Neocon Upstart Attacks Academic Freedom

Smearing those who attempt to fairly represent Iranian Americans


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Neocon Upstart Attacks Academic Freedom
by Beheshteh Farshneshani
11-May-2012
 

I thought it would be a typical Thursday at work last week, but as soon as I arrived to the office, an associate pulled me aside and pointed to a series of defamatory tweets against me and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the organization for which I intern.

The tweets were directed at me by neoconservative upstarts Sohrab Ahmari and Peter Kohanloo in response to comments I tweeted (here and here) regarding an article written by Ahmari demonizing American academics who had recently traveled to Iran.

At the time, I was completely unaware of the author's ideological affiliation and only later was it revealed to me that Ahmari is a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a neocon think tank in London. In a recent article, MJ Rosenberg provides a wonderful exposé revealing the agendas of Ahmari and some of his associates:

"Ahmari, the neocons' favorite Iranian, is very much in the mold of the neocons' favorite Iraqi. During the run-up to the 2003 invasion Ahmed Chalabi was their darling because, as an Iraqi émigré, he was thought to have unique credibility. Neocons loved hearing an Iraqi say that invading Iraq would not only prove successful but would be welcomed by his fellow Iraqis. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a fake, whose agenda was almost entirely personal. The war he and his friends promoted was an infamous catastrophe. And, to put it mildly, the invasion he told us that Iraqis would welcome was not welcomed."

To neoconservatives' disappointment, Iranian Americans, including myself, are unlikely to be familiar with the names of Ahmari or Kohanloo, let alone give those who argue for war on their motherland any credibility. As Rosenberg correctly observers, "Neither of these spokesmen [Ahmari and Kohanloo] have a following, either among Iranian Americans or Iranians, a fact that probably makes them deeply resentful of the Iranian-American organization that does, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)."

It is no wonder Ahmari was so quick to take my personal tweets and turn them into a diatribe against NIAC. I simply assumed he was either an angry neo-royalist or an amateur journalist fixed on very superficial notions of liberty which, as an Iranian American, I felt compelled to confront. Therefore my comments were and proudly remain to be a reflection of my own views, not NIAC's or anyone else.

In his article, Ahmari condemns three American professors, stating that "all three should be ashamed" for participating in a conference on the Occupy Wall Street movement held at Tehran University in Iran. "The mere presence of intellectuals from the free world," Ahmari says "allows tyrants to burnish their otherwise stained reputations and overcome their sense of isolation."

Arguments of this nature which seek to limit the scope of academic freedom are very familiar to me. As a graduate student at Columbia University, I recall similar arguments made by various conservative groups against the University's decision to invite Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak at a public forum in 2007. I was appalled by these arguments, not because I supported what President Ahmadinejad had to say, but because I did not think merely listening to ideas we deplore translated to our endorsement of those ideas. Similarly, I do not condemn these professors for maximizing on the academic freedom granted to them in this country, which in fact sets America's democracy apart from Iran's authoritative theocracy. Unlike Ahmari, I have faith in the strength of the American democratic resolve to resist even the most warped ideas.

Among the professors that partook in the conference was Dr. Heather Gautney, an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, and steadfast supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who upon returning from the conference, published a piece on CNN.com recounting her experience in Iran.

In her piece, Dr. Gautney breaks many of the anti-American stereotypes attributed to Iranians and conveys a nuanced account of her experience in Iran. She portrays academics and students at Tehran University in a pro-American light with "desires to know America, study in its universities, and experience its unique culture."

In reproaching her article, Ahmari claims, "Prof. Gautney betrayed not the slightest suspicion that the rosy picture of Iran she absorbed may have been stage-managed by her regime handlers." In fact, in reflecting on whether to accept the invitation from Tehran University, Dr. Gautney wrote she was, "naturally filled with suspicion" but with encouragement from her friends and academic colleagues, she decided to accept the invitation.

Dr. Gautney also acknowledged that the short 100 hours she spent in Tehran, did not foster enough understanding to give her agency into deeper issues; such as the election fraud, the repression and the lack of freedom imposed by the Iranian regime. But Ahmari ignores this and continues with absurd reductionism to assert that "mere naivete cannot account for how these gruesome realities eluded professors Gautney, Hammond, and Vitae, or how they allowed themselves and their institutions to be co-opted by a theocratic regimes PR campaign."

Ahmari gives much credit to the Islamic Republic's power of persuasion and propaganda and deliberately ignores the basic reasoning power and liberties that America's academics and citizens have to accept or reject the knowledge that they consume. If it were left to Ahmari, he would extend the "No Contact Policy" of the State Department that bars U.S. diplomats from communicating with their Iranian counterparts to the academic arena.

Three decades of growing strife in U.S.-Iran relations is a testament that our current silent treatment has failed as a tool of statecraft, yet Ahmari wishes to contaminate our academic institutions with similar dubious limitations that would restrict the free flow of information and make vigorous debate and exchange of ideas impossible. His imperious remarks are a reminder that our academic institutions are under grave threat from neoconservative forces that wish to impose political constraints on freedom of academic inquiry. Mindful of Ahmari's desire to limit academic freedom, I don't see why he left Iran in the first place; for that is where such repressive measures are welcomed, yet Ahmari is here, promoting them in America.

Constrained by the White House's resolve to find a diplomatic solution, the neocons have resorted to using whatever coercive means available to intimidate and discourage any level of engagement, including greater academic exchange, between Iran and the U.S. for fear that such exchanges will foster a more human perspective of Iranians, which is exactly what Dr. Gautney does at the end of her article: "After we said goodbye to our new friends in Iran, Glenn [her husband] said, 'We can't go to war with this country. We just can't.'"

It is precisely this message the neocons fear will be conveyed to the American public and threaten the potent political climate conducive to their war-driven agenda, and replace it with a nuanced understanding that just might pave the path for a peaceful resolution.

Dr. Gautney's message is clear -- it is one of peace and those who are displeased with it are not of the same view as those peace-loving Iranians, film director Asghar Farhadi refers to in his victory speech at the Oscars.

In a recent Zogby poll views of Iranians useful to the neoconservative cause, like Ahmari and Kohanloo, placed well outside the fringes of mainstream Iranian-American thinking. To the neocons' disappointment, the polls showed that the majority of Iranian Americans prefer to see a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, while only 3% of Iranians would like to see military action taken against Iran. Ahmari is clearly part of these three-percenters who desire attacking Iran, as he himself admits in an issue of Commentary:

"The likelihood of an all-out Western land invasion aimed at toppling the mullahs is low. But a limited military intervention aimed at destroying their nuclear facilities may nevertheless precipitate regime collapse. Iran's nuclear sites are spread out over a wide geographic area; an intervention aimed at disabling them must be wider in scope than the Israeli strikes that destroyed Iraq's facilities in 1981 and Syria's in 2007. A successful strike will require destroying much of the country's national defense and security architecture. Having invested so much prestige, moreover, in one signature national project -- the nuclear program -- the regime stands to lose what little legitimacy it has left should a week-long airstrike rubble its nuclear sites."

Later in a podcast, Ahmari's lackey, Peter Kohanloo, was asked how he, as an Iranian American, can support a war that will hurt Iranians. Kohanloo responded: "I would say the Iranian American community is not in any position to initiate or prevent a war, that is up to the president and the U.S. government."

It is evident that the ultimate objective here is to silence the voice of Iranian Americans and smear those who attempt to fairly represent them. In this regard, Ahmari and Kohanloo serve as useful tools in promoting the neoconservative war agenda against Iran. As 'native informants', they shamelessly exploit serious issues of human rights as a lubricant to promoting their employers' broader agenda.

In the markets of opinions, ethnic heritage can easily be conflated with expertise, and it is not surprising that these Iranian American outliers have chosen to sell their heritage to causes unpopular to the community they purport to represent. By employing these native outliers as 'analysts,' the neocons present the illusion of credibility in order to diffuse representative voices and slowly inject divisive war hawk jargon into the debate.

Be it the voice of Iranian Americans, the freedom of academics, or the decision of diplomats, neoconservatives will attempt to set fire to any bridge that attempts to mend the people of Iran and America. American academia is only the latest victim of this wicked witch hunt.

First published in HuffingtonPost.com.

AUTHOR
Beheshteh Farshneshani holds a BA in Government & Politics from the University of Maryland and an MFA in Film Writing from Columbia University. Her MFA thesis is a feature length screenplay of the 1953 Iranian coup, in which the American CIA covertly overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. She has made several films, both in Iran and in the United States, that are primarily focused on social and political issues facing Iran and Iranian society. She is presently wrapping her thesis to be optioned to film studios for production and doing research as an associate at the National Iranian American Council.


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iraj khan

There's

by iraj khan on

an excellent video related to what Beheshteh is discussing here.

In this video we see how these attacks are organized and how Israel Lobby in U.S is involved in it.

http://iranian.com/main/blog/first-amendment/israel-lobby


anglophile

My dear fellow Mr Ma'moor

by anglophile on

You make perfect sense! Is your Omega the same as the one worn by my part-time colleague Mr Bond, James Bond?


anglophile

Thank you HG jaan for confirming my point

by anglophile on

Ahmadi is not a rational entity. But if you think a little obliquely (as I often do - lol) there is a faction within the IRI who actively seek a military confronatation with the West.  You can't expect rationality from those who like Ahmadi are preparing themselves for the reappearance of the promised Mahdi, can you?


hamsade ghadimi

sorry anglo, that scenario

by hamsade ghadimi on

sorry anglo, that scenario does not fit into a rational model. since pro-war group is a subset of anti-iri, then ahmadi has to be pro-regime and anti-iri at the same time.  he's just a sheep in a wolf suit.


مآمور

Mr well-dressed

by مآمور on

u may want to double check that zone! I m affard, u missed a few people!!

maybe him.....حجتیه مهدویه.

I wear an Omega watch


anglophile

Thank you HG jaan. Can your Venn diagrams also show:

by anglophile on

 

if there can exist a zone where its members are pro-war, pro-regime and pro-niac? In my estimation this zone has only one member: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

LOL


hamsade ghadimi

the answer to both

by hamsade ghadimi on

the answer to both anglophile's and moosir's questions can be illustrated easily with a set of venn diagrams.  with that we can also answer why none of iri supporters are anti-niac; and why anti-war proponents, who are not pro-iri, are anti-niac.


anglophile

Why are so many regime apologists pro-niac?

by anglophile on

 

just sayin'...

 

LOL


MOOSIRvaPIAZ

Why are so many iran war suporters anti-niac?

by MOOSIRvaPIAZ on

just sayin'...


مآمور

Kiss,,,,,Kiss,,,,Kiss,,,,

by مآمور on

a goodbye kiss!! back to where u came from

from me to u

www.youtube.com/watch?v=gatYuXwNOdY

 

I wear an Omega watch


iraj khan

According to

by iraj khan on

NIAC's website, they are always looking for bright Iranian Americans to join as interns as Behesheth has done so.

"NIAC seeks dynamic undergraduate/graduate students and recent graduates, preferably in international relations, political science, government, or public policy. Excellent written and spoken communication skills, a highly organized approach to work, and proficiency in the use of computers are essential. Additionally, as the situation in Iran following the 2009 presidential election remains uncertain, NIAC interns with a working knowledge of Farsi/Persian may translate news and information coming out of Iran for our blog, www.niacInsight.com, which has been one of the foremost sources of information on the unfolding events in Iran."

http://www.niacouncil.org/site/PageServer?pagename=About_career_internship_opportunities


mousa67

happy 89th birthday mr kissinger.

by mousa67 on

and i dedicate this blog to you sir on your birthday. hopefully it'd make you laugh as loud as it made me :) 

i remember your famous words  to haj khhomeini:

"haji, poetry is your undeniable right. the rest, the nuclear thing,  leave it to us you stoopid"


Dr. Mohandes

Imagine the pain afterwards.

by Dr. Mohandes on

Mr. Dr. parsi and his team deserve some sympathy and i really do feel their pain...more specifically the wrist pain cause by forging all those extra few hundred signatures:) okay okay sorry. the extra 2000 something signatures.

sitting there hours and hours and taking turn signing the petition, says a lot about them and how devoted they are to the mission. I just hope that they did not burden the healthcare system with their self-imposed pain.

other than that more power to them (as one of their dedicated followers our own faramarz always says) heee heee.


Artificial Intelligence

Dear Iraj Cha-Khan

by Artificial Intelligence on

Wow that is amazing! NIAC only expected 5000 signatures and they got 7069! Wow! NIAC expected only 5000 signatures?

Are you a NIAC insider dear shotor jan? 

I'm just sayin. 

 


مآمور

حافظ عزیز

مآمور


 من بعد از این به بعد هر دفعه بلاگ شما را ببینم کامنت نخو اهم کرد مگر حرفی درباره موضوع داشته باشم.
ولی اینکه در بلاگ آقای پارسی و همکاران سربازان سایبری ایران و اسرايیل با هم درگیر شوند و بقولی لات بازی در آورند!! از هر مسابقه فوتبالی که میلیونها آن را تماشا کنند قانونی تر است! تازه صواب هم دارد

I wear an Omega watch


AMIR1973

Why are many NIACis also IRI supporters & vice versa?

by AMIR1973 on

Just sayin'...


مآمور

I got a better idea

by مآمور on

looking for fun? why dont u stop by toys&us and pick up the latest jet fighter barbie.  It cant be painted by your flag of choice! in your case checkered pink!!

owning already enough tanks and guns and adding this latest super jet fighters of course with your flag on it, u will have no problem to change regime in Tehran in no time!!

I wear an Omega watch


iraj khan

7069 signatures were collected and sent to Google

by iraj khan on

When National Iranian American Council (NIAC) speaks

many listen and agree with what they say and do.

NIAC asked Iranian Americans to sign their names on an open letter to Google’s CEO Larry Page to call on Google to stop playing name games with the Persian Gulf and to use the correct name.

NIAC expected 5000 signatures to be collected and be sent to Google's boss, but more than 7069 people signed the letter.

http://www.niacinsight.com/2012/05/07/tell-google-stop-playing-persian-gulf-name-games/#action 

Don't get mad at NIAC! Get up and collect 1000, 100 or even 10 signatures to be sent Google.

This great achievement has been possible by the dedicated NIAC members and interns such as Beheshteh.

Thank you.


fanoos

What is it with some of the know-it-all Iranians to

by fanoos on

constrain and channel others to their way of living, loving, thinking, following, listening, reading, voting, worshiping, dressing, drinking, commenting, etc. etc.

You should follow NIAC because I say so.

You should read Hafez because I say so.

You should wear pantyhose because I say so.

You should be respectful of Imam Reza's Shrine because I say so.

You should leave no more than 2 comments per blog because I say so.

You should color your hair blond because I say so.

You should have implants because I say so.

The list goes on and on and on.

How about some freedom of thoughts and actions and life?

BTW, Hamsade Ghadimi, I agree w/ u! The way the site makes money is by counting the # of lines per blog/comments/re-comments/re-re-comments...!


Dr. Mohandes

When all else fails!

by Dr. Mohandes on

 and when you do not see what you want to see, resort to "jer zani" and moving the goal post. absolutely clever. 

Hafez for the beginners:

wow. that was very hafezishly classic of you! Very very democratic. Yeah right, When they, the comments start to get on your nerves and as they say here in iran start to Khat khati your nerve all of a sudden you would get the urge to go right back to the beginning and change all the rules ha?  So just because we will see more comments againts the author's position they qualify as being "unrelated" to the blog?? that is big time bias in disguise. And it is so bemusing that you would charactrize this as some school yard fight that needs to be taken elsewhere. Like HG Said, lady. you can not take the ateesh...please check into the living room. This "aash" is gonna melt the top of your mouth, for real!

So what that there are people who would want to conduct a personal conversation as you put it? so what that some want to express their opposition towards this whole concept? Is it not one of author's objective to let people say what they want and refrain from "censoring" them?


hamsade ghadimi

common sense

by hamsade ghadimi on

hafez jan, do you work for a living?  do you know how an enterprise like i.com makes profit (or breaks even)?  it's the amount of traffic on this site that determines the advertisement rate and demand for this site (i.e., more clicks/comments = more $).

by the way, in my book of courtesy, it allows for unlimited number of comments as long as it's relevant to the topic and polite.  otherwise it's 1-3 for comments that are insulting or irrelevant.  sorry to spring this comment on you after your second comment.  cheers.


bushtheliberator

YourLeastInformedAboutIranVisitor's Path to your liberation

by bushtheliberator on

  The disgusting antics of Western Lefties,  and the embarrassment of being "represented " by NIAC's accommodationists demonstrates the need for another node of resistance that brings the knife to the IRI's throat.

We'd all like to be riding on that first truck to enter liberated Tehran,but you'll never make it without Turbans&Beards in your vanguard.The Green's biggest failure came because their default clerical leadership is Married to the Mob.Even if you hate the "lizard eaters" faith, you should learn to love the Raghead who will straight up condemn the Theocracy as a slander against Islam.Any resistance movement must accept that this struggle WITHIN Islam is the critical battlefield.

Only the clerics have the arrows sharp enough to kill the Beast.


Hafez for Beginners

common courtesy

by Hafez for Beginners on

Common Courtesy: would say that no more than 2 comments per person per Blog is right - especially posts by commentators who are having a personal conversation among themselves, unrelated to the Blog. It just seems rude to be hogging the original Blog - hijacking it to have some school yard fight of your own? This isn't your facebook wall - this is the Blog post of another author. Either come and comment about it, or if 2 or 3 of you want to carry out your own personal fist fights, remember to be gracious please - and take it elsewhere.

Said Amini: if you read this - is there any way this website could limit commentary on a Blog per person - to say just 2? That way, the streams of internal fights - that usually are unrelated to the original blog, and in fact often hijacking it, would stop.

Sheesh!


mousa67

i like you even more when you get serious :)

by mousa67 on

now for the old time's sake,  can you just do this for me once more my sweetie pie of a london residing cyber bassiji?

pppppppppppffffffffffffffttttttttttttt.

check will be in the post.


مآمور

now i am not responding to you on this blog any longer

by مآمور on

u r so naive that u cant even stick to your own statement!!

I wear an Omega watch


hamsade ghadimi

it sounds like you've

by hamsade ghadimi on

it sounds like you've criticized some folks and those folks are getting back at you.  if you can't take the heat,.... 

i'm all for regime change in iran beheshteh khanoom, are you? i've followed the niac's prolific agenda on being against neocons, aipac, israeli officials, perceived jewish lobbyists and then when it comes to dealing with iri, niac has backdoor dealings with iri officials and their supporters go to the hamayesh bozorg to declare their undying love for velayat faghih.  that's what i think of the national iranian american (guardian) council.  btw, your silence to the criticism is deafening. are all critics of nia(g)c on this thread neocons?

hossein hosseini, your statement of "start your organization" if you don't like niac is old.  in fact, i wrote a blog on it.  niacis love to make that statement but whenever someone opposes the regime or some people organize against the regime, they love to pull them apart and try to destroy them.  "start your organization" is a bunch of baloney.  there are many organizations that oppose the regime and niac is frankly not one of them.


mousa67

.

by mousa67 on

.


mousa67

intelligent as ahmadinejad's cyber "intelligence service"

by mousa67 on

ahmadinejad's mamoor jooon, your secret is safe with me my dear fluff ball of a cyber bassiji. so dont try too hard as it'll give you pancreatic cancer my honey pot. but your support for niac was rather interesting, fun and telling :)

now say it loud: long live londonistan ya habibi. then roll on your back and go pppppfffffffffffffffffftttttttttt.     

 LOL 


MM

hossein.hosseini - you said it, friend

by MM on

However, you may consider that some Iranians are so confrontational that they would have difficulty forming anything resembling a respected organization.  But, they are very skilled in pissing contests (their way is bad) and spitting contests (my way is good).  Funny that some even go as far as comparing NIAC to a bitch, but mind you that the same type of a confrontational person will also come out of a NV whore-house completely dissatisfied telling everyone that the bitch did not cooperate (jendeh-ash bezaar nabood!). 

;-)


مآمور

funny, but no intelligent

by مآمور on

A comment posted at 8.38 AM Pacific time gets a reply exactly one hour after-it is sunday did sleep in Mr Mousa? 

There r 8 hours difference between PDT and London!!

let me make a bit easier for u, it is 3.45 AM here!! in London while it is 7.45 PM last day in PDT time zone. and I keep writing!!!!

Only if that yaboo, the PM of some body else's land, was as smart as u r, he would have had an account here too!!

I wear an Omega watch