Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Iran and the Open Secret

A recent report by Iran International and Semafor revealed how Iran, through a group of hired pro-Tehran experts, has infiltrated policy making circles in the United States.

The experts are second generation Iranians living in the West. They managed to reach prestigious positions before joining the “Iran Experts Initiative” (IEI) to promote Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues.

The investigation exposed the Iranian plan and the American – specifically Democratic – leniency with Iran. The experts were the liaison between the US and Iran when the nuclear negotiations kicked off. Their role was to bolster Iran’s image and drown out critical voices in Washington.

I call this all an “open secret” because everyone is aware that the Iranian lobby is real and has been operating in Washington since the Obama years., but no one knew the details or had proof of this.

Today, the investigative report, through thousands of emails, revealed the truth about the IEI and the role of the youth network in misleading the public by adopting the Iranian regime’s position.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, then employee at the Iranian embassy in Berlin, came up with the idea of the think tank in early 2014. He suggested the formation of a group of “distinguished second-generation Iranians who have established affiliations with the leading international think-tanks and academic institutions, mainly in Europe and the US.”

He added that through their political support, Iran could boost its international position.

Khatibzadeh wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, the head of the IPIS think tank in Tehran, about the network. “I attached here for your review only a few of the most significant works some of our friends published,” Khatibzadeh wrote.

“We were in constant contact and worked vigorously around the clock. Some friends performed as resourceful as a media outlet all by themselves,” he added. The truth is they weren’t just a media outlet, but more of an actual Iranian lobby.

Some of the experts denied their involvement in the network, even if their excuses were lame compared to the gravity of the situation, which has snowballed in Washington after the report was published. The work of the lobby is glaring and as clear as day.

The question now is, has the network succeeded? Has the IEI succeeded in deceiving American and European officials? I believe the Democrats, especially those affiliated to Obama, wanted to be deceived.

The best evidence is that some of the members of the IEI worked with the US special envoy on Iran Robert Malley, who is being investigated by Washington for reasons that have yet to be made clear.

Everyone who has followed American media since the Obama years, or visited Washington at the time and spoken with Iranian-American experts would be aware that the Iranian lobby in Washington is real.

That’s not all. Some choose to overlook the lobby and even support it. So, we are confronted with an open secret. We must now examine the details because as they say, “the devil is in the details” and I believe the issue is much greater and more dangerous than this.