Iran Controversy at State Department

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 07:29 PM

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A controversial Iranian-American, Goli Ameri-Yazdi, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, to answer questions about her role in raising funds for a lobbying group whose stated goal is to oppose U.S. trade sanctions on Iran and to promote a resumption of diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Both goals run directly counter to current Bush administration policy, which is aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran to get Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and to cut off support for insurgent groups in Iraq.

She will also face questions about her participation in an international telecommunications conference held in Isfahan, Iran, in August 2003.

The FBI has been investigating the legality of this and other high-tech conferences in Iran as possible trade embargo violations, Newsmax has learned.

Ameri-Yazdi ran a well-funded challenger’s campaign in 2004 against Democratic incumbent Rep. David Wu in Oregon’s 1st congressional district, but was beaten by a 16-point margin.

Since then, she has been appointed as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, and to a U.N. human rights forum.

She has been nominated to become assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, her first government job with line authority.

If confirmed, she will coordinate the State Department’s cultural exchange and educational programs, including Fulbright scholarships, and will supervise ongoing education efforts in Iraq.

She also could play a role in bringing Iranian scholars to the United States under existing but little used State Department programs.

But Iranian-American activists in Los Angeles tell Newsmax that they are “disappointed” with her nomination for a top State Department job.

“Goli Ameri has a very poor record when it comes to human rights, religious freedom, and women's rights issues,” said Pooya Dayanim, spokesman for Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee.

Dayanim noted that as a candidate for Congress in 2004, Ameri-Yazdi “received money from individuals with suspicious ties and known sympathies for the Iranian regime. This is cronyism at its worst.”

According to Hassan Daioleslam, an aide to former Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Barzagan, who now lives in the United States, Ameri-Yazdi is being helped by a pro-regime “lobby” in the United States.

"Many contributors to Goli Ameri's political campaign [in Oregon] were clearly part of an Iranian regime "lobby" in the United States, who hoped their contributions would influence United States policy toward Iran,” Daioleslam told Newsmax.

"Until U.S. law enforcement conducts a serious investigation of this lobby, the appointment of someone such as Goli Ameri would seem unwise,” he said.

In May 2007, Ameri-Yazdi co-authored a letter to wealthy Iranian-Americans, calling for contributions to a new organization whose stated goals included lobbying the federal government to lift “unreasonable OFAC restrictions” on trade with Iran.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulates U.S. trade with state sponsors of terrorism and is in charge of enforcing the U.S. trade embargo on Iran.

Known at the time as the “New York/Napa Task Force,” Ameri-Yazdi’s group planned to raise $3.5 million to establish a massive lobbying and civic action campaign aimed at changing U.S. policies toward Iran and promoting issues of questionable concern to most Iranian-Americans, such as banning the fingerprinting of Iranian government officials when they come to the United States.

Unlike U.S.-based Iranian opposition groups, the task force was not focused on bringing public awareness to the Tehran regime’s abysmal violations of human rights.

Instead, a prospectus circulated by the group stated that it would lobby the U.S. government “to begin direct dialogue with Iran, moving toward the resumption of diplomatic relations.”

The prospectus also stated the group’s members opposed any U.S. efforts to overthrow the Tehran regime, and sought instead to promote U.S.-Iranian business ventures.

Some of Ameri-Yazdi’s biggest supporters as a congressional candidate have lobbied for an end to U.S. sanctions on Iran or have businesses that trade with Iran through third countries.

Two of her campaign contributors, Dr. Akbar Ghahary and Hoosang Amirahmadi, even ran as candidates for president of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s.

Ameri-Yazdi’s nomination has Iranian-American Republicans scratching their heads, since most of her political friends are Democrats.

In June 2002, Ameri-Yazdi appeared at a John Kerry fund-raiser at the Ritz Carlton hotel at Laguna Niguel, Calif., that was sponsored by pro-regime lobbyist, Housang Amirahmadi, and top Democratic party fund-raiser, Hassan Nemazee.

Nemazee hosted a dinner for Hillary Clinton last March that brought in more than $500,000 for her presidential campaign, The Associated Press has reported.

He raised another $500,000 for John Kerry’s failed presidential bid in 2004, and has donated big bucks to Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund and other Democratic causes.

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