By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board
On May 25, 2019, Iranians from around the world and particularly in the United States started a tweetstorm using the hashtag #NIACLobbies4Mullahs. Tweet activity began at 11:30 AM EST. Within 90 minutes, #NIACLobbies4Mullahs was trending in the US, and very quickly became number one. Soon thereafter, it was also trending at number one in Canada, followed by several European countries. By the early evening, the hashtag was trending worldwide. It was tweeted more than 200,000 times.
The tweetstorm followed a campaign of propaganda that NIAC initiated 2 weeks ago, incessantly forecasting an imminent war between the US and Iran. NIAC spent between $1500 to $2000 for promoted tweets that included a video clip featuring Reza Aslan, a staunch NIAC supporter and a fierce Trump detractor. The campaign was launched by NIAC to gather endorsement for an open letter written by the organization and signed by an assembly of supporters. The letter was addressed to members of the congress asking them to “halt a march to war with Iran” organized by President Trump and John Bolton.
Several prominent Iranian-Americans opposed to the ruling Islamist regime took the opportunity to show their support for the tweetstorm by writing their own tweets using the hashtag. Arash Sobhani, a musician and activist – and lead vocalist/guitarist for the Persian rock band Kiosk – highlighted the fact that NIAC is in violation of FARA by failing to register as a lobby organization of a foreign country. Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, invited several journalists and columnists to follow the hashtag and cover the story on this tweetstorm. Journalist, photographer, and former prisoner of conscience, Ahmad Batebi, expressed his view that NIAC represents the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and not the Iranian people. Hassan Dai, an opposition activist who prevailed against NIAC and Trita Parsi in a defamation lawsuit, reiterated Parsi’s collaboration with Javad Zarif and provided a link to the documents pertaining to that lawsuit.
NIAC’s initial reaction to the tweetstorm was that of restraint until Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of FDD, used the hashtag in two separate tweets written in English and Persian. Sina Toossi, a research associate at NIAC and a bitter opponent of Iranian secular democratic movement, accused Dubowitz of coordinating this tweetstorm and called those who used the hashtag “bots.” NIAC president, Jamal Abdi also attacked Dubowitz accusing him of orchestrating a campaign with John Bolton to “attack Iranian-Americans” and silence the community’s “pro-peace voice.” In a subsequent tweet, Abdi accused dissidents of receiving funds from the State Department, and blamed the Trump Administration for “funneling taxpayer dollars to attack Iranian-American civil society.”
This was the second victory in a month for Iranian dissidents over NIAC. On May 14, Iranians from the US and Canada campaigned against Trita Parsi appearing and testifying before the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Canadian Parliament. The chair of the subcommittee subsequently disinvited Parsi from attending.
A large number of Iranian-Americans consider NIAC a lobby group for the mullah regime and not a representative of their community. They see NIAC as a propaganda apparatus created by Javad Zarif to embellish the sinister image of the regime before the US government and the American people. NIAC specifically represents the “reformist” camp (or so-called moderates) of the Iranian regime. The reformist faction to which Zarif belongs, is essentially an ornamental front for the regime. It has little authority beyond whitewashing the regime’s malign behavior and human rights violations before the international community. In the US, many Democratic politicians have interacted with NIAC over the years. Desperate to forge a deal with the regime, the Obama Administration in particular was quite inviting to NIAC and its affiliates. NIAC itself identifies with the far left. Hopefully, noticing the Iranian people’s disdain for NIAC would (and should) discourage Democratic and Republican politicians from further engaging with this dubious organization.