The War on Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi heads the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit representing the interests of the Iranian-American community. NIAC is an opponent of the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, condemning discrimination against religious minorities, the imprisonmnet of dissidents, and the lack of due process in the Iranian justice system.

NIAC also, like all the major Iranian opposition figures I’m aware of, opposes the idea of punitive military actions or harsh sanctions against Iran. This could have led people to make the sensible observation that whatever form of government exists in Iran is likely to have a conception of Iranian national security interests that are at odd with the Israel’s conception of its own national security interests and with America’s efforts to be the hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf. Instead, as Nick Baumann observes, it’s sparked an odd smear campaign against Parsi, in which Michael Goldfarb and Jeffrey Goldberg — soon to be joined, according to my information, by a larger set of right-wing pundits and “reporters” — are attempting to paint Parsi as a tool of the Iranian government. In Goldfarb’s formulation, Parsi is “the Iranian regime’s man in Washington” whereas Goldberg says he “does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime” though perhaps without direction or funding from the Iranian government.

Goldfarb’s version of the smear is, it seems to me, wronger. But Goldberg’s is, in its way, more contemptible for being so vague, shifty, and ultimately impossible to disprove. What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran. To be fair, in criticizing Iranian human rights violations NIAC has been known to cite the work of international recognized human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and for all I know G&G; are sufficiently through the rabbit hole that they see Amnesty, HRW, and NIAC as all part of a vast anti-Israel Islamist plot that only attacks the Iranian regime as part of a vast smokescreen. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s an important underlying dispute here. Some people, also known as people who know what they’re talking about, think an unprovoked US or Israeli preventive military strike on Iran would be a huge gift to the Iranian government and a crushing blow to the opposition. Others, who I hope are liars rather than fools, claim to believe that this is wrong. Parsi is, I know, in the former camp. So it’s worth revisiting Jeffrey Goldberg’s record as a prognosticator on this sort of question:

There is not sufficient space…for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)




It should be said that Jeffrey Goldberg is on record as an opponent of military action against Iran. My post implies he’s a supporter, for which I apologize.