Is The American Conservative Being Influenced by Iran?

By Hanif Jazayeri

Last week, I came across a tweet by Arthur Bloom, the Managing Editor of The American Conservative. Bloom appealed to op-ed editors working at a “conservative publication” to get in touch with him if they had previously been approached by supporters of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to publish their pieces in what he claimed was a “foreign policy fraud on the conservative movement.”


I was taken aback because I for one am an opinion writer and associated to the MEK (my dad, a UK educated solar engineer, being one of their martyrs), and I often publish pieces about Iran, the regime’s nefarious human rights conduct, terrorism and regional warmongering, including in ‘conservative’ publications. What foreign policy fraud had I committed?

While I have previously read pieces in The American Conservative that are supportive of the Iranian regime’s foreign policy agenda, I had always put that down to the influence of one of its senior editors Daniel Larison who has long been associated with the regime’s lobbyists; I had not suspected that the publication itself might be involved in active lobbying for Tehran. Bloom’s tweets prompted me to do a bit of searching to see if there was more to it than met the eye.

Here is what I found:

The American Conservative, a publication respected among U.S. conservatives, is working closely with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which in the determination of the US District Court for DC is “first and foremost an advocate for the regime” in Iran.

It has given NIAC a platform both in its pages and its events to push the mullahs’ narratives, while The American Conservative’s own editors have published hundreds of articles promoting identical talking points to those of the mullahs’ Foreign Minister and chief propagandist Mohammad Javad Zarif. A further look into their tweeting patterns shows close interactions with NIAC officials and notorious Tehran apologists.

Some examples:

In 2018, The American Conservative hosted NIAC founder Trita Parsi in a panel at its annual foreign policy conference promoting appeasement of Iran’s regime.

From right: NIAC founder Trita Parsi, The American Conservative senior editor Daniel Larison, and The American Conservative executive editor Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Daniel Larison

Daniel Larison has a long-term relationship with NIAC and its founder Trita Parsi. As far back as 2007, Larison was publishing pieces in The American Conservative promoting NIAC.

Do a quick Google search of Larison’s writings about Iran in The American Conservative using the search string “site:theamericanconservative.com/larison Iran” and you’ll find at least 385 articles, all of which support the regime’s foreign policy agenda. Titles include:

End the Economic War on Iran

Regime Change Is Wrong

‘Maximum Pressure’ Has To Be Stopped

The U.S. Is Wrong to Block Iran’s Loan

The Big Iran Lie in the SOTU

The Importance of Engagement with Iran

IAEA Confirms Iranian Compliance for the Fifteenth Time

What Is Iran’s Nuclear Program For?

Pompeo’s ‘Blame Iran First’ Propaganda

Trump’s Iran Policy Is Designed to Hurt the Iranian People

Trump’s Immoral Iran Policy

Sanctions Caused The Iran Crisis, And More Sanctions Will Make It Worse

Pompeo Repeats the Big Lie About Iran

The Many Lies That Iran Hawks Tell

Trump’s Contempt for Iran and the Failure of ‘Maximum Pressure’

Don’t ‘Contain’ Iran

Trump’s Dangerous Iran Delusions

Debunking Pompeo’s Lie About Iran and Al Qaeda

Killing Soleimani Pushes the U.S. and Iran Towards War

The Trump Administration May Have Blamed Iran For An ISIS Attack

The Inhumane and Monstrous Economic War on Iran

The Cruelty of the Economic War on Iran

The Ghoulish Opposition to Sanctions Relief for Iran

Trump’s Iran Derangement

Iranians Don’t Want Trump’s ‘Support’

The Extravagant Wastefulness of the Iran Obsession

Trump’s Awful, Dishonest Iran Speech

Iran Is Not Ours to ‘Steer’

The Absurdity of the Iran Obsession

The Humanitarian Toll of the Economic War on Iran

How Sanctions Kill Iranians

New Sanctions Strangle the Iranian People Even More

Why Are Iranian Students Being Denied Entry?

Rubio’s Iran Hyperbole

Haley’s Big Iran Lie

Cotton’s Dishonest Attack on Diplomacy with Iran

To Help the Iranian Opposition, Lift the Sanctions

The Insanity of the Iran Obsession

The Dangerous Delusions of Iran Hawks

The Strangling of Iran

Pompeo’s Constant, Shameless Lying About Iran

The Economic War on Iran Is Fueling a Humanitarian Disaster

These are only a fraction of the titles published by Daniel Larison in The American Conservative. The rest are available on this link. Let’s be clear. This is Iranian state propaganda being published systematically by a U.S. media outlet, matching Zarif’s talking points.

Now do a Google search of Daniel Larison’s pieces in The American Conservative attacking the MEK (site:theamericanconservative.com/larison MEK). There are at least 105 separate hit pieces:

Regime Change for the Worse

The Folly of American Pro-MEK Advocates

Don’t Support the MEK

Countering the MEK Lobby

The Mistaken Decision to De-List the MEK

The Disgraceful Pro-MEK Campaign Continues

McCain Is the MEK’s Newest Fan

The Foolish Embrace of the MEK

The Shameless Pro-MEK Lobbying Continues

The Washington Times’ Pro-MEK Propaganda

Giuliani’s Cuckoo Praise for the MEK

Giuliani’s MEK Pandering and Trump’s Iran Obsession

Gingrich and the MEK

Gens. Jones and Shelton Flacking for the MEK? What?

Inside Mujahidin-e Khalq’s Massive Lobbying Push

Here’s a link to a more complete list of Daniel Larison’s propaganda pieces against the MEK.

For such an avid writer on all things Iran, one item is glaringly missing from Daniel Larison’s Iran reporting. There’s hardly any reference to the daily human rights abuses, including the mullahs’ crackdown on women and murder of anti-government protesters, in any of his pieces. The same is true about the regime’s terrorism. In the leadup to the MEK’s 2018 annual Free Iran conference near Paris, Daniel Larison published at least two propaganda pieces vilifying the group. But immediately afterward, when a European police announcement of the arrest of an Iranian diplomat and three terrorists plotting to bomb that rally made global headlines, Larison went into radio silence mode. Not only has Larison failed to report on the Iranian regime’s terrorist atrocities; he has done the very opposite by trying to trivialize them.

“Compared to Sunni jihadist groups, Iran-backed terrorism is a much smaller problem. The oft-repeated label of “leading state sponsor of terrorism” that Iran hawks apply to the Iranian government is outdated and inaccurate,” Daniel Larison boldly claimed in a piece last October.

“Even when it comes to support for terrorism, the boilerplate denunciation that Iran is the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” is an exaggeration and misrepresentation of the facts. Iran isn’t the one inspiring the jihadists that attack Americans and Europeans, and it isn’t Iran that arms and funds Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Iran cannot hurt the U.S. and it can’t even do that much damage to our regional clients, and perversely it is because they cannot do anything to the U.S. that our government feels free to antagonize and threaten Iran on behalf of those clients,” Daniel Larison claimed in another piece in March 2019.

Such statements have made Daniel Larison very popular among Iran’s state media, with hundreds of his pieces being translated into Farsi and passing the approval test of the regime’s censors.

Examples of Iran’s state-media re-publishing Daniel Larison’s writings in The American Conservative

Even worse, the state-run Tehran Times – the regime’s English-language daily – has previously published some of Daniel Larison’s op-eds.

Source: https://media.mehrnews.com/d/2018/12/30/0/3000001.pdf

Go to the website of the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and you’ll find Daniel Larison’s articles mentioned there. Or try this link on the English section of Khamenei’s website, and you should be automatically redirected to a piece by Daniel Larison in The American Conservative: https://english.khamenei.ir/news/3300/The-U-S-Should-Halt-Its-Support-for-the-War-on-Yemen

What about his tweets? Here are a few:

“The same administration that wants to keep an arms embargo on Iran forever has no problem flooding the region with U.S.-made weapons and providing them to some of the worst governments in the world.”

“If someone says that Iran wants nukes, that is a good indication that this person is either uninformed or selling an aggressive policy of regime change with lies. Guess which one FDD is doing.”

“Note that Pompeo routinely lies about Iran, the nuclear deal, and Iranian involvement in the region. He is one of the least credible messengers around. No one should take his word for anything.”

“There is no Iranian nuclear threat. All of this is garbage.”

“Every time that someone repeats false claims about a non-existent “nuclear weapons program” in Iran, it creates unnecessary fear and plays into the administration’s hands.”

“The good news is that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, so this scenario is not likely to happen, but it is very worrisome that there is such an unthinking consensus in favor of an unjustified and aggressive military option.”

“Iran hasn’t violated its obligations, and it isn’t going to. Iran was not going to develop a nuclear weapon, but reneging on the JCPOA makes that more likely.”

That last tweet referring to Tehran’s future intentions makes Daniel Larison sound like the official Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, or at the very least someone with inside access to the Iranian foreign policy establishment.

When he’s not busy promoting the regime’s crimes on Twitter or writing disinformation pieces about the MEK, Larison signs on to NIAC’s open letters pressing the U.S. Administration to suspend the sanctions imposed after its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

A partial list of signatories of NIAC’s letter. Source: https://www.niacouncil.org/expertletterdeescalation/

Oh, but it gets worse.

Daniel Larison is currently listed as an author on the American Herald Tribune website. In January, CNN broke about AHT paying Americans to write articles, while multiple investigations by American tech companies point to the site originating in Iran.

A Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business that company staff who looked into American Herald Tribune’s Facebook page say it was linked to Iranian state media. Facebook removed the page in 2018. FireEye, a top cybersecurity company, says it assessed with “moderate confidence” that the website originates in Iran and is part of a much larger influence operation.

“The articles posted to the American Herald Tribune are largely in line with the views of Iran’s ruling establishment. It publishes stories criticizing American foreign policy and attacking President Donald Trump and Israel,” CNN reported.

Daniel Larison’s biography on American Herald Tribune website even lists an email address for him associated with the site: [email protected]

Daniel Larison hasn’t confirmed publicly if he is being paid by the American Herald Tribune (a.k.a. the cyber-ops department at Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security) for his writings on the site or if he has received payment from Tehran for his pro-regime pieces in the Tehran Times and The American Conservative.

Source: https://ahtribune.com/author.html?id=1096

Arthur Bloom

Jordan Arthur Bloom is a Managing Editor at The American Conservative. To be clear, I had no vendetta against him. Prior to seeing his tweets, I didn’t even know him — or at least, that’s what I thought.

As someone involved in investigative journalism, I’m not one to pass judgment on a fellow reporter or publication or label them an ‘agent’ or ‘apologist’ of the regime – that is, unless I have ample evidence at hand that proves so.

Here’s some of what I know about him (I’m withholding other details on purpose.)

Arthur Bloom had a stint as Associate Editor of The American Conservative in 2012-2013. He rejoined The American Conservative as Managing Editor after several years as an editor in the Daily Caller.

His public tweets suggest he is in line with Tehran’s narrative of the Iranian opposition being a terrorist group. (For the record, the US Court of Appeals in 2012 found that the MEK was not a terrorist group and ordered the State Department to de-list the group. This was in line with rulings of the highest courts in the EU, the UK, and France.)

In Western democracies, courts are the most impartial institutions and tend to stay above the fray. To Arthur Bloom though, court verdicts and facts don’t seem to matter. After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton obeyed the US Court of Appeals decision (only after exhausting every other course of action) and lifted the MEK’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization, Bloom had this to say:

“Hillary Clinton has a “diplomatic illness” like John Bolton diplomatically supported MEK terrorists.”

Arthur Bloom has also claimed Senator Tom Cotton “hates the rule of law” and “loves starving Iranian children.”

His more recent attacks targeting Trump Administration officials over their Iran policy, included a jab at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, claiming he was “busy trying to start a war with Iran.”

Some of Arthur Bloom’s remarks suggest he is opposed to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

I did spot one tweet by Arthur Bloom where he had contacted a reporter at the Gateway Pundit, asking him not to retweet me on the grounds of my affection for the MEK. (Note: His claims against the MEK are standard misinformation pushed by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. See this response by former US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Ambassador Lincoln P. Bloomfield who investigated all the claims.)

A couple of tweets by Arthur Bloom seemed to justify participation at NIAC events. That came in response to an article by Charles C. Johnson that drew attention to the fact that staffers for then-Sen. Chuck Hagel met repeatedly with the “controversial” pro-Iran lobby group NIAC.

It seems strange for Arthur Bloom to now raise “a question of integrity and how we interact with foreign lobbies in Washington” in reference to the MEK, while seemingly ignoring the fact that his own publication The American Conservative is heavily supporting the Iranian regime’s lobby NIAC.

Arthur Bloom urged op-ed editors at “conservative” publications contacted by MEK supporters to get in touch, adding that “it’s important to figure out what interests are perpetuating this foreign policy fraud on the conservative movement.”

Well, I know one such publication. That’d be the Daily Caller.

When I pitched an op-ed there last March, little did I know who was on the receiving end. All I only got was a one-line response from its Deputy Editor: “We’ll pass on all MEK content, thanks.”

That response stunned me since it suggested that the editor was not even prepared to read an article that included a vague reference to the MEK, let alone examine the merits of the piece.

After Arthur Bloom’s recent tweets, I went back to that email to see who the signatory was.

It was none other than Jordan Arthur Bloom, then-Deputy Editor, of The Daily Caller, now Managing Editor of The American Conservative.

The American Conservative has openly come to the defense of NIAC, the Iranian regime’s de facto embassy in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Senators Mike Braun, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz wrote a letter to the Attorney General William Barr urging the Department of Justice to investigate NIAC and its sister organization, NIAC Action, for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

NIAC is a ‘nonprofit’ organization that purports to improve understanding between American and Iranian people but in reality, seems to spread propaganda and lobby on behalf of the Iranian government. Such activities may violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires those lobbying on behalf of a foreign principal to disclose their activities, the Senators pointed out.

That letter prompted a piece in The American Conservative by Daniel Larison with the title: “The Ugly Smear Attack On NIAC.”

The piece described the Senators’ call for an independent investigation as a “malicious” smear attack on NIAC.

“We should stand with NIAC when they are being insulted and maligned in this way,” concluded The American Conservative piece.

While it’s widely known that apologists for the Iranian regime have long gained a foothold in some left-leaning or MSM Western publications, perhaps it’s time to investigate Tehran’s quiet influence operations in some “conservative” institutions as well, starting with The American Conservative.

Hanif Jazayeri is a London-based news editor and Iranian opposition activist. Twitter: @HanifJazayeri