GROVER NORQUIST AND THE IRAN LOBBY: CLARE LOPEZ AND DAVID REABOI
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released this week shows that Iran has made considerable progress in its nuclear weapons program. This alarming move toward a deliverable nuclear capability also demonstrates the dangerous consequences of the efforts-from 2007 through at least 2010-by a group of Washington anti-Israel activists and lobbyists who went to bat for the Islamic Republic through an organization known as the Campaign for a New American Policy for Iran (CNAPI).
This report is about the ways that Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) supported CNAPI activities, through support for a second organization, the American Conservative Defense Alliance (ACDA), a founder and leader of the CNAPI campaign. The policies for which CNAPI lobbied became the do-nothing Iranian policies of the Obama campaign in 2008 and of the Obama administration to the present day: no support for the Iranian Green movement and Iranian democracy activists, few or no economic sanctions, and no military option. And advocacy for unconditional negotiations, as Obama had advocated during the 2008 campaign.
The report first describes all the connections among Norquist’s ATR, and the lobbying groups ACDA and CNAPI — and then why those connections created dangerous consequences for national security.
More than just a founding member, ACDA actually hosted the November 2007 formation meeting of about 30 largely left-wing and Islamist organizations (including the Council on American Islamic Relations – CAIR) to form CNAPI, as reported on June 10 2008 in the New York Sun and the Global Muslim Brotherhood Report.
And where did they host it? According to the Sun, “at the headquarters of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington.”
But this support by Norquist’s ATR for ACDA and CNAPI was immediately obfuscated in the New York Sun article by statements from leaders of both groups. The Sun wrote of ATR that “A spokesman for that group said it was not involved in the Iran issue,” and of the ACDA that “The president of the American Conservative Defense Alliance, Michael Ostrolenk, said his group has office space in the building and borrowed the conference room for the session.”
ACDA did indeed have office space in the building. As the ACDA archived website shows, from 2008 through 2009 ACDA’s address was in the identical office suite – Suite 200 at 1920 L St., Suite 200, Washington DC – as Americans for Tax Reform, as the ATR archived website from the same time shows.
And when ATR moved to a new address (722 12th ST NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20005), ACDA had office space in that building as well, yet again in the same office suite – Suite 400 – as ATR, as seen in this June 2010 archived ACDA webpage (722 12 St., NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20005). Just scroll down to the bottom of the webpages to see the addresses.
However, ACDA had been based at ATR’s offices months earlier than the November 2007 CNAPI meeting reported by the New York Sun. We know this due to the recent public release of emails exposed as evidence from an ongoing 2009 libel lawsuit (595 F.Supp.2d 99 (2009), Trita PARSI and National Iranian American Council, Plaintiffs, v. Seid Hassan Daioleslam, Defendant). An email dated June 14, 2007 from Michael Ostrolenk, ACDA’s Co-founder/Director, to Babak Talebi and Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) among others, invited them all to a meeting at “our office,” using the ATR’s Suite 200 address in his email signature.
There is also evidence that ACDA hosted at least one other meeting on January 21, 2009, while they were still based in the ATR Suite 200 at the L Street address. As exposed in the “Meeting Minutes” from the Parsi v. Diaoleslam evidence, ACDA hosted a meeting for the full CNAPI group. The minutes state that this meeting included a group decision, among “legislative goals for the 111th Congress,” to “End the democracy fund as we know it.”
From a financial perspective, ATR’s hosting meetings and apparently providing office space ( in not one but two different offices) was a kind of “material support” — a thing of value. But some people might find providing office space, as ATR did for ACDA, and hosting meetings, as ATR did for CNAPI, to be insignificant connections, because Norquist never publicly joined the CNAPI group. Not only did Norquist never come out publicly himself as a CNAPI signer, even NIAC director Trita Parsi noted in an April 24, 2008 email that Norquist had not publicly “signed on” to the CNAPI effort.
But Parsi did emphasize that Norquist “offered his support,” stating:
An example of this outreach was demonstrated when Grover Norquist offered his support but did not sign‐on. He exemplifies not just a powerful voice in the Republican Party, but also an important figure that can provide transpartisan legitimacy to our efforts. I think it is critical that we do whatever can be done to get him to sign on, especially since his full involvement would give our efforts a tremendous credibility boost.”
Some may find it merely coincidental that Norquist was providing office space (twice) to ACDA at ATR, and also hosting CNAPI meetings at ATR, and also was identified in an email as a supporter by CNAPI leader and NIAC lobbyist Trita Parsi. Perhaps really to prove Norquist’s involvement in ACDA’s partnership with CNAPI, we would need to show that he held positions of authority within ACDA — as an officer or director, for example. And Grover Norquist was never an officer or a director of ACDA.
But his wife, Samah Norquist, was both.
According to the now-archived ACDA websites, from 2008 – 2010, Samah Norquist was an ACDA Director and also an ACDA Officer, as Secretary on the Board of Directors. According to emails released as evidence from the Parsi v. Diaoleslam lawsuit, she was also cc’ed on CNAPI and Iran-related lobbying emails starting in 2007.
Therefore, given this well-documented evidence, a reasonable conclusion suggests that Grover Norquist’s ATR — with his extensive political connections and influence — had strong connections to ACDA and CNAPI, the Campaign for a New American Policy for Iran, through both his wife’s formal position in the governance of ACDA, and through ATR’s provision for over three years, from 2007 through 2010, of office and meeting space.
So why does this matter?
These strong connections matter because the ACDA and CNAPI did apparently influence representatives in the House and Senate to halt any limitations put on Iran. The emails and meeting minutes of the CNAPI group offer an unusually detailed look at the creation of a coalition that has worked, apparently with some success, to steer the White House away and Congress from confrontation with Iran and lift sanctions against the country. An archive of the CNAPI website shows that it opposed sanctions on Iran and advocated for unconditional talks with the Iranian regime. These actions have had serious consequences, as the recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear capability makes clear.
Norquist’s position supporting ACDA and CNAPI (even if not publicly “signing on”) puts the influential tax-pledge activist far outside the mainstream — not just of American conservatives and Republicans, but of a bipartisan consensus on the threat Iran poses. As recently as September, pollsters Pat Caddell and John McLaughlan found that 63 percent of the bipartisan sample surveyed “identified Iran as the top U.S. threat.”
CNAPI partners were also far outside the mainstream. According to the June 12 2008 “partners” CNAPI webpage, in addition to ACDA they included George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, which paid the salary of a CNAPI staffer; the even more left-wing Institute for Policy Studies; the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Hamas fundraising scheme; the anti-Israel group J Street; the virulently anti-American and anti-Israel Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) and many others.
The American Conservative Defense Alliance also counted among its friends in Congress, some of the most extreme left-wing voices that rally to defend Islamism at home and abroad, such as Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Barbara Lee of California.
The CNAPI organizations at that January 21, 2009 meeting, hosted at Norquist’s ATR headquarters, made it a priority to stop American funding for Iranian resistance groups by “end[ing] the ‘Democracy Fund’ as we know it.” By working to undercut pro-Western Green movement and democracy advocates, the “Iran Lobby” — including CNAPI — defended an Iranian regime that promoted “Death to America” in government-sponsored rallies and called for “a world without America.” In so doing, the Lobby advocated a dangerous expression of American foreign policy that denied Iran’s enmity toward the US and its allies since the revolution that brought the Islamist clerical regime to power more than 30 years ago.
Today, as a result of ACDA and CNAPI’s incessant calls and Soros-funded lobbying for unconditional “engagement” with Iran, the “Iran Lobby” may have achieved their aim: limiting US policy options to acknowledge and counter what the majority of the American people rightly see as a clear and imminent threat from Iran to U.S. national security interests. Unfortunately for the United States and its allies, the inaction the “Iran Lobby” advocated is resulting in an Iran that, according to the IAEA, is closer than ever to threatening the world with nuclear weapons.
As Washington’s Iran policy is in shambles — and the Obama administration seems more concerned with limiting Israeli self-defense than halting the Iranian nuclear program — Americans should not forget the inside the Beltway pressure from the “Iran Lobby” advocates, including the support for their activities from Republican activist Grover Norquist.
In light of Iran’s increased belligerence towards Israel and the West, and the global understanding that the regime suppresses democratic revolution by shooting its critics in the streets, concerned citizens at both ends of the political spectrum should ask Grover Norquist why he has not repudiated his earlier support for ACDA and ACDA’s partnerships.
Clare M. Lopez is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, and the author of ‘Rise of the Iran Lobby’ (2009). She spent most of her career in the intelligence field, holding positions at the Central Intelligence Agency. David Reaboi is the communications director at the Center for Security Policy and senior editor at BigPeace.
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