By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board
Over the past 48 hours, a toxic flurry of attacks against influential members of the Iranian opposition has been in progress. This ferocious campaign was orchestrated by the National Iranian American Council and its affiliates, including regime-aligned talking heads masquerading as “journalists” and “political commentators.” NIAC is a syndicate which under the camouflage of a grassroots organization representing Iranian-Americans, operates as the Washington-based lobby for Iran’s Islamofascist regime.
NIAC embarked on this campaign in reaction to a tweetstorm that became a number one trend in the US and several other countries. The tweetstorm, which used the hashtag #NIACLobbies4Mullahs, was a grassroots effort by Iranian dissidents from around the world aimed at exposing NIAC as a lobby for the mullah regime. It was also a way for Iranian-Americans to reject NIAC’s claim of being their representative. The tweetstorm devastated NIAC and its affiliates, and humiliated the organization before the international community.
NIAC initiated the campaign by blaming the tweetstorm on the Foundations for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan policy institute based in Washington. Its CEO Mark Dubowitz was specifically targeted at the outset. NIAC then implicated an anti-propaganda and anti-disinformation platform called the Iran Disinformation Project. IranDisinfo exposes regime-concocted disinformation and propaganda broadcasted by various mainstream media platforms, including Persian-language news networks based in Europe and the US. In that process, IranDisinfo has at times identified several regime-aligned journalists with ties to NIAC and a reputation for regime-friendly reportage. IranDisinfo was launched in late 2018 and is funded by the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center. It is an initiative aimed at bringing to light disinformation emanating from the Iranian regime via official rhetoric, state propaganda outlets, social media manipulation and more.
Without an iota of evidence that IranDisinfo had any complicity in the tweetstorm, NIAC began a propaganda campaign against the State Department-funded initiative. The propaganda consisted of a stereotypical rhetoric that was used repeatedly and incessantly: that the State Department is using the taxpayers’ money to form campaigns against “peace-loving” Iranian-Americans. Indirectly, NIAC blamed the State Department and the Trump Administration for orchestrating the tweetstorm. This was quintessential NIAC modus operandi. As a result, GEC placed a moratorium on funding IranDisinfo until further investigation into the veracity of NIAC’s claim is conducted.
NIAC’s unfounded accusations and campaign of defamation did not end with IranDisinfo. Several anti-regime scholars, activists, and journalists were also attacked and slandered in the course of this campaign. Among the targets of NIAC’s attacks were Alireza Nader, President and CEO of the New Iran initiative; Eli Lake, journalist and columnist for Bloomberg; Amir Etemadi, sociopolitical activist and a member of the Iran Revival (Farashgard) network; and Saeed Ghasseminejad, economist and senior adviser to the FDD. Some of these individuals reacted to the attacks and to NIAC’s smear campaign in general. Eli Lake tweeted:
In another tweet, Lake affirmed, “Trita [Parsi] and NIAC have tried to silence their American critics for nearly 20 years. From frivolous lawsuits to smear and whisper campaigns.” Alireza Nader supported Lake’s tweet and stated:
Michael Pregent, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute also weighed in:
Saeed Ghasseminejad made a statement in a tweet thread defending his position as a contributor to the IranDisino initiative. He described his journey from being a political prisoner in Iran to an influential political analyst in the US. Ghasseminejad asserted that NIAC and other regime elements’ smear campaigns provide him the impetus to continue his work. He tweeted:
Attacks by NIAC had an interesting ramification. Within a day, the number of IranDisinfo followers on Twitter doubled. This was ostensibly an act of defiance on the part of the Iranian diaspora – particularly those living in the US – against NIAC and its hysterical campaign. The smear campaign by NIAC was a desperate attempt at damage control after the humiliation it suffered as a result of the tweetstorm. NIAC’s attacks also served a broader purpose: to dismantle a platform that exposed regime propaganda and disinformation. The IranDisinfo was detrimental to NIAC’s mission, which is to serve the interests of the Iranian regime in the US. The daunting revelation in this case is that NIAC, which considers itself an “American civil society,” aims to suppress freedom of speech, protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. NIAC and its affiliates thrive on disinformation, propaganda, and campaigns of defamation and slander against anyone who disagrees with them or exposes their true countenance.
Overall, NIAC’s campaign failed, notwithstanding the immediate publication of its propaganda by several news sites. Hasty publicizing of NIAC’s initiative by media sympathetic to the organization was barely noticed and will gradually fade into oblivion. Undeniably, NIAC and its adherents suffered great embarrassment when their proclaimed constituents rejected them. The credibility of NIAC is now at its lowest, and news sites and publications that promote the organization and its cause have become impotent and unobtrusive. Unlike during the Obama era, nowadays a vast number of people in Washington and across the US are fully aware of what NIAC is and does. Its hysterical campaigns of character assassination and sabotage only amuse NIAC’s own circle of friends and affiliates.
On a final note, there is one thing that NIAC should and will learn from the fiasco it created. Even if it succeeded in persuading GEC to defund IranDisinfo, there are countless other platforms to continue the work exposing disinformation. Patriotic Iranians who reject the Islamofascist regime and its propaganda apparatus in Europe and North America will do so enthusiastically and free of charge.