Conference on Iran to feature Tehran apologist

Apr 22, 2011 – 10:53 AM ET | Last Updated: Apr 21, 2011 9:59 AM ET

By Kenneth R. Timmerman and Sayeh Hassan

With the Middle East falling apart at the seams and Iran’s dictators poised to take advantage of the chaos, now is a good time to reassess Canadian policy toward Tehran.

Opportunities abound. U.S. President Barack Obama seems to be reassessing his earlier outreach to Tehran’s dictators, and in the traditional New Year’s greetings to the Iranian people recently he named dissidents and focused on the Iranian regime’s wretched human rights record.

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.

Parsi has consistently defended the regime against its critics, and regularly claims that the U.S. and Iran share interests in Afghanistan, for example, where the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been training the Taliban and providing them with arms and explosives to kill Americans and Canadians.

The May 5 conference in question has several sponsors, amongst them the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), as well as the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies (CASIS), which receives government funding. All of these organizations should be aware of the Iranian regime’s suppressive policies and hate-fuelled, war-mongering discourse toward Israel and the West. Given the leadership role the Canadian government has taken in condemning Tehran’s human rights violations, pushing for smart sanctions and showing support for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, it is therefore surprising that the Ministry of National Defence and CSIS, two entities responsible for the safety and security of Canadians, did not perform due diligence on Trita, the founder of the Teheran-friendly NIAC.

We’ve been down this road before. In truth, we already have seen attempts by the Tehran regime to infiltrate Canadian entities and to influence government policies. In October 2010 Akbar Manoussi, an Iranian-Canadian, and at the time a key figure in the Canadian Green Party, was involved in organizing a “peace conference” that included panelists such as Davood Ameri, director general of the Iran-based “Islamic World Peace Forum.” The website of this dubious organization features anti-Semitic cartoons, with images like Israeli soldiers murdering babies and a hook-nosed Jew wearing a top hat full of tiny skulls. Maclean’s magazine says Manoussi has identified himself as ““director general” of the “Iranian Cultural Centre” in Ottawa, which is run out of the Iranian embassy.”

The Canadian government reacted promptly and appropriately to the media’s revelation that the RCMP [Community Outreach Program] was involved in the promotion of this conference. Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews hastily stepped in and forced them to withdraw. Then in January, the Islamic Republic of Iran embassy and pro-Tehran lobbyists flexed their muscles, forcing the National Archives to cancel a showing of the film Iranium because of physical threats made against the organizers. The Canadian Government again reacted quickly and rescheduled the event, but the Iranian regime had made its point.

In January of this year CSIS chief Richard Fadden released a report revealing the concerns of the security services with foreign attempts to influence Canadian policy and politicians. The report also warned of efforts by hostile powers to target their own dissidents on Canadian soil. The May 5 conference offers an opportunity to put teeth into that statement.

We call on the Canadian Government and CSIS to be consistent: either they should withdraw their support from this May conference, or they should demand that the organizers disinvite the regime apologist, Trita Parsi. Canadian tax dollars should not be used to pay for a conference that features an individual who promotes an accommodationist line toward Tehran. Such policies not only threaten the security of Iranians, but of Canadians as well.


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