By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board
Four years ago, about 2 weeks before the JCPOA was signed, Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a column in the Commentary titled, “Why the New ‘NIAC Action’ Iran Lobby Will Fail.” The article followed the National Iranian American Council’s announcement that it was launching a lobby arm “as part of a growing push against neoconservative and right-leaning pro-Israel advocacy groups.” In his article, Rubin states, “Through both rhetoric and action, NIAC has long acted as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s de facto lobby in Washington. Now, however, it plans to make it official.” At the same time, Rubin warns that Trita Parsi and Jamal Abdi (NIAC’s current president) make crucial mistakes that will undercut the success of the Iran lobby they seek to launch. And he lists those miscalculations.
Rubin questions what exactly will NIAC lobby for. He argues that if NIAC was created to compete with the Israeli lobby, it does not stand a chance. “Israel is a democracy that has exported medical devices across the globe; Iran is a theocratic dictatorship that has exported explosively formed projectiles. Israel accepts gays; the Iranian government claim they simply don’t exist in Iran.” According to Rubin, pride in Iranian heritage should never mean apologia for the Iranian regime, and that Iranian-Americans and most everyone in the national security community understand that.
He goes on to say that NIAC is not bipartisan; it is hyper-partisan, having aligned itself with groups like CodePink, Daily Kos, and the Institute for Policy Studies, as well as politically radical individuals like Stephen Walt and Juan Cole. Rubin says, “Parsi has antagonized policymakers with partisan cheap shots and polemic, anti-Semitic aspersions, and policy prescriptions far outside the mainstream. His twitter feed is a repository for snark, conspiracy, and personal aspersion. He and NIAC spin conspiracy theories about inevitable plans for war against Iran simply to fundraise.” In contrast, AIPAC has always cultivated broad bipartisan appeal. Rubin believes that the anti-AIPAC sentiment suggests NIAC’s confrontational frame-of-reference.
Rubin’s assertion that NIAC does not represent the broader Iranian-American community is perhaps the climax of his article. No one can dispute the validity of this statement; it was valid in 2015 and still holds true in 2019. “NIAC’s fealty to the theocracy which oppressed them is unattractive to many,” and “the mistake NIAC makes is that it conflates pride in Iran and Iranian heritage with the Islamic Republic.” He is correct with respect to the fact that NIAC is virulently hostile to monarchists and constitutional republicans, and that an organization representing Iranian-Americans should have an all-inclusive approach, rather than allow the regime to define political legitimacy.
Rubin correctly predicted in 2015 that NIAC’s “access to the White House will end precipitously once the Obama administration ends, and its interaction with the State Department will peter out as diplomats increasingly recognize it for what it is.” At the peak of NIAC’s influence, Rubin projected that NIAC’s conduct will trigger its downfall. In 2019, the signs of NIAC’s unraveling are apparent. NIAC’s obsession to compete with a formidable lobby that represents the only democratic nation in the Middle East, its extreme partisan position omitting Iranian-American conservatives/republicans, and resentment for the Iranian democratic opposition of all political persuasions are factors that have weakened NIAC. Compared to 2015, many more people in the Washington circle and elsewhere have become more familiar with NIAC’s façade that is manifested as outrage mobs, disinformation campaigns, and fabricated hysteria. One thing, however, that NIAC has done correctly is providing the regime’s opposition in the US a common impetus for unity.