The State Department is sending a senior official to attend a March 15 meeting hosted by the National Iranian-American Council, which has been derided by critics as a thinly-veiled advocate for Iranâs Islamic theocracy.
Suzanne Nossel, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations is slated to speak at the event, titled âAnswering the Iranian People’s Call for Human Rights,â which will be held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The conferenceâs theme matches NIACâs strategy of promoting modest democracy measures in Iran as an alternative to policies intended to remove the theocratic government. âThe case for war [against the Iranian theocracy] is already being pushed by the âpro-warâ elements on the Hill…. We can either remain quiet and let them work their magic OR we can promote the alternative to war by emphasizing the importance of and need for human rights,â reads a March 7 e-mail sent by Nobar Elmi, who joined NIAC in October 2010 as the director of community outreach and programming.
In practice, she wrote, âweâre taking steps to ensure human rights is on the table, by doing things such as working to ensure there is an independent U.N. human rights monitor and encouraging the dialogue.â Elmiâs e-mail was written to Peter Khan Zendran, a Rhode Island blogger who argued that NIACâs focus on democracy might spur stronger action against the Iranian government.
Other speakers at the event include Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. He is an original sponsor of NIAC-backed âStand with Iranian People Act,â which would impose modest sanctions on companies that sell domestic-security gear to Iran, but also ease work by U.S.-based non-profits in Iran.
NIACâs founder and head, Trita Parsi, declined to comment after he was alerted about The Daily Callerâs inquiries by an agency official.
The State Department official, Nossel, will attend the conference âto describe our effort to appoint a special rapporteur on Iran,â said an agency official. If approved, the rapporteur would investigate the condition of human-rights in Iran and send a report back to the U.N., the official said.
To get the rapporteur appointed, the U.S. will have to win a vote on the 47-member Human Rights Council. The councilâs members now include China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, all of which are likely to oppose any such appointment. Libya was previously accepted as a member, but its membership is now suspended.
When asked if Nosselâs attendance at the NIAC event would signal a willingness to cooperate with the Iranian government, the agency official professed ignorance about NIAC. âIâm not at all familiar with the council … [and] Iâm not in a position to declare whether this is or is not a front-group for the Iranian government,â he said, adding that aÂ group fronting for Iranâs government would not likely host a meeting that is critical of that government.
The administration is trying to spotlight human-rights questions in Iran, not to suggest acceptance of the governmentâs policies, he said. âWeâre going there to tell [NIAC] how we are looking at Iranâs human-rights record as unacceptable.â