By Ahura Niknafs
Meet Negar Mortazavi, though as far as the Iranian diaspora is concerned, she hardly needs an introduction. Mortazavi is currently a “diplomatic correspondent” for the British online newspaper, The Independent. She has been working deliriously on social and mainstream media these days to discredit anti-propaganda platforms that expose individuals like her and the disinformation they broadcast. She functions as a component of an “echo chamber” that resonates with the Iranian regime’s stratagem to undermine the Trump Administration’s Iran policy. In so doing, she fulfills a peripheral mission, which is disparaging Iranian dissidents, human rights activists, attorneys, academics, and journalists.
Mortazavi came to the US in 2002. It is alleged that sometime between 2009 and 2010, she approached the Iranian authorities to discuss the possibility of returning to Iran without being prosecuted in exchange for supporting the regime as a host in the Voice of America’s Persian services. She left VOA after three years, citing her discord with the network. “There’s nothing wrong with the government having its own foreign language PR,” she told Time magazine, but “you can’t mix media and government PR, or propaganda, or whatever you call it.”
After leaving VOA, she joined the National Iranian American Council’s media team. NIAC is the Washington-based lobby for the Iranian regime. It was during her tenure at NIAC that she learned the art of creating hysterical echo chambers and outrage mobs. She boasted in a 2015 Huffington Post article that “we created social media campaign” to support the Iran Deal, otherwise known as the JCPOA. This Facebook campaign was coordinated with members of the regime’s so-called “reformists” including Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, Ebrahim Yazdi, Hamze Ghalebi, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, and Akbar Ganji. Mortazavi remains strongly connected to NIAC (if not a full-fledged member) and participates, along with other NIAC affiliates, in sporadic mob outrage campaigns.
Individuals like Mortazavi are abundant in the US. Having infiltrated Western media, their expertise is in constructing inflated outrage campaigns that ultimately benefit the Iranian regime and have little to do with democracy. These concocted hysterias rarely catch the attention of those in higher echelons of power in the US government. An example is the “outrage” that was triggered and publicized by the likes of Mortazavi after the reassignment of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh in the State Department. A former intern at NIAC, Nowrouzzadeh was a staff member in the Office of Iranian Affairs of Barack Obama’s State Department. She served as the Director for Iran and helped shape the controversial Iran nuclear deal. The fraudulent frenzy drew little attention and Nowrouzzadeh eventually left the State Department.
It is conceivable that people like Mortazavi and others affiliated with NIAC are segments of a broader agenda that the Iranian regime is pursuing. In 2017, the Iranian intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, discussed in detail the activities of the so-called pro-Iranian “lobby group” in Washington, which covertly pushes a pro-regime agenda. Alavi claimed “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” in Washington is working to bolster the regime’s international status and help legitimize its nuclear endeavors.
Also in 2017, Ali Fallahian, a former intelligence minister under Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, admitted in an interview that many Iranian intelligence agents operate under the guise of journalists in foreign countries (video). Falahian is currently wanted under a warrant by the Interpol in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Concocted hysterics, characteristic of radical left, is seemingly the preferred modus operandi for the Iranian regime to accomplish its mission, at least in the US. Radical talking heads – turned journalists turned “analysts” – like Mortazavi amplify the regime’s rhetoric to the extreme and furnish podium to higher-ranking mouth pieces like Javad Zarif with the aim of spreading their stream of disinformation. These acrimonious yet empty propaganda campaigns not only contribute little to fostering democracy in Iran, they undermine the democracy in the US. And that is a primal fear that reverberates within the Iranian-American community.
Ahura Niknafs is an Iranian human rights activist based in Guadalajara, Mexico.