An American religious delegation is in Iran to improve dialogue between the United States and the clerics who rule the Islamic Republic, an Iranian media outlet reported Thursday.
The 30 American delegates, headed by what Jahan News called President Barack Obama’s “spiritual adviser,” Dr. Joel Hunter, traveled to Tehran in late May and continue to hold meetings with the radicals who rule Iran. The news outlet said the U.S. delegation’s travel to Iran was coordinated with the country’s intelligence services.
Hunter, the senior pastor of Northland Church, is accompanied by, among others, Dr. Barbara Skinner, head of the National Network of U.S.-African Priests; Dr. James August Kovalevsky; Professor Anthony Destro of Washington Catholic University; and Dr. Alex Roy Medley, head of the National Council of U.S. Churches.
Jahan News reported that Dr. Hunter serves on the White House’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, consults with Obama, and was influential in the election of the president in 2008. It called Hunter one of the most important evangelists in America who has taken the lead after Jerry Falwell’s death and that he represents the “Zionist Christians” in America.
Jahan News also reported that an American economic delegation traveled to Iran recently, looking to expand ties in the automobile industry despite the fact that the Islamic Republic is under several U.N., U.S. and European sanctions barring any company from doing business with the regime because of its illicit nuclear program.
Last week, the regime’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech to parliamentarians called for jihad against America until it is destroyed. “Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist,” Khamenei said. “This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides.”
In another speech days ago on the anniversary of the death of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei said, “The oppressors’ front [America] is mistaken in thinking that the root cause of the Islamic Awakening can be destroyed; however the understanding and the thought which resulted in the Islamic Awakening [Islamic revolution in Iran] will not go away.”
The clerical establishment ruling Iran is one of the worst human rights violators in the world, having executed hundreds of Iranians so far this year alone. A report by the U.S. State Department in February took note of human rights violations in Iran, including its record of floggings and court-ordered amputations, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, a crackdown on press freedoms and over 600 executions – many after fake trials. Reports by the U.N.’s special representative on human rights in Iran also point to systematic violations by the regime, including torture and executions.
Under the laws of the Islamic Republic, any Muslim converting to Christianity will face death, and as reported on The Daily Caller in 2012, as Iranians turn to Christianity, the regime’s intelligence agents have followed the supreme leader’s orders to expand their operation to arrest Christian converts, with torture and executions expected to follow for those who are incarcerated.
Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen of Iranian birth who converted to Christianity and later traveled to Iran to build an orphanage, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison in early 2013. He was pressured with threats of execution to renounce his conversion, but he refused and is being held under dire conditions in prison.
Another U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, Amir Mirza Hekmati, was arrested in Iran and charged with spying for the CIA while visiting his grandmother. In January 2012, the country’s Revolutionary Court declared the former U.S. Marine “Mohareb,” an enemy of God, and sentenced him to death. But after the release of two Iranian agents from U.S. prisons, Hekmati’s sentence was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial. Two months ago, according to his sister, a secret court charged him with collaborating with the U.S. government and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).