(Persia Digest) - D.C.’s newest foreign policy think tank, funded by libertarian Charles Koch and left-wing George Soros, was co-founded by a nonprofit leader who was integral to the passage of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.
Jerry Dunleavy writes in The Washington Examiner that Trita Parsi and the group's other four co-founders, Andrew Bacevich, Stephen Wertheim, Eli Clifton, and Suzanne DiMaggio, are all pro-Iran deal advocates, as well as harsh critics of U.S. foreign policy and of Israel.
Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, was a prominent and instrumental go-between for the governments of Iran and the U.S. during the nuclear deal negotiations.
The U.S. entered the controversial nuclear deal with the Iranian regime under the Obama administration in 2015, and President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, calling it “defective at its core.”
Proponents of the deal pointed to the limitations that it put on Iranian uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Opponents of the agreement said that it gave billions to the Iranian regime without addressing problems such as Iran’s support for international terrorism.
Parsi wrote in 2017 that he was consulted by the U.S. government during the Iran deal negotiations while in close communication with the Iranian regime, too.
“It wasn’t unusual for me to attend a briefing at the White House a few days before a round of negotiations and then have a two-hour conversation with the Iranian foreign minister in his private hotel room in the midst of negotiations a few days later,” Parsi said, referring to Javad Zarif.
The new Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, funded with $500,000 each from the libertarian and left-wing billionaires, says it is named for President John Quincy Adams, who said that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”
The new think tank was announced earlier this week in an op-ed which said the new group “is one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history” and that Koch and Soros believe “the United States must end its ‘forever war’ and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.”
Koch has given millions to right-leaning causes through the Charles Koch Institute, which also advocates a noninterventionist foreign policy. Soros, a strident critic of U.S. foreign policy, has given billions to left-wing causes around the world through his Open Society Foundations.
Soros also helped bankroll pro-Iran deal lobbying efforts, donating tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to promote the agreement. Soros' organizations donated to the Ploughshares Fund, which Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes credited as part of the "echo chamber" the administration created to convince Congress and the press to back the deal. Ploughshares has also funded Parsi's nonprofit organization.
Zarif, one of the most influential advocates for the Iran deal, has also reportedly spoken about his long-time relationship working with some Soros groups. Parsi slammed “Trump's sabotage of the Iran deal” earlier this year and has praised Zarif’s political acumen, painting him as a moderate alternative to extremists within the Iranian regime.
Parsi has long been dogged by claims that he and NIAC are working on behalf of Iran, accusations which he has denied. Parsi and NIAC filed a libel lawsuit, later thrown out by a federal judge, against writer Seid Hassan Daioleslam over his claims that Parsi and NIAC were agents of the Iranian regime.
Parsi's co-founders also have ties to the controversial agreement.
Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and professor at Boston University, was a signatory to a 2016 report prepared by Parsi’s group, which advocated for the Iran deal as a way to resolve tensions with Iran and stabilize the Middle East.
Stephen Wertheim, a professor at Columbia University, believes the Iran nuclear deal was "a major diplomatic achievement" and critiqued "neoconservative" groups who "trashed" the agreement.
Eli Clifton, a contributing editor at the left-wing foreign policy website Lobe Log and a fellow at liberal magazine The Nation, was harshly critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, and suggested last year that Trump withdrew at the behest of three wealthy Jewish donors, Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer.
Clifton has come under criticism from conservatives for his work appearing on the pro-Palestinian Electronic Intifada website, although the site said that Clifton had not submitted articles to them. Since then, Clifton has approvingly shared links to the Electronic Intifada’s promotion of Al-Jazeera’s controversial anti-Israel documentary The Lobby.
Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a foreign policy adviser for Vermont senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. DiMaggio directed New America’s U.S.-Iran Initiative, which published articles in favor of the Iran deal.
DiMaggio was a featured speaker at a pro-Iran deal town hall put on by Sanders in May 2018, along with Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione.
And DiMaggio recently defended Iran’s decision to breach the limits on nuclear fuel placed on it by the Iran deal.
“If you keep poking a bear, eventually it is going to hit back,” DiMaggio tweeted. “The nuclear deal was so thorough that it left Tehran with practically no bargaining chips if talks were to begin again. This move is a first step in creating leverage.”
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