Daniel Pipes wants to take down Iranian-American group so he can get a war

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Daniel Pipes as seen in the movie “2016: Obama’s America.” (Screenshot via AP)

The right-wing Middle East Forum has the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) in its sights for one reason: it wants a war on Iran, and NIAC is trying to stop that from happening. Details of the smear campaign against NIAC were revealed in a piece by The American Independent’s Eli Clifton. Clifton reports that the Middle East Forum’s Legal Project is “increasingly the go-to funder” for anti-Muslim activists like Geert Wilders who find themselves in legal trouble. The group is headed by leading Islamophobe and neoconservative Daniel Pipes.

In September, Reuters reported that the Middle East Forum funded Dutch citizen Wilders’ defense when he was charged with “inciting hatred against Muslims,” as Clifton writes. But the revelation that the Middle East Forum funded the legal defense of a writer who smeared the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a new one reported by Clifton.

Here’s what Clifton reported:

In one recent case, the Legal Project “coordinated and financed the defense” of a writer who was fighting a defamation lawsuit filed by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

NIAC, which is based in Washington, DC, advocates non-military strategies towards resolving tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and opposes “broad sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians,” according to the organization’s website. In 2008, NIAC and its director, Trita Parsi, accused Seid Hassan Daioleslam of writing a series of defamatory articles suggesting that Parsi and NIAC were agents of the Iranian government.

On September 13, U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissed the suit on the grounds that NIAC had failed to show evidence of actual malice but noted he wasn’t assessing the accuracy of Daioleslam’s claims.

Through its journal, the Middle East Quarterly, The Middle East Forum had its own connection to Daioleslam’s attacks on NIAC.

Emails that emerged in the discovery phase of the lawsuit show Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and frequent advocate of regime change in Iran, advising Daioleslam on how best to criticize NIAC and Parsi. NIAC provided the emails to The American Independent.

Pipes and his organization set out to destroy NIAC and smear the organization as shills and lobbyists for the Iranian regime (never mind the fact they frequently criticize the regime’s human rights abuses.) The Pipes-led organization’s focus on NIAC is a departure from its usual focus on Islam, since NIAC is a secular organization. But the Middle East Forum’s focus on NIAC does fit into the neoconservative group’s leader’s larger worldview about Iran.

NIAC has been working doggedly to prevent an American attack on Iran and has spoken out against crushing sanctions harming the Iranian citizenry. They have been attacked because NIAC members have met with White House officials.

So Pipes really wants his war on Iran, and NIAC is working day in and day out to prevent that from happening. In February 2010, Pipes authored a National Review piece calling for President Obama to bomb Iran in order to save his presidency. “He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations,” wrote Pipes. “Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity…The time to act is now, or, on Obama’s watch, the world will soon become a much more dangerous place.”

Pipes has also advocated for the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK), the Iranian cult-like group recently taken off the State Department’s terrorist list. The MEK is suspected of working with Israeli intelligence to carry out assassinations of Iranian scientists and has engaged in attacks in the past that have killed Americans. But for Pipes, the MEK is the perfect vehicle to overthrow the Iranian regime. “The argument to maintain the MeK’s terrorist designation is baseless,” Pipes wrote in another National Review piece. “With one simple signature, the Obama administration can help empower Iranians to seize control over their destiny — and perhaps end the mullahs’ mad nuclear dash.” That ignores the fact that the MEK is shunned by many Iranians–including the opposition movement.

And Pipes, amazingly enough, advocated for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to remain in office as Iran’s president because Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric would make a war on Iran more likely–a war that would have catastrophic consequences, lead to the deaths of innocent Iranians and potentially set off a regional conflagration.

The other part of Pipes’ worldview that explains why he wanted to smear NIAC is his statements indicating that he is afraid of people of Middle Eastern-descent organizing in the U.S. against neoconservative goals. He advocates for the racial profiling of Muslims. And the Institute for Policy Studies project Right Web notes that “after a plot to attack Fort Dix, New Jersey was uncovered, the right-wing National Review Online asked Pipes and others what lessons they drew from the events. Pipes responded: ‘Immigrants seeking refuge in the West must be grilled for their attitudes toward our civilization, our religion, and politics.’” Those statements show that Pipes believes immigrants and Muslims–Iranians no doubt included–need to be watched and be intimidated. 

Pipes and his group’s attempt to take down NIAC and smear them as agents of the Iranian government have not worked, but as Clifton’s reporting shows, they’re working overtime towards that goal. For Pipes, taking down NIAC seems to be an important step on the path towards the neoconservative movement’s wish for a war on Iran.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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