By Reza Shafa
On October 2, 2008, a statement by the American-Iranian Council was reported in news websites, which stipulated that the council has obtained official permission from the US to set up an office in Tehran.
The American-Iranian Council was established in the US in 1997 by Houshang Amirahmadi, a lobbyist for the Iranian regime.
In its statement, the council notes, “The American-Iranian Council will use this great opening to more effectively advance its mission of promoting dialogue and understanding between the peoples and governments of Iran and the United States.”
AIC says that the presence of this NGO in Iran will promote exchange in educational programs as well as facilitate policy dialogue through roundtables, conferences and timely informative and analytical publications.
According to the council, its office in Tehran can help promote more understanding and transparency between Iran and the US, which would lead to the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Thus far Iranian officials have not reacted to the news, and in its statement the council has not mentioned whether Iran has agreed to this offer. However, in view of Mr. Amirahmadi’s numerous trips to Tehran, Iran is probably well aware of these developments.
Houshang Amirahmadi, seasoned lobbyist for the mullahs’ regime
Houshang Amirahmadi is one of the most experienced lobbyists for the Iranian regime in the US. With regards to his experience, in a July 17, 2008 interview with the Tabnak website, Amirahmadi explained, “I traveled to Iran in 1980. But, my contacts were established by Mr. Chamran, the current chairman of the Tehran city council. Chamran took me to the [Iran-Iraq] war fronts … In 1988, I was invited to Tehran by the Iranian embassy in New York. I met with His Excellency the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] who was president at the time. He mentioned two points to me. First, he said, tell the Americans that we are not after taking this county backward. Second, he recommended to me to always stay Iranian. I have also met with Mr. Ahmadinejad during his three visits to the US. Following Ahmadinejad’s orders, the issue of my travel to Iran was resolved.”
Amirahmadi consistently against the PMOI
Amirahmadi has always been active against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), and was one of the main factors influencing the inclusion of the PMOI in the US terrorist list. It was after this service to the Iranian regime that he could establish the American-Iranian Council using the dollars he obtained from the regime. The following two points, which include his own admissions, make his service to the regime as well as his role in the listing of the PMOI clear.
On Monday, September 29, 1997, the Iranian regime conducted aerial attacks against the Faezeh and Anzali camps belonging to the PMOI in Iraq using 9 fighter jets. In support of these bombings, and to justify them, Amirahmadi told Radio France on October 4, 1997 that, “The main point here is that recently the PMOI held a very large and very significant meeting in Baghdad, during which it decided to increase its armed struggle and destruction in Iran against that country. I think the Iranian reaction is a precautionary measure against these potentially destructive acts by this group at a later date in Iran. And I think the group’s actions are supported one hundred percent by Saddam Hussein.”
In October 1997, the US placed the PMOI on its terror list. Even before the regime’s Foreign Ministry and former mullahs’ President, Hashemi Rafsanjani, had a chance to announce their reaction to the listing, Amirahmadi, who was one of the lobbyists in trying to list the PMOI as a foreign terrorist organization, immediately told Radio France in an interview on October 9, 1997 that, “The PMOI killed a number of Americans in Tehran during the Shah’s reign. Well, the Americans have never forgiven the PMOI for its actions. On the other hand, in the years following the revolution, the PMOI participated in political assassinations and bombings in Iran, and especially during the past 7-8 years, it has developed amicable and brotherly relations with Saddam Hussein. And, Saddam Hussein and the current regime in Iraq are the number one enemy of the US in the region.”
Amirahmadi was also one of the main sources for the 2005 report by Human Rights Watch against the PMOI. One of the advisors for the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council wrote in a June 2005 internal report that, “The step taken by the Human Rights Watch or the Middle East Watch against the Hypocrites [derogatory term used by the regime to refer to the PMOI] was a very good effort. Mr. Houshang Amirahmadi had a very effective role in this regard and was influential.”
Amirahmadi and Ahmadinejad
Houshang Amirahmadi, the AIC President, is an advocate of closer US-Iran relations, who visited Tehran at the invitation of the mullahs’ President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in February 2008. In a February 2008 interview with Shahrvand Emrooz publication (affiliated with Khosrow Tehrani), he said in this regard, “After ten years during which Mr. Khatami’s administration prohibited me from entering Iran citing baseless excuses, Mr. Ahmadinejad accepted my request to visit Iran, and so I came here.” Amirahmadi reiterates in his interviews that he conducted this trip with the support of Ahmadinejad.
On March 23, 2008, Amirahmadi told the Fararou website (affiliated with the Iranian regime) that, “In September 2007, we had a meeting with Ahmadinejad (in New York) about the US-Iran relations. I told Mr. President that for the last 150 years the West has adopted a mistaken view with regards to Iran, according to which a powerful Iran is a dangerous Iran. … It is necessary that the Foreign Ministry and relevant organs work on this issue and demonstrate that by way of experience this assumption has proven wrong in practice. Dr. Ahmadinejad said that this is a good idea and that he accepts this view.”
On April 4, 2007, the state-run daily Kayhan thus wrote about Amirahmadi’s visit: “Houshang Amirahmadi has recently said in interviews with Shahrvand weekly and the website ‘Iranian Diplomacy’ (under the supervision of Sadegh Kharazi) that he has met with very important figures including the President and has had important discussions. It seems that the silence of the authorities with regards to Amirahmadi’s claims has dragged on longer than usual. In order to respond to the allegations by this broker for US-Iran relations it must be said that: This individual, who is an unconscious chip at the hands of American intelligence agencies, cannot do anything without the approval and orders from such spy agencies. Therefore, just in case his claims about meeting with official authorities of our country turn out to be true, it must be acknowledged that they have been duped and the alleged interlocutors have also committed a big mistake.”
Amirahmadi’s support for Ahmadinejad’s positions
According to the Rouz website (June 2, 2008), “Houshang Amirahmadi talked about relations with the US in an interview with Rouz website, and in response to the question that on which signs and evidence do you base your claim that Amadinejad is willing to establish relations with the US, he said, ‘I have lots of evidence. I can point to some of them, and leave the rest unsaid. But, either way, I have information that Amadinejad is leaning towards relations with the US. In the very near future, representatives from both parliaments will meet with each other. Although many of the doors have been shut, Ahmadinejad is knocking on all doors. Of course, the Israeli issue has hurt the process.’”
In the same interview, Amirahmadi added, “In the final analysis, the difference between Ahmadinejad and someone like Khatami is that Khatami would say that you Americans are very good people and I would like to talk to you, but I won’t. However, in contrast to Khatami, Ahmadinejad tells the Americans that you are bad people and are doing the wrong things, but I will talk to you. He has made interesting offers to the US, which the Americans have refused. One example is the negotiations with the US in Iraq, and the other is the offer to establish direct flights between Tehran and New York. This is serious talk.”
Rouz website continues, “In response to our comment that the main issue for the US is not direct flights between Tehran and New York but the suspension of enrichment, Amirahmadi says, ‘And the issue for Ahmadinejad is that Khatami suspended enrichment for a year and obtained nothing in return. So, why should he? Now, after adopting such a stance, the incentives package offered to Ahmadinejad is considerably better than the one offered to Khatami.’”
“In response to the question that does Amadinejad’s strategy include some space for conciliatory moves, Amirahmadi says, ‘Ahmadinejad should not go farther than a certain point, and should accept conciliation, namely the suspension of enrichment, improving his relations with the US. This was precisely its strategy and I told the government that, too … The problems for Iran and the US will arise in the next seven to eight months. The next six months will be incredibly worrisome. These 6-7 months will not be a period for policy making but will witness occurrences and events … For this reason, the Iranian government is also very worried about something happening which it has no control over, and which would result in the US taking military measures.”
Another trip to Tehran by Amirahmadi
The state-run daily Jomhouri-Islami wrote on July 1, 2008 that, “Houshang Amirahmadi, who is considered to be a spy for the US and Israel and has held meetings with Ahmadinejad in New York, and who visited Iran last winter, has once again come here.”
The state-run daily Kayhan also wrote on July 14, 2008, “Houshang Amirahmadi who succeeded in traveling to Iran several months ago in order to coordinate with several executive figures, has once again come to Tehran. He has said that with regards to relations between US and Iran, even if he is not delivering any official messages, he still brings something to talk about. Amirahmadi says that he has met with Shaul Mofaz, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Zionist regime, in New York several days ago.”
The Tabnak website noted on July 17, 2008, “During a visit to the Tabnak website office, Houshang Amirahmadi talked about his trip to Iran and his lobbying activities, saying, ‘…Unfortunately, Iran’s policy vis-à-vis the US and the American policy vis-à-vis Iran have never been transparent. His Excellency the Supreme Leader gives a speech in (the city of) Yazd saying that we cannot be enemies forever but there are conditions for relations. In the US, they do not interpret such remarks as they should. So, my role is to express the realities underlying such remarks and thus prevent spiteful or biased interpretations.”
In the same interview, Tabnak asked Amirahmadi to respond to the prevalent view in Iran that he is not very influential and does not have a lot of credibility in the US. Amirahmadi said in response, “This results from the mindset in Iran that tries to weaken its lobby instead of empowering it. As an example, there have been many cases where official American figures have requested to negotiate with Iran and I have spoken with Iranian authorities about it. But, the Iranians said that now is not the time. Some time later I found out from the American side that the meetings have been held. An example of this is the official meeting between Mr. Zarif and Mr. Khalilzad, then the US Secretary of State’s Deputy. This is because governments try to confront the issue on a factional basis, and want to move forward on their own. But, in reality they lack the knowledgeable resources to do so. Of course, I do not consider myself as part of any certain faction. Although I personally admire Mr. Rafsanjani, Mr. Khatami, and Mr. Ahmadinejad, I have done my best to attempt to help Iran during all of their administrations. And, of course, this is a difficult feat.”
Reza Shafa is an expert on the Iranian regime's Intelligence networks, both in Iran and abroad. He has done extensive research on Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) also known as VEVAK, Intelligence Office of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Qods Force among others. Currently he is a contributor to NCRI website.