Obama administration, which proved to be a disaster for world peace.

However, the fake opposition is exposed as fake, and the claimed duality of “moderate/hardliner” starts to fade when the opposition is faced with the prospect of the collapse of the whole system. This becomes clear when the opposition, headed by Zarif himself, constantly lobbies in Europe and the United States to keep Khamenei and the IRGC away from the sanctions list and designation for international terrorism and war crimes. A conspicuous instance of this trend took place when Zarif and his network in the West made an outcry against the designation of the IRGC by America. (Some of these so-called moderates in Iran went as far as to put on IRGC uniforms in a show of solidarity with the terrorist organization.) Zarif himself appeared side by side with Soleimani, stating that they had a “perfect working relationship.” Later, these same “moderates” vociferously condemned the liquidation of Soleimani.

Most recently, during a Majlis (parliament) hearing, Zarif went out of his way and made an eye-opening admission that should dispel any illusion of his moderation and independence from the criminal core of the regime. Addressing angry MPs who kept accusing him of disloyalty to the regime’s regional designs, Zarif retorted: “Say whatever you want, but Martyr Soleimani and I would hold a meeting every week and coordinate. Whatever we did regarding regional affairs was in coordination. Those who know Martyr Soleimani, those who consorted with Martyr Soleimani, those who hang around Seyed Hassan Nasrallah and the Resistance in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine know the depth of our relationship, not you!” According to Zarif himself, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once sharply pointed out, Zarif and Soleimani were fully coordinated when the regime was killing Americans. Also, they worked in tandem to commit horrible crimes against humanity in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

To sum up, the Islamist regime in Iran, with the self-made claim of the “split in the system” and the supposed dualism of the pro-Western “moderate/reformist” and the anti-Western “hardliner/IRGC,” has managed to deceive both the West and the Iranian people, and extend its deleterious lifespan by two decades. However, it looks like the free world is finally coming around to see the substance of the sinister regime through the appearance of legitimacy that Zarif and his fake opposition have been trying to generate for it. As such, Zarif’s designation as a terrorist and criminal against humanity can prove the start of the dismantling of the Islamist regime’s network of influence in the West, and finally, the collapse of its evil empire.

Reza Parchizadeh, Ph.D., is a political theorist and analyst with a focus on the Middle East, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.

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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