Biden’s Ties to Pro-Iran Groups Questioned
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
Sen. Barack Obama and his newly-picked running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, may have sparred during the primaries. But on one issue they are firmly united: the need to forge closer ties to the government of Iran.
Kaveh Mohseni, a spokesman for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, calls Biden “a great friend of the mullahs.”
He notes that Biden’s election campaigns “have been financed by Islamic charities of the Iranian regime based in California and by the Silicon Iran network,” a loosely-knit group of wealthy Iranian-American businessmen and women seeking to end the U.S. trade embargo on Iran.
“In exchange, the senator does his best to aid the mullahs,” Mohseni argues.
Biden’s ties to pro-Tehran lobbying groups are no secret. But so far, the elite media has avoided even mentioning the subject.
Just recently, Biden was one of 16 U.S. senators who voted against a bill that would add Iran’s Revolutionary Guards corps to the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations, because of its involvement in murdering U.S. troops in Iraq.
Rather than sanction those in power in Tehran, Biden and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel have argued that the United States should offer Tehran a greater role in Iraq’s domestic affairs.
At a March 2002 conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American-Iranian Council (AIC), Biden made the case for closer U.S. ties to the government of Iran. “I believe than an improved relationship with Iran is in the naked self-interest of the United States of America," Biden said.
At that same meeting, top Bush administration official Zalmay Khalilzad – today, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations –poured cold water on Biden’s hopes.
"We had hoped that after the 11 September attacks, the Iranian regime would end its support for terrorists", Khaliazad said. "But Iran did not stop its support for terror. Indeed, the hard-line elements of the Iranian regime facilitated the movement of Al-Qa’eda terrorists escaping from Afghanistan” and sheltered them in Iran.
Biden offered to sponsor a meeting of Iranian and American parliamentarians in Washington - or any place else, if the Iranians had problems coming to the United States. No one in Iran ever took up his offer.
Several Congressional Democrats attempted to travel to Tehran last December to meet with Iranian parliamentarians, but were denied visas by the Iranian regime, one of the Members of Congress involved in the initiative told Newsmax.
While Biden has condemned the human rights abuses of the Iranian regime, his decision to address the American-Iranian Council and other pro-Tehran groups has angered many Iranian-Americans.
“Biden has been too cozy with the supporters of the Iranian regime, which is anti-American, anti-Iranian, and has a horrendous human rights record,” said Sardar Haddad, an Iranian pro-democracy activist based in Texas.
The American-Iranian Council was founded by Hoosang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers University professor of urban studies who tried to run for president of the Islamic Republic in 2005.
Funded in part by oil giant CONOCO, which hoped to secure lucrative oil contracts, AIC has lobbied consistently to get U.S. trade sanctions on Iran eliminated.
In a recent interview with the popular Persian-language netzine, Tabnak, run by the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, Amirahmadi complained that he wasn’t getting enough credit for lobbying Washington.
"This is because the Iranians, instead of empowering the lobby supporting them, undermine it,” he said.
Biden’s ties to the pro-Iranian regime lobby are not a haphazard affair, but a matter of conviction.
Biden told Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway in 2005 that the United States should address Iran’s “emotional needs” and conclude a “nonaggression pact” with the Tehran regime.
“Senator Joseph Biden said that even if Iran was a full democracy like India, it would want nuclear capability, like India. What the world needed to address was Iran's emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact,” Greenway wrote.
Biden hasn’t shied from asking wealthy Iranian-Americans with known sympathies for the Tehran regime for campaign cash.
When Iranian-American pro-democracy activists learned that Biden planned to attend a fundraiser organized on his behalf by an Iranian Muslim charity in California, they phoned his U.S. Senate office to warn him about the group’s pro-Tehran sympathies.
But the Delaware Democrat swept aside their concerns and attended the Feb. 19, 2002, event at the California home of Dr. Sadegh Namazi-Khah, which brought in an estimated $30,000 for his U.S. Senate re-election campaign.
Several people who attended the fundraiser said that Biden delivered a sweeping condemning of President Bush’s recent State of the Union speech, which identified the Iranian regime as part of an “axis of Evil.”
“He really impressed us by his grasp of world affairs," Namazi-khah told me at the time. "He encouraged us to make our views known and to get more involved in American politics."
Biden also impressed many of those present with his friendly attitude toward Iran.
The senator said that "Iran always wanted to be an ally of the United States and to have good relations with the U.S.," said Housang Dadgostar, a prominent lawyer who wrote Biden’s campaign a $1,000 check.
"As Iranian-Americans, we don't want anything to happen to the Iranian government or to the Iranian people as a result of this war on terrorism," said Mohsen Movaghar, a Los Angeles businessman who also attended the event and contributed $1,000 to Biden.
Both men belonged to the 70-member board of directors of Namazi-khah's Iranian Muslim Association of North America (IMAN), which hosted the event.
Namazi-Khah and other IMAN board members told me that the idea for the fundraiser came from Biden, who apparently learned about the group after attending an earlier event sponsored by the AIC.
Both Namazi-Khah and Movaghar also belong to the Board of the American-Iranian Council, the Washington, DC-based lobbying group pressing for an end to U.S. sanctions on Iran.
So does Japeh Youssefi, who traveled from Scotsdale, Ariz., with his wife to attend the 2002 fundraiser in California.
Between the two of them, the Youssefi’s gave $4,000 to Biden’s U.S. Senate campaign, the legal limit at the time.
“Mr. Youssefi has earned the reputation of being a vocal supporter of Iran-US rapprochement and détente,” a biographer on the AIC Web site reads.
“In March of 2000 he created FAIRPAC — the Foundation for American Iranian Rapprochement, a political advocacy council — as a means of informing and educating interested persons everywhere of the benefits of improved U.S.-IRAN relations,” according to the bio.
Another key Biden contributor is Hassan Nemazee, a New York money-manager who chaired Hillary Clinton’s finance committee, personally raising over $500,000 for her campaign.
Nemazee also has served on the board of the American-Iranian Council, and more recently set up the Iranian-American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) along with a group of Silicon Valley billionaires, many of whom have close ties to the Iranian regime.
Because of the controversy Nemazee and IAPAC members have generated within the Iranian-American community, the PAC’s Web site includes a bald disclaimer of any ties to Tehran.
“IAPAC has no relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran . . . and is not focused on U.S. policy towards Iran, establishing ties with or legitimizing the government of Iran,” it says.
Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as his running mate “highlights the need to really investigate the web of Iranian influence in the United States,” Iranian-American political analyst Hassan Daioleslam told Newsmax.
“What you have here is a group of people who have been working together through different groups and organizations for the past ten years” to promote the interests of the Iranian regime.
“It’s deeply troubling to have a vice-presidential candidate raise funds from people whose ties to the Iranian regime raise such serious questions,” Daioleslam said.
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Posted August 27, 2008 at 3:43 PM PDT