- Published: Thursday, 16 January 2020
Three Republican senators have urged the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to investigate a US-based Iranian lobby group that it believes acts as a "foreign agent of the Islamic Republic."
Mike Braun (Ind), Ted Cruz (TX), and Tom Cotton (Ark) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday, asking him to investigate the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its affiliated organization, NIAC Action, for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The letter read: "FARA requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities. FARA does not compel any American to refrain from certain types of speech; rather, it helps guarantee transparency and accountability in our political system."
The NIAC, registered in 2002, describes itself as a "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing interests of [the] Iranian-American community", but the senators argue that it should be registered as an Iranian agent for its efforts in arranging meetings between members of Congress and Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.
This relates to meetings arranged in 2008 by NIAC founder Trita Parsi between members of Congress and then-ambassador to the UN Mohammad Javad Zarif, the current foreign minister.
Former FBI associate deputy director Oliver Revell, who is quoted in the senators’ letter, flagged this as a concern, while other former FBI agents said the NIAC took part in pro-Iranian lobbying.
The senators wrote: "NIAC's former acting policy director Patrick Disney admitted in internal emails that he and the organization's legislative director spend more than 20 percent of their time conducting lobbying activities."
They said that even though the NIAC describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to "promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people", its "innocuous public branding masks troubling behavior."
NIAC and NIAC Action, support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, something that provided Iran with the money to build missiles, oppress its people, and start wars. The US pulled out of the deal in 2018, calling for a new deal to be negotiated.
The Senators wrote: "We ask that the Department of Justice evaluate whether an investigation of NIAC is warranted for potential FARA violations and to ensure transparency regarding foreign attempts to influence the US political process.”