By Sophie Baron and Kaveh Taheri
Last year, a new American foreign-policy think-tank called the Quincy Institute was established in Washington, DC. The think tank describes its mission as “laying the foundation for a new foreign policy centered on diplomatic engagement and military restraint….to bring together like-minded progressives and conservatives and set US foreign policy on a sensible and humane footing.” The Institute, which is primarily funded by billionaires George Soros (a far-left plutocrat and a major donor to the Democratic Party) and Charles Koch (a self-described libertarian and a major Republican Party donor), has assembled a cadre of self-proclaimed policy analysts from both the extreme left and extreme right of the American political spectrum. They share a similar viewpoint of isolationism and opposition to the post-World War II expansionist American foreign policy. However, delving into the background of some of the think tank’s key figures, one finds that it is not driven by a legitimate concern for peace or American interests, but in fact, it is new syndicate serving the interests of the Islamic regime in Iran.
Working with Soros and Koch to create Quincy was Trita Parsi, who the think-tank’s Executive Vice President. Parsi was the founder, and former president, of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Created in 2002, NIAC to this day claims to be “a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization…to give voice to the Iranian-American community.” Ample evidence, however, suggests that NIAC is a forceful advocate for improved relations between the US and the Iranian regime and lobbies on behalf of the mullahs in Tehran.
Considering Parsi’s key role in the establishment of the Quincy Institute, it is reasonable to explore NIAC’s history to get a better understanding of who he is and what he is trying to accomplish.
NIAC’s Hidden Backstory
The behind-the-scenes figure who helped create NIAC was a regime official named Sadeqh Kharrazi. Kharrazi’s paternal uncle, Kamal, was appointed Tehran’s Ambassador to the United Nations in 1989 by the late former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The elder Kharrazi took his nephew to the US with him as his assistant. In an interview with Iran’s state media, Sadegh later confessed that he was a below-average student in school, but in 1990, when he was only 20, he was sent to work at the regime’s mission to the United Nations. Among his colleagues in New York at the time were Mohammad Javid Zarif (the regime’s current Foreign Minister) and Majid Takht-Ravanchi (the current Ambassador to the UN). This group of regime diplomats, all of whom had been educated at American universities, soon became known as the “New York Boys.” In the years to come, they would continue to assist each other, and emerge as a powerful clique within Tehran’s inner sanctums.
In their quest for wealth and power, the “New York Boys” aligned themselves with American financial interests, including those of George Soros’. In his 2009 trial, a former employee of Soros’ Open Society Foundation named Kian Tajbakhsh revealed that former regime president Mohammad Khatami and Zarif had personally met with Soros twice, in 2006 and 2007. By his own admission, Zarif had allowed Soros’ foundation to operate inside Iran.
These individuals, both Iranian and American, agreed that in order for their ambitions of close financial relations between American and Iranian capitalists to be achieved, the Islamic Republic regime would need a US-based lobby. To lead this organization, the Kharrazis commissioned the services of Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers University professor. According to Amirahmadi himself, he gathered around 60 people, including Parsi, to establish what became the “American Iranian Council.” This so-called advocacy organization received financial support from both large US oil companies and, indirectly, from the Iranian regime. The purpose was to campaign for the removal of sanctions against the regime, and for the improvement of diplomatic relations between the US and the mullahs. One of the supporting corporations which was involved in trade with Tehran was Koch Industries, co-owned by Charles Koch. It was later revealed that Koch was illegally skirting sanctions to do business and earn profits in Iran.
After the American Iranian Council was exposed by numerous journalists to be a front organization for Tehran and its corporate allies, the “New York Boys” decided they needed to assemble a new group. Subsequently in 2002, when Zarif became the regime’s UN Ambassador, NIAC was formed under the directorship of Parsi who, as Amirahmadi later admitted, essentially worked as Zarif’s personal assistant.
NIAC’s Fraudulent Behavior
Publicly available data show that NIAC defrauded the US Government by obtaining grants from Congressionally-approved funds and lying to the National Endowment for Democracy about its accomplishments and how the funds were utilized. The organization received its first grant in 2002, and the last in late 2007, reaching more than $200,000. According to an examination of official documents and NIAC’s internal memos, the organization’s main partner in Iran was a false-flag NGO, created by the regime. NIAC was also exposed to have defrauded the US Internal Revenue Service by failing to report all of the lobbying activities it was conducting on Tehran’s behalf.
At the same time, as it received US funding through questionable means, NIAC was campaigning against proposals that the US should fund Iranian opposition media outlets, and, through its contacts within the governmental bureaucracy, managed to ensure that almost all of the funding allotted by the 2006 Iran Freedom Support Act went to pro-regime outlets instead. NIAC also actively worked to suppress independent Iranian journalists, harassing and deluging them with frivolous lawsuits, which eventually culminated in Parsi being exposed as having lied to the court. This resulted in Parsi having to pay the court costs of one of the journalists he had sued.
Architects of the Iran Deal
Despite the fact that NIAC was proven to be a Tehran-controlled organization, it rose to a position of great influence during the presidency of Barack Obama. Reprts indicate that Parsi was hosted at the White House 33 times during Obama’s presidency. NIAC helped Obama’s aides craft their policy towards Iran, which resulted in the US turning a blind eye from dissidents being imprisoned, tortured, and killed by the regime, and instead, toward lifting sanctions and giving the regime billions of dollars. The results of that policy was expansion of the Revolutionary Guard’s hegemony and influence in the Middle East, leaving destruction and devastation in its wake.
The Quincy Institute
Although the “New York Boys” saw their aspirations achieved for a short while, their dreams was shattered with the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Despite US sanctions returning with a vengeance, the “New York Boys” haven’t given up. NIAC continues to have operatives within the staff of Democratic Party lawmakers in US Congress. It is the hope of the “New York Boys” and their subsidiary NIAC that Trump loses the November 2020 Elections and their operations will be back on track.
The Quincy Institute is certainly providing its assistance in these efforts, from a more “intellectual” and high-profile angle. Last week, the institute co-signed a letter to Biden, along with several other notable pro-regime American organizations, calling on the Democratic presidential candidate to adopt a policy of “negotiation,” “confidence building,” and “opposition to regime change efforts.”
The mullahs in Tehran sit anxiously alongside the “New York Boys” as their regime is imperiled by mass uprisings, corruption, economic turmoil, and a mishandled viral pandemic. Will Trita Parsi and the Quincy Institute get the opportunity to save them? The American voters will decide.
Sophie Baron is a New York-based Iranian journalist, researcher, and analyst.
Kaveh Taheri is an Iranian journalist and sociopolitical researcher based in Turkey.
This column was originally published on July 13, 2020 by ICBPS.