Nick Baumann blogs about the oddly accumulating messages in the right-wing blogosphere accusing Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, of being a front for the Iranian regime. One of the assailants is the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who walks back his statement that Parsi “does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime” in this manner:
No, I’m not saying he literally works for the Iranian regime. I think you’re right, the term “leg-work” definitely could imply something I wasn’t meaning to imply. If that’s the way fair-minded people are reading it, then it’s my mistake. What I meant to suggest is that his organization functions as Iran’s AIPAC in Washington (though it’s not as effective, of course). AIPAC, obviously, does a great amount of leg-work—meaning, in my understanding, a great deal of lobbying and advocacy—to advance its primary cause, a militarily and politically powerful Israel closely allied with the United States. But it doesn’t take Israeli money, or, as best as I can tell, Israeli instruction. I assume, though I don’t know, that Parsi doesn’t take Iranian government money or Iranian government instruction, either. I think he does argue quite vociferously against sanctions, and he does tend to present, at least in my reading, a fairly benevolent understanding of Iran’s rulers and their motivations, and a fairly harsh reading of the Israeli government’s motivations.
This is just plain bullshit. Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad. We used NIAC’s blog for pro-dissident updates. Here. Don’t take my word for it. Read the June entries. In a piece he co-wrote with Resa Aslan, Parsi cheered the uprising, intoning, “What we have witnessed taking place in Iran is a mass movement attracting supporters from all walks of life, all demographics, all classes, and even all political backgrounds. Even supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have expressed discomfort with the developments in Iran, arguing that they voted for Ahmadinejad because they thought he would be a better president, and not because he would be a better dictator.” Does that sound like a “fairly benevolent understanding” of the regime? Nor did Parsi stop when U.S. attention drifted elsewhere. One of the top posts at NIAC’s blog right now is titled “Khamanei Criticized At Public Meeting.” You really can go on and on with this.
Parsi isn’t so hot on Netanyahu. Wow. That means he’s a progressive, not some sort of regime plant. Parsi isn’t so hot on sanctioning Iran. Wow! You know who also isn’t? Dissident leaders Mehdi Kerroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi. I suppose the opposition movement is controlled by the regime after all. Diabolical!
One more thing. Goldberg has a fairly low bar for people who write that, say, AIPAC does anything untoward or is an organization that represents anything nefariously deviant from the norm in ethnic American lobbies. He insists on, shall we say, a certain precision in discourse. Yet he has absolutely no problem saying that a guy who stood out in front in the U.S. in cheering on the anti-regime protesters is soft on the regime! “I assume, though I don’t know, that Parsi doesn’t take Iranian government money or Iranian government instruction, either.” Let’s employ a thought experiment. Say, I don’t know, Steven Walt or John Mearshimer wrote that about AIPAC. Would Goldberg consider that a judicious statement or a weasel-worded slander?