Haleh Esfandiari and National Endowment for Democracy

I know speaking against Haleh Esfandiari is like suicide these days. After all, with the help of her mostly American and Iranian neoliberal allies (especially Washington Post’s Robin Wright whose love for Esfandiari, for some reason, surpasses that of Esfandiari’s own daughter), has become a symbolic victim of the ‘most repressive regime on the planet.’

But let’s be honest for a moment. If an American scholar served , in Tehran, as the head of a prominent think-tank, very close to the heart of the Iranian policy making machine, and started travelling back and forth to the U.S. and tried to establish contacts and with dissident Americans (let’s say the leftists) and invited them to Tehran to speak for highest Iranian policy making, top officers of the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence officers, how would the U.S., even the most liberal one like Jimmy Carter, would treat him or her?

On top of that, Haleh Esfandiari was the first Iranian fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1995, as the first group of NED fellows. (She was followed by Hossein Bashirieh, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Siamak Namazi, Ali Afshari and Manouchehr Mohammadi ever since.)

And we all know about NED’s roles and functions in countries where the U.S. wants to bring about its favorite governments such as in Venezuella and the rest. Some even suggest that the links between the CIA and NED are undeniable. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” says Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED in 1991. (Read the entire Le Monde Diplomatique’s article on the links between NED and the CIA. )

Given what we know about NED today, I believe, anyone in any country who has had any ties with NED and its affiliate organisations (International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, American Center for International Labor Solidarity and Center for International Private Enterprise) deserves to be charged and fairly and justly prosecuted.

I emphasize on the process to be just and fair because I think Iran has sometimes ignored some of its own laws when it comes to such cases. For example, withholding Esfandiari’s passport and therefore keeping her in Iran without prosecuting her was totally wrong and illegal.

But more or less the rest of her case was handled fairly and legally, given the laws in Iran, that like like in many countries post 9/11, give the right to the judge to extend the time a detainee can be held without charges. But Esfandiari had a lawyer, has contacts with her mother and, at it appears, was treated well in detention.

Now perhaps Danny Postel would like to write another piece for openDemocracy and compare me this time with Adolf Hitler. I wonder what he and other Christopher Hitchens clones think about the NED.

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