Documents: Hagel staffers met with ‘front group’ for Iranian regime

Documents obtained by The Daily Caller show that staffers for then-Sen. Chuck Hagel met repeatedly with a controversial pro-Iran lobby group, and some met with the organization’s president.

Hagel is President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of defense. Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have conceded that a vote — and likely confirmation — will take place during the week of Feb. 25.

Iranian state-run media have referred to the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) since at least 2006 as “Iran’s lobby” in the U.S.

It portrays itself in the media as an independent group of Iranian expatriates. But Sam Nunberg, director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum project, describes the NIAC as an Iranian “front group.”

And documents released during the discovery phase of a defamation lawsuit NIAC filed against Seid Hassan Daioleslam, editor of the Iranian American Forum and one of the regime’s most public critics, include correspondence with Mohammed Javad Zaif, then Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

Nunberg’s organization is helping to represent Daioleslam.

The civil discovery documents also include a letter written by NIAC legislative assistant Babak Talebi describing Sen. Hagel as “generally on our side” regarding issues concerning the Islamic Republic.

A NIAC-authored portrayal of Iran-friendly politicians describes a meeting between Parsi and Hagel staffer Rexon Ryu in which Ryu “offered good advice.” It also describes meetings “at least twice” with a Ryu deputy “to get his feedback and ask for the Senator’s support.”

“Hagel’s moderate stance on immigration has also made him the recipient of IAPAC funds,” according to that NIAC-drafted summary.

IAPAC is the Iranian American Political Action Committee. Its website includes a thank-you note from Hagel, written after the 2006 election. “Please know,” Hagel wrote, “that I will always do my best and work hard to continue to earn your confidence and support.”

Describing a March 31, 2006 meeting with Ryu, which took place in Hagel’s office, an NIAC member wrote in a memo that “Hagel is concerned about the current path we are on. Rexon preferred not to see the imposition of punitive measures but rather a call for negotiations between both governments.”

Ryu, Hagel’s deputy, “noted that the military is stretched thin already,” the memo concluded, “and was open to pursuing constructive measures.”

Hagel, however, supports policies that are “aimed at strengthening civil society without aiding the Islamic Republic,” that memo said.

Ryu later went on to work on Iran issues at the National Security Council. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is now deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the State Department.

Ryu met with NIAC president Trita Parsi on Jan. 10, 2008. And other Hagel staff met with NIAC, according to the group’s calendar.