Conference on Iran to feature Tehran apologist

By Kenneth R. Timmerman and Sayeh Hassan

So we welcome the initiative of the Canadian International Council and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa in holding a May 5 conference on Iran. But we question why the organizers would even contemplate inviting as a keynote speaker Trita Parsi, a pro-Tehran lobbyist who has become so infamous among Iranian-Americans that they show up for his events just to heckle him.

Until the widely disputed June 2009 “election” of Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Parsi and his group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC ) rarely mentioned the words “human rights.” Instead, they lobbied the U.S. Congress hard against U.S. sanctions on Iran and promoted U.S. trade with Iran, despite the regime’s human rights record, its nuclear weapons ambitions, and its support for international terrorism and vows to wipe Israel off the map.

Canada Promotes "The Mullahs' Voice"

While the Canadian International Council is set to sponsor an Ottawa event on May 5th, entitled, "Iran in Context: Global and Regional Implications" ostensibly to focus on "political and security issues," the event has drawn a strong protest letter that includes signatories from a broad multicultural spectrum of the Iranian community in Canada who request cancelling the event.

The petition expresses concern about several speakers on the conference panel, deeming them to be Iranian regime apologists who would present the Iranian government as a "pragmatic and rational entity," in which diplomacy and dialogue could offer solutions. One of those speakers is Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobby that advocates the lifting of trade and economic sanctions against Iran. Kenneth R. Timmerman -- Executive Director for the Foundation of Democracy in Iran, and nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran -- once described Parsi as "The Mullahs' Voice" and the "unofficial spokesman in Washington who can talk circles around their official ambassadors."

Parsi's lobby, the NIAC was also featured unfavorably in the Washington Times as violating Federal lobbying rules in its quest for Iranian advocacy. Before he founded the NIAC, Parsi had launched another group: "Iranians for International Cooperation"(IIC). Although Parsi is publicly critical of the Iranian regime, his group listed as top priorities the "safeguard Iran's and Iranian interests, the removal of U.S. economic and political sanctions against Iran, and the commencement of an Iran-U.S. dialogue."

With the Western predilection for dialogue as an effective tool for mediation and change, the history of such endeavours with Iran should cast doubt on the viability of such efforts. Talks between Iran, Britain, Germany and France, for example, began in 2003 and ended in failure. They were intended to ensure that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons. In 2004, an agreement was finally signed between Iran, France, Germany, the U.K. — with support from the European Union — in which Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Yet Iran reneged on the agreement, asserting its "sovereign right to enrich uranium." Further negotiations and warnings from Western allies that Iran was in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty proved futile, as did ambiguous threats from European nations about punitive action from the UN Security Council.

Although sponsors of the conference are the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; and the declared aim of the conference is to try better to understand the decision-making process of the Iranian regime in the hope of facilitating reform through policy options; and that it has drawn together a panel of "experts on Iran" from Canada, the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, a Wall Street Journal Report has asserted, about dialogue with Iran, that "public opinion throughout the region will conclude that the United States has at last surrendered to the reality of Iranian rule. The damage to America's regional, if not global influence, could prove irreversible."

Had Iran cooperated with the world community, it would have begun its journey toward a semblance of reform, but instead it remains a rogue nation with a regime that upholds its proxies Hamas and Hizbullah by financial support and training, and with the goal of obliterating Israel.

Recently Reza Cyrus Pahlavi — the older son of the late Shah of Iran, Mohammead Reza Pahlavi — called on 'foreign' countries to stop dialoguing with Iran and instead support those who try to effect change in leadership. Pahlavi even suggested that given the brutality of the Iranian Regime, that some members of the Iranian military may not stand with the regime to the end, beckoning that now was the time for the people of Iran to be emboldened for change as seen in Tunisia and Egypt. Not far from Canada's collective memory looms the story of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi who was detained and arrested by Iranian officials in 2003 for taking pictures of a student protest outside a prison in Tehran. While in custody, she was brutally beaten, tortured and raped. She died from her injuries, a savagery the Iranian authorities initially tried to cover up.

The Canadian International Council conference's intention to engage Iran bears serious implications. In the absence of strict mandates -- which Iran has already rebuffed with its unbending resolve in the face of sanctions — promoting dialogue with Iran amounts to a legitimization of this brutal regime, along with its accomplices, Hizbullah and Hamas.

There is also the lunacy of the mystical menace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to contend with; in 2005 he gave $17 million to the shrine of the 12th Imam who he apparently believes will appear before the next U.S. Presidential election.

Ahmadinejad has also stated that the main mission of the Islamic revolution is to pave the way for the coming of the 12th Imam, a messianic event that according to Shi'a Islam is to be preceded by apocalyptic conditions; a sobering thought given his uranium enrichment program and his outspoken wish to "wipe" Israel off the face of the map.

The letter of petition opposing the Canadian conference stated wisely: "You should refrain from appeasing the Islamic government by all means possible, and certainly should not host those who seek to facilitate and buy time for the regime to develop its nuclear weapons' program using the rhetoric and guise of democracy and hiding behind the flag of human rights."

According to many news sources including The Guardian, Iraqi forces have attacked Camp Ashraf in Iraq and have killed at least 3 people and injured 13. According to MEK the death toll maybe as high as 23.

While many of us may not agree with the MEK ideology we cannot remain silent while fellow Iranians are being massacred. This is not so much political issue as it is a “human issue” and I would urge everyone to break the silence and to condemn this brutal act by the Iraqi forces.

First They came... - Pastor Martin Niemoller
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Down with the Islamic Regime in Iran
Long Live Freedom in Iran

The Honorable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defense
Jennifer Jeffs, Canadian International Council President
Richard B. Fadden, Canadian Security Intelligence Director
Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO, Research In Motion
Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
André Desmarais, President & CEO- Power Corporation of Canada

Re: Iranian Community Expresses Grave Concern Regarding CIC’s “Iran in Context Event”

We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the National Branch of CIC and the University of Ottawa’s upcoming conference “Iran in Context - Regional and Global Implications."

For over three decades, various governments have used dialogue and diplomacy with the regime in Iran to no avail, starting with the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who did everything possible to assure the new regime of American friendship and failed miserably. Since that time, the more world governments have tried to engage the regime’s leaders, the more belligerent, emboldened and abusive they have become. Countries such as Canada, which is well aware of the brutality of the Iranian regime, through the death of the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, and institutions such as yours and the University of Ottawa should support pro-democracy opposition groups. You should refrain from appeasing the Islamic government by all means possible and certainly should not host those who seek to facilitate and buy time for the regime to develop its nuclear weapon’s program using the rhetoric and guise of democracy and hiding behind the flag of human rights.

These apologists, and regime supporters intentionally portray the Islamic government in Iran as a pragmatic and rational entity. They suggest that dialogue and diplomacy are the best way to deal with Iran. They falsely claim that sanctions are not effective and hurt ordinary Iranian people. Recently, primarily due to opposition leaders Mousavi's and Karrubi’s arrests, these apologists are attempting to shift the focus from Iran’s weapons program to what they have decided is more acceptable human rights issues. They have falsely blamed regime’s blatant human rights violations, only second to China's, on U.S. pressure and ridiculously claimed that recognition of the IRI would improve the human rights violations in Iran. The Iranian American community considers Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo and Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) such intellectually dishonest regime apologists. They contribute to regime’s agenda and serve the interests of those in power in the Islamic republic. Ramin Jahanbegloo is a known apologist who seeks reform but not systemic change for Iran, knowing fully well that reform is not possible under the IRI Constitution.

Trita Parsi falsely purports to represent Iranian-American interests in the United States. The Center for Security Policy cites NIAC as a lobby organization for the government of Iran. As a result of a lawsuit, numerous NIAC documents have been brought to light that show NIAC lobbies for policies favorable to the regime in Iran. Law enforcement experts, who have reviewed some of NIAC’s emails, memos and board minutes, believe that NIAC has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws. NIAC has less than 3,000 members, according to Parsi, yet NIAC asserts that it represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian-Americans in the USA. In our view, NIAC and Parsi will eventually be subjected to criminal prosecution and organizations and individuals that collaborate with NIAC will come to regret their affiliations with them.

Currently, the Middle East is in crisis. Pro-democracy forces are springing up daily to demand basic human rights and better living conditions. It is about time that countries such as Canada publicly align themselves with the people who have suffered brutally at the hands of dictators and tyrants. It is time to give honor, dignity, moral imperatives and ethical values precedence over lucrative financial contracts that often occur, wrongly, at the expense of ordinary citizens' lives.

We respectfully request the cancellation of this conference, or the inclusion of representative experts, who can provide a more honest and accurate picture of the current situation and opposition forces inside and outside Iran. Furthermore, Canada must have an enduring commitment to encourage democracy and human rights throughout the world and cannot ignore the fact that the current regime in Iran is a major threat to world’s economic stability and world peace. Canada must encourage and support every group that truly advocates freedom and the rule of law and oppose any regime that denies such progress. At this time, Iran is dominated by a vicious dictator who has proven his lack of concern for his own people on countless occasions. There should be no question that Canada must have every ethical, moral and strategic reason to encourage Iranian democratic movements.

The Iranian opposition groups hope to establish a co-operative relationship with the Canadian people and seek their support in establishing a secular and democratic government in Iran.


The Undersigned

Cina Dabestani, Chairman of Constitutionalist Party of Iran, Washington DC Chapter

The Honorable H. Hakimi, Retired Ambassador

Dr. Arash Irandoost, Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran (PDMI)

Walton K. Martin III, Director, The Iran Information Project, USA

Dr. Gill Gillespie, Director, The Iran Information Project, UK

Sayeh Hassan, Barrister & Solicitor, pro-democracy activist, Canada

Mehdi Zolfaghari

Parvin Irandoost, Human Rights Advocate


Dr. A. Samadani

Debora M. Andress

Dr. Mansur Rastani

Saied Shemirani, Political Activist: United Persian Organization (Iranbozorg)

Sheri Alvadin, Human Rights Activist and Publisher

Firouzeh Ghaffarpour, Political Activist

Dr. Bijan Eftekhari, Professor of Economics

Caspian Makan, Writer & Film Maker, Human Rights Activist

Tarek Fatah, Founder, Muslim Canadian Congress

Frank Salvato, Executive Director

Zohre Mizrahi, Attorney, Human Rights Advocate

Yasamine Morteza Gaeini, Khashm, Toronto Branch

Morteza Gaeini, Khashm, Toronto Branch

Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zuckerman, D.D., Chairman, American for Democracy in the Middle-East

Jay Ewasiuk, Edmonton, AB

Behnaz Shariari, Member Stop Child Execution and Human Rights Activist

Hassan Darashti

Ally Bolour, Esq.