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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S.

ss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

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Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led


Iranian-American to Evin Prison
How Daily Beast Editor, Michael Weiss Helped Send Iranian-American to
Torture Chambers of Evin Prison
RICHARD SILVERSTEIN AUGUST 15, 2016 6,200 WORDS 70 COMMENTS

Weiss affects a long-haired, unshaven Bohemian look

Its a long way from the campus of Dartmouth College in New Hampshires
Great North Woods in 2003 to Tehrans Evin Prison in 2016. But the path
between them led to a fateful intersection of the lives of Michael D. Weiss
(the Dartmouth student) and Siamak Namazi (a jailed Iranian-American). It was
Weiss who helped put him there.

Weiss, age 36, has been an itinerant freelance journalist and military
interventionist gun-for-hire, plying his trade from Washington DC, to London,
to the outlying lands of former Russian empire, to the ruins of Syria.

With his role as CNN commentator and senior editor at the Daily Beast, he is a
leading light among a new young generation of neoconservative intellectuals.
These positions offer him the opportunity to shape American political discourse
in much the same way Bill Kristols Project for the New American
Century, shaped U.S. militarist- interventionist foreign policy for a decade or
more after its famous 1998 letter to Bill Clinton.

A disciple of Christopher Hitchens, Weiss shares the late British intellectuals


penchant for intellectual combat and a gift for the deft, savage phrase. Like him,
Weiss fancies nostalgic ties to some radical left tradition. Also like Hitchens, he
has the knack for popularizing neoconservative ideas in media-friendly sound
bytes. Unlike Hitchens, Weiss has proven to be exceedingly opaque in terms of
some of the political and financial alliances hes made.

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

Michael D. Weiss graduated in 2003 with a BA in History from Dartmouth


College. In 2006, he signed the Euston Manifesto, a political broadside by
liberal intellectuals embracing a new robust interventionist politics. It was
written largely by the UK philosopher, Norman Geras. Here is how Weiss
described the Band of [ex-radical] Brothers who devised it:

Amidst this moral and ideological muddle, a group of graying British Marxists
and ex-Communists huddled together in a London pub in May of 2005 and
began crafting a manifesto for the 21st century left. Enough was enough.

A 2007 profile in Geras, Normblog, notes some of Weiss odd agglomeration


of interests and predilections. He notes one of his earliest successes as a
blogger was calling for a protest in support of Denmark in the midst of the
Jyllands Posten-Mohammed cartoon controversy.

The blog he most admires is Harrys Place, a notorious haven for refugees
from various leftist movements whove seen the light and turned to the right.
Among their chief occupations is bashing figures on the left, especially those
who criticize Israel or endorse Palestinian rights.

Weiss lists as his special heroes Karl Marx, Irving Howe (a bit of a clash there
between the founder of Communism and an ardent anti-Communist), and
George Orwell. Among the surprising things this future neocon endorses is
socialized healthcare.

After Dartmouth, he enrolled at the New School as a student disciple of one


of his intellectual heroes, Christopher Hitchens. There he learned the art of
stabbing his political enemies with an acid-tipped pen. Its no coincidence that
the title of his blog, defunct since 2010, was Snarksmith.

Later, he moved to Bill Kristols shop at the Weekly Standard. Still later, he
became an editor at the online Jewish publication, Jewcy, where I first
encountered him.[1]

Around 2008, Weiss moved from New York to London where he became the
founding director of Just Journalism, a pro-Israel advocacy group tasked with
policing the media for anti-Israel bias. It based its model on the U.S. based
CAMERA, which monitors U.S. mainstream media, acting as a form of media
thought-police regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Just Journalism closed its doors in 2011 due to lack of funds. But before it
died, Weiss had taken on a second post with the Henry Jackson Society
(HJS) in 2010. From its founding in 2005 till 2009, HJS was a centrist foreign
policy think-tank seeking to forge a middle-ground between the conservative-
realist right and the anti-imperialist left. It was named for the staunchly anti-
Communist U.S. Senator Henry Jackson, whose heyday was in the 1970s.
Jackson was one of the last Cold War warriors, whod led the drive on behalf of

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

Soviet Jewry, thus making himself a close ally of Israel and the U.S.-based Israel
lobby.

It hosted a variety of academics with differing geographic specialities and


ideological orientations who used HJS as a springboard for debate in their
various fields. UK academic, Markus Attila Hoare, was one of the co-
founders and served as HJS Balkan specialist.

Later when he came aboard, Weiss was named HJS director of research (one of
a shifting series of job titles over time). As such, he controlled the publication of
HJS research scholars. One day, Hoare found he was no longer permitted to
publish on the groups website. Weiss declared that under the new regime only
he had the right to determine what was published.

Hoare portrayed the 2011 merger of Just Journalism and another Tory think-
tank, the Center for Social Cohesion, as a putsch. He left HJS sometime after
his altercation with Weiss and wrote a long appraisalat times sad, at times
bitterof the demise of the dream he and his colleagues once shared.

The new HJS was a muscular proponent of UK solidarity with Israel. It


became a staunch opponent of anything that smacked of hostility to Israel,
whether it be Palestinians or left-wing politicians, or European NGOs.

Another Weiss HJS job title was director of the Russia Studies Center (without
speaking Russian or ever having lived there). In 2011, Weiss also began
publishing a blog at the Daily Telegraph, (a publication sometimes derisively
referred to as Torygraph).

Later, a former HJS insider reported to me, Weiss had a falling out as well with
two of his former allies at HJS. Things became so acrimonious he had to hire a
lawyer and later sign a non-disparagement agreement so as not to air any dirty
linen in public.

The most comprehensive account of HJS rise and fall is Spinwatchs, The
Henry Jackson Society and the degeneration of British
neoconservatism: liberal interventionism, Islamophobia and the
war on terror.

Syrias Civil War and Weiss New-Found Calling as Syria


Interventionist

In 2011, Syrian civil unrest commenced and turned


gradually into a regional proxy war. As Syrian rebels began
their fight to topple Bashar al-Assad; and Russia and Iran
rallied to support the Syrian dictator, Weiss saw a new
opportunity to advance his interventionist agenda. He
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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

became one of the leading neocon intellectuals advocating


muscular U.S. intervention on the side of the Syrian
rebels. He advocated those views in publications of the
foreign policy elite like Foreign Policy, think tanks like
the Carnegie Council for International Affairs, and
TV shows too innumerable to mention.
Weiss with Syrian
He is a producers dream. Like his mentor Hitchens, he is rebel fanboys

glib and articulate. He explains complicated, confusing


issues like ISIS in a media-savvy package. His slashing wit (again, think a
dumbed-down version of Hitchens add a note of drama and conspiratorial
mystery as well) piques the interest of his audience. Few producers will do
enough due diligence to research articles like this one exposing Weiss foibles, or
damning profiles by James Carden in The Nation or Mark Ames in
Pando.

In one of the more memorable portrayals of Weiss career, Carden wrote to me:

Given his past association with the Henry Jackson


Society, in his work as an errand-boy for Christopher
Hitchens and the Khodorkovsky family, and as a high
profile editor/contributor at the Daily Beast and
CNN, Weiss has established himself as the leading
neocon propagandist of his generation.
Weiss has become a
regular contributor to
CNN
The Elizabeth OBagy Scandal

In 2013, Weiss teamed up with Elizabeth OBagy to write an article in The


Atlantic which advocated regime change in Syria. Separately, she wrote a
similar piece for the Wall Street Journal. What the WSJ didnt reveal was
that OBagy was a paid consultant for an NGO working to provide military
weapons to the Syrian rebels and overthrow Assad, the Syrian Emergency
Task Force (SETF). On the strength of her work, she was invited to testify
before Congress. But she had a wee-small problem. Shed embellished her
academic record, which led to being fired by the NGO and staining all those
whod championed her, including Weiss. WSJs failure to note her affiliation
with SETF also posed a clear conflict of interest.

More recently, Weiss traveled to Turkey to interview a supposed escapee from


the ISIS gulag. His three-part Daily Beast profile purported to offer a
behind the scenes look into life as an ISIS fighter. He gave his informant a
pseudonym, ostensibly to protect him from reprisals by his former comrades.
The stories he was told contained just enough detail to allow readers to believe
in the authenticity of the narrative. But not enough to allow researchers to
definitively corroborate the tale he told.

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Weiss, Next Generation of the Neocon Intellectual Elite

Weiss seeks to mold a vision that is as ambitious as the one molded by his
mentors, Hitchens and Bill Kristol.

It was Kristol who co-founded PNAC for the New American Century with the
goal of reshaping the Middle East in the image of the west. The Weekly
Standard publisher pinned his hopes on the Bush administration and the Iraq
War as the means to make an indelible mark on U.S. foreign policy in the
Mideast. Unfortunately, the project didnt turn out as expected. The baby, in an
ironic echo of Condoleezza Rices infamous saying about the birthpangs of a
new Middle East, died aborning.

Not to be outdone, Weiss has adapted the old anti-Communism of Scoop


Jackson, tossed in a touch of Bill Kristol-PNACs projection of U.S. military
might to reshape broad swaths of the Middle East, along with a heaping
measure of Khodorkovskys dream of regime change in Russia. To this, hes
added a strong dose of anti-jihadism. It makes for a supremely ambitious,
geopolitically sweeping, and exceedingly dangerous stew.

Like Kristol, Weiss too dreams of a war he can make his own. There is a fertile
field of possibilities: Syria, Ukraine, the Baltic States, even Iran (though a more
remote possibility currently after the nuclear deal). He failed to provoke war in
Syria when Pres. Obama rejected a military adventure there. Nor has he
succeeded in provoking NATO intervention in Ukraine. But there is still time
and hope.

Weiss Teams Up with Russian Oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky

He and Mikhail Khodorkovsky teamed up because the latter


seeks to topple the Putin regime. One way to inch closer to the
prospect is to inject anti-Putin propaganda into the world media.
Hence, Weiss Weiss gig as editor of The Interpreter. Its
mission is:

The modest goal of translating articles from the Russian press,


Siamak
the better to lower the language barrier that separates Namazi
journalists, analysts, policymakers, diplomats and interested
laymen in the English-speaking world from events taking place inside the
Russian Federation.

Oh the irony of a journalist who doesnt speak the language, yet edits a journal
designed to translate the Russian language and nation to a western audience!

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Recently, Khodorkovsky supposedly passed the baton to Radio Free Liberty,


which is the new sponsor of the online magazine. From information I have
heard, RFE will essentially share content with The Interpreter, with no funding
involved. With leaves open the question of where funding for the venture
originates.

Given that Weiss regularly testifies before Congressional committees on the


danger posed by Putin and ISIS, its clear he has patrons within the government,
along with patrons within the think tank community. Other journalists have
speculated to me that the U.S. may be reviving covert Cold War funding
mechanisms to finance projects like Weiss. But you dont have to be as
conspiratorial as all that to believe that a GOP Congressmember with anti-
Muslim, anti-Putin sympathies would be only too happy to slip an appropriation
into a bill as a favor to Khodorkovsky or any of a number of Weiss neocon
patrons.

Weiss New Friends at the Legatum Institute

Among them are Jeffrey Gedmin and Anne Applebaum of the Legatum Institute,
a neocon think tank founded ostensibly to promote freedom and democracy
through capitalism. Legatums targets are places like Russia and former Soviet
satellites like Ukraine, the Baltic states and Poland, perceived to be under threat
from Putinist hegemony. Gedmin is a former CEO of Radio Free Liberty and a
signatory of the Project for a New American Century, which led to our
disastrous war in Iraq. Applebaum is an award-winning writer who has
documented the crimes of the Soviet gulag.

Legatum has financed a number of Weiss anti-Putin projects which received


widespread media coverage and resulted in Congressional testimony, including a
report with the suitably racy title, The Menace of Unreality: How the
Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money.

The term weaponization in the Russian context was first coined by NYU
Russian studies scholar Mark Galeotti, who has since expressed reservations
about the sweeping manner in which anti-Putin ideologues (like Weiss) use it.
Weiss has glommed onto the phrase himself and used it to argue that the west
too must weaponize information as Putin has. Among the policies he
envisions in the western fight against Putin is censorship regimes against
dissident voices which advance a pro-Russian agenda.

Weiss also approvingly quoted NATO commander Philip Breedlove who speaks
of Putins weaponization of refugees. In the latter case, most scholars see
absolutely no evidence that the Assad regime has recruited sleeper agents to
attack the west or anything of the sort. This is precisely the sort of shoddy
analysis and reportage of which Weiss is often and manifestly guilty.

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Mark Ames reports that Legatum is financed by an obscure New Zealand vulture
capitalist (as Ames calls him), Christopher Chandler, who invested millions
in distressed Russian debt and failing companies, which he subsequently turned
into billions. In other words, he is the western equivalent of Khodorkovsky. That
makes for a perfect fit for Weiss.

His relationship with oligarchs offers mutual benefit to both: Weiss gains
financing, media access and social approval; while the billionaires exploit his
dashing exploits in combat zones and intellectual panache to advance their own
political and financial interests.

In the Middle Ages, European rulers had court Jews who financed their wars
and building projects. But these modern oligarchs dont need money. They need
popularizers who can package and transform political jihad into a simple,
appealing mantra. Weiss performs this role admirably.

Weiss and the Anti-Putin Rumor Mill

Applebaums husband, Radek Sikorski, is a former Polish foreign minister who


invented a conversation between Vladimir Putin and Polish President Donald
Tusk, in which the former suggested that both countries carve up Ukraine.

Weiss dutifully featured this as a prominent scoop on Twitter.

Michael Weiss Follow


@michaeldweiss

Terrific @b_judah piece on Russia's neo-Soviet degeneration,


w interviews with @sikorskiradek and @carlbildt:
politico.com/magazine/story
7:25 PM - 20 Oct 2014

Putins Coup
The war in Ukraine is no longer only about
Ukraine. The conflict has transformed Russia.
This increasingly is what European leaders and
politico.com

11 9

Till Sikorski tried to walk the entire story back, later even apologizing for
his memory failing him:

Sikorski was confronted at a press conference by Polish journalists, demanding


clarifications regarding his remarks. However, the ex-foreign minister was vague
about whether or not he made the remarks published by Politico. Before long
Sikorski admitted that he never personally heard of Putin offering to divide

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Ukraine, then refused to go into more details or answer additional questions


from the media.

Weiss Take-No-Prisoners Approach to Adversaries

Weiss is not above sabotaging the careers of his adversaries. Beware if you cross
him in one of his spheres of interest. John Rosenthal is a Europe-based author,
who wrote a book about the influence of Al Qaeda in Libya after Qaddafis fall.
Until 2012, he wrote regularly for The National Review (NR). His last piece
was a report largely translated from Germanys leading daily newspaper, the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which claimed that a massacre in a village
called Houla had not been perpetrated by the Assad regime as had been
reported previously. Rather, Sunni rebels had orchestrated the attack and the
victims were largely Shia and Alawite.

Since the massacre, as first reported, had generated enormous outrage against
the Assad regime (a Weiss bete noire), he and a group of like-minded anti-jihadi
analysts took up the cause against Rosenthal. Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi and
Philip Smyth wrote a scathing rebutta l of Rosenthals piece for NR.

Smyth, who is an adjunct fellow at Aipacs think-tank, the Washington


Institute for Near East Peace, is quoted liberally and approvingly in many Weiss
articles in Politico, the Daily Beast and Foreign Policy (among others).
Tamimi however, seems to have later fallen afoul of Weiss when the former
attacked him in a 2014 story he published at his website. Weiss and allies like
Armin Rosen at Business Insider, went on the counter-attack and accused
Tamimi of being overly chummy with his ISIS sources. They clearly sought to
derail his career (Rosen opined that it had come apart and predicted its
imminent demise in his article).

The Weiss-Rosen attacks dont seem to have had their desired impact, as
Tamimi continues to be cited and published in the mainstream media.
Someone Rosen quotes as criticizing Tamimi, Daveed Gartenstein Ross, even
later co-authored an article with him at Foreign Affairs.

Returning to Rosenthal: after the Tamimi-Smyth attack piece was published,


Weiss joined in. He even boasted on Twitter that NR had barred Rosenthal
from the pages of the publication.

Michael Weiss Follow


@michaeldweiss

Al Monitor publishes John Rosenthal, who was barred from


National Review after spreading regime lies about Houla: al-
monitor.com/pulse/original
7:12 PM - 4 Mar 2014

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Syrian rebel force to receive Saudi arms has worked with


The leader of the Saudi-backed rebel Southern Front, which
Riyadh intends to arm with advanced weaponry, has openly
al-monitor.com

10 4

Rosenthal attempted repeatedly and unsuccessfully to ascertain his status at the


publication. His pitches began to be rejected until editors stopped responding at
all.

Rosenthal believes that Weiss intervened with NR editors and advocated that
they stop publishing his work. Even if he did not, Rosenthal believes that Weiss
was told directly by NR staff that Rosenthal would be barred. Weiss efforts to
sabotage Rosenthals publishing career seem to have faltered. The latter now
publishes regularly at Al Monitor, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal
Europe, and elsewhere.

Weiss and his crony circle played a similar role in attempting to suppress
publication of this profile. It was originally commissioned for publication by
Alternet. But a member of Weiss circle contacted former Alternet staff, who
relayed a message to the publisher that it would be a mistake to publish the
piece. The publisher killed it.

One Middle East analyst familiar with Weiss work called him a hack, Weiss is
clearly a journalist-pugilist with a long memory who nurtures grudges.

Weiss Joins Daily Beast and Recruits Muslim Reformers as


Contributors

The Daily Beasts (DB) editor, John Avlon, hired Weiss as senior editor, in
June 2015. Avlon is a former columnist for the neocon New York Sun and
former chief speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani. In his new role, Weiss has
recruited some of his pals to contribute to DB. They include Maajid Nawaz, a
former Liberal Democratic MP candidate who made a reputation as a Muslim
reformer till he was videotaped getting a lap dance at a UK sex club. He called
his escapade sex-positive feminism. He fancies himself a former Muslim
radical whos seen the error of his ways. Now he wants to tell the non-Muslim
world how to attack Islamism and defeat it.

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He founded the counter-extremism NGO, the Quilliam Foundation with a


$1-million grant from the right-wing Christian, Templeton Foundation. The
British government awarded nearly $4-million to Quilliam for the intellectual
component of its war on terror amid the countrys Muslim community.

After abandoning his first Muslim wife, Nawaz remarried the American artist
and writer, Rachel Maggart. Hed been introduced to her by another former
Muslim turned neocon, Ayan Hirsi Ali. Before the wedding he posted this
incredibly prurient and juvenile tweet featuring a his wife in a model-like
sexy pose: Dont ya wish your wifey. was. hot. like. mine? . Dont ya?
Dont ya?

In the past few years, Nawaz has made an American pivot, where the money
seems to be good: hes received grants from the right-wing Bradley
Foundation and nearly $1-million from Gen Next, a philanthropic network
affiliated with the Koch brothers. Here in American, Weiss has now become one
of his greatest boosters and offered him a perch at Daily Beast (DB)

Weiss, the Daily Beast and the Road to Evin

Another puzzling, problematic author Weiss brought to the magazine was Alex
Shirazi (a pseudonym). Until he published his first piece in July 2015 (a month
after Weiss took on his new editorial role) under a joint byline with Weiss, there
is no online record that Shirazi ever existed. When queried by Huffington
Post, DB conceded that the name was a pseudonym and added this to the
author bio accompanying the piece with this explanation.

UPDATE 12/14/15: Alex Shirazi is a pseudonym for a well-known Iranian


dissident who requested that The Daily Beast keep his identity concealed for
fear of what might happen to his family in Iran in retaliation for this article. We
regret not noting this earlier.

The editor of a national newspaper based in New York offered me an appraisal


of this practice after hearing about this case: there is no journalistic
justification, on first glance, for a pseudonym. It appears to break faith with
readers and public accountability vis a vis the writer.

In preparation for his second DB article, Shirazi first approached Iranian-


American oil executive Siamak Namazi, while the latter was visiting Iran in June
2015. At that time, the journalist did not reveal his real identity to his subject.
He e-mailed a list of questions he wished Namazi to answer about the supposed
financial benefits the Iranian regime offered his family.

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The nature of the questions alarmed Namazi and members of his family Shirazi
also contacted. As a result, they contacted Shirazis editor, Weiss, requesting
that he review the questions himself, suggesting that they were unfair and even
libelous. Weiss declined to intervene, so Namazi escalated his concerns to
managing editor, John Avlon. He warned the Daily Beast executive that such an
article was likely to harm both him and his family. All this was to no avail.

Within a week of receiving Shirazis inquiry,


Namazi was stopped at the airport by Iranian
security officials and refused permission to leave
the country. Several months later, in September,
DB published Shirazis profile, and within a
month Namazi was in the notorious Evin
Prison. This raises the strong probability that
Iranian hardliners were monitoring either
Shirazi or Namazis e-mail accounts, and that Siamak Namazi pictured with
the questions and implicit accusations raised in his father, Baquer. Both are
the messages were exploited by Iranian now imprisoned in Iran. Credit:
Reuters.
intelligence officers to implicate Namazi.

Who is Siamak Namazi? His good friend, Reza Marashi, wrote this
appreciation of him in Huffington Post:

He helped run a world-renowned consulting firm staffed predominantly with


Iranian-born citizens that facilitated badly-needed foreign investment from
blue-chip multinational corporations.

Neither money nor power was ever a driving force behind Siamaks work. It was
the indigenous development of his motherland that motivated him. Siamak
wanted Iran to live up to its vast potential, and he was at the forefront of
teaching international best practices and standards in business and
management to scores of young Iranians. The pride on his face was always
evident when his employees would move on to successful careers across a
variety of fields in Iran.

As U.S. sanctions were causing medical supply shortages in Iran, he


independently researched and published what became the authoritative
literature on the subject. I was in the audience when he presented his findings
in Washington DC. As Siamak began to describe the disastrous impact of
sanctions on innocent Iranians, he choked up, paused for a moment, composed
himself, and then proceeded to finish his presentation. Thats how much he
loves the country that is currently keeping him in prison.

It might surprise Siamaks captors to know that he actively discouraged me from


getting involved in politics. After sparring over the pros and cons of such a
career, I matter-of-factly told him that I truly believe in making the world a
better place. He leaned back in his chair, smirked, and told me: There are plenty

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

of ways to make the world a better place without making yourself a target in
Washington and Tehran. Hardly the advice of a man who was collaborating
with enemy states and heading a political, economic, and cultural mafia gang.

Its ironic that DB claims it agreed to use a


pseudonym for Shirazi in order to protect his
family in Iran considering that Weiss smear of
Namazi landed both the latter and his 80 year-
old father behind bars.
Siamak Namazi pictured with
his father, Baquer. Both are
Rather than protecting family members from
now imprisoned in Iran. Credit:
harm, the use of a pseudonym had the effect of
Reuters.
shielding the author from proper scrutiny as to
his motives, his associations, and any conflicts of interest he might have.

The Namazi family and its supporters have established a website, Free Siamak
and Baquer Namazi, which offers updates on their case and the campaign to
free them.

That second DB article was entitled, The Shady Family Behind Americas
Iran Lobby. Published in September 2015, it was a lurid expose filled with
innuendo and unsupported allegations regarding the cozy commercial
relationships an Iranian family enjoyed with the clerical regime. The article
placed special emphasis on Siamak, the son of the patriarch of the family,
Baquer Namazi.

To reinforce the ominousness of the charges against Namazi, the graphic art
accompanying the DB article consisted of a series of shady-looking Arab
militants sporting beards, long hair, a turban and sunglasses. The image is a
cross between an Arab playboy and an ISIS fighter. No one in Iran dresses this
way. The graphic is little more than an Iranophobic pastiche. Clearly, rather
than an expose or serious profile, this was meant as a hit-piece.

The Ongoing Neocon Attack on NIAC

The main contention implicit in the headline was itself wrong on several counts.
Neither Siamak nor his family are behind the so-called Iran Lobby. Nor is
the Iranian-American NGO attacked in the article, the National Iranian-
American Council (NIAC) Americas Iran Lobby.

A common smear tactic of DC Beltway neoconservatives and the Iranian cult


group, Mujahadeen e Khalq (MEK) has been to label NIAC a stooge of the
Iranian regime. In reality, NIAC is a completely independent, nonpartisan
organization.

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Ironically, Aipac, a group heartily supported by those like Eli Lake, Kenneth
Timmerman and Weiss whove attacked NIAC, is far more of a slavish booster of
the Israeli regime than NIAC is of the Iranian regime.

Further, Shirazi recycled another claim first advanced by Eli Lake in a


2009 article in the Washington Times, in which he falsely claimed Namazi
played a key role in founding NIAC. Namazi soundly rejected this claim in a
letter to the editor he wrote at the time. He was never affiliated in any way with
NIAC other than paying a single annual membership fee in 2005. All it wouldve
taken for Shirazi to ascertain this fact was a phone call to NIAC, which he
never made.

Nikahang Kowsar=Alex Shirazi

Among Iranian-Americans, there has been a great deal of


speculation about Shirazis real identity. A number of
them have noted that shortly before his DB article was
published a very similar post appeared in a Farsi-
language blog written by a former Iranian journalist and
activist, Nikahang Kowsar.

Kowsar began his career in the heyday of the liberal


reforms of the Khatami era in the early 2000s. He became
a journalist and one of Irans most well-known political
cartoonists. His most famous cartoon pictured a hardline
cleric as a crocodile strangling a journalist with his tail, Iranian cartoonist,
which led to his arrest and imprisonment. On his release, Nikahang Kowsar
he went into exile and fled to Canada. He was tried in
absentia and given a four month jail sentence. He now lives in Washington DC.

In 2009, he founded a blog called Khodnevis (Farsi


for pen). The source of funding for this project isnt
known for certain. But Iranian-Americans have
speculated that they may come from both the U.S.
and Canadian governments. Though Kowsar began
his career as a reformer, his new website quickly
became a home for ardent opponents of the Iranian
regime. It supported western economic sanctions
against Iran. Even those advocating violent regime
Kowsar cartoon change have found a home there.

Kowsar has also become a critic of his former reformist allies in Iran. He called
for boycotting the recent Iranian elections and attacked the reformers for
offering election slates. He has also attacked the Iranian nuclear deal and those
Iranian-Americans (NIAC among them) who advocated it.

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

In 2010, Kowsar published a tape recording he made secretly of a conversation


between him and the son of Hashemi Rafsanjani. The father began his career
as an ally of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and later
become a chief leader of the reformers. The attacks which the son levelled
against Ayatollah Khamenei in the tape landed him in jail for a 15 year prison
sentence.

Iranians I spoke with believe Kowsar hates the Iranian regime so much, he
hopes the hardliners will come to power. Then, it will be that much easier to
promote a western attack on Iran that would topple the regime. So in a terribly
perverse way, his interests coincide with those of the hardliners.

In the course of interviewing Iranian sources for this profile, one told me that
the author Shirazi approached him with questions about the Namazi family. In
the course of the e mails that went back and forth, Shirazi slipped up and
forgot to use his fake e mail address. Instead, he used his real email address and
name: Nikahang Kowsar.

As with so many of Michael Weiss projects, he thrives on ominous conspiracies


involving authoritarian regimes supposedly inimical to those western values he
holds so dear. The very idea of peace and harmony between one such regime,
Iran, and the U.S. causes Weiss to gnash his teeth in despair.

Unlikely Alliance Between U.S. Neocons and Iranian Hardliners to


Sabotage U.S.-Iran Relations

The most profound irony of the entire episode is that a group of neocon
polemicists, in an attempt to defame NIAC, have used the Namazi family as a
sacrificial goat. The parallel force on the Iranian side, the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard and other hardliners, have exploited this struggle for their own purposes.

These Iranian forces are threatened both by the P5+1 nuclear deal and the
recent victory of Pres. Rouhani and the moderate coalition which trounced the
conservatives in recent elections for the Majlis. As a result, the hardliners worry
that their power and influence may be waning. When a beast is wounded it
seeks to lash out in order to avenge those who attacked it.

Its also ironic that both Kowsar and the Iranian hardliners detest NIAC, and for
similar reasons. They each detest the nuclear agreement as they detest any
rapprochement in relations between Iran and the west. Inside Iran, the
extremists even call NIAC and figures like Siamak infiltrators. As if they seek
to inveigle themselves into Iranian society and infect with a western poison.

Hardliners must plant fear and suspicions in the minds of the public that the
ways of the reformers are dangerous. One way to do this is to pick a symbol of

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

reform and mercilessly attack it. That is how Siamak Namazi was ensnared.
Before his arrest he worked for the Dubai-based, Crescent Petroleum.
Undoubtedly, one of his jobs was to set up deals with the Iranian oil industry,
which had recently become free to sell oil to foreign companies. Thousands of
businesspeople from scores of nations have stampeded to Iran to make similar
deals.

But the Iranian hardliners benefited enormously from the decades of sanctions.
They replaced all those corporations which abandoned Iran and cornered the
market on formerly imported goods. With the resumption of free trade, these
monopolies are under threat.

What better way to fight back against the new economic order than by showing
that the foreigners are shady characters seeking to undermine the Islamic
Revolution? That is why they trapped Namazi in their net.

Irans leader himself said, according to Reuters:

Irans economy had not yet benefited from the Western delegations visiting
Iran after the lifting of sanctions as they had failed to deliver on their promises.
He added he saw some of the visits as suspicious as the West was trying to send
infiltrators in disguise.

Add to this, ominous photos which hardliners


published after Namazis arrest. They pictured his
father, who was a provincial governor of Shiraz under
the Shah, kissing the Shahs hand. Speaking of Shiraz,
its no accident that the pseudonymous Daily Beast
author chose Shiraz for his last name. This is the
city and province from which the Namazi family hails.

Haleh Esfandiari, the founder of the Middle East


program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, knows
Siamak personally and offered her own analysis
of the underlying reasons for his arrest:

Remarks by authorities and members of Irans


Photo from Fars News
parliament suggest that the Intelligence Ministry showing Baquer Namazi,
wishes to implicate Siamak Namazi in a supposed then governor of Shiraz
U.S. plot to infiltrate and undermine the Islamic province, kissing the
Republic by promoting business exchanges between Shahs hand
Iran and the U.S. Iranian authorities have not
produced a shred of evidence to support this fantastical idea. Nor has a coerced
confession yet surfaced.

Irans Intelligence Ministry, and its enablers in the judiciary, have been
desperate to prove that the U.S. is scheming against the Islamic Republic
through various means, including cultural and business penetration. A recent
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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

warning by Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about supposed U.S.
tactics appears to have prompted intelligence officials to redouble their efforts.
The end result is that innocent men and women are treated cruelly to satisfy
security authorities whims; if a young man cannot be coerced into a false
confession, then his father must be used as leverage.

Anyone who knows the Namazis would dismiss out of hand claims that they
were working to undermine the Islamic Republic. Both men who have been
arrested are Iranian patriots. Siamak Namazi was not a political activist. He is a
World Economic Forum Young Global Leader who believed in building bridges
and engagement between Iran and the West, including the United States.

Esfandiari also offers a profile of the decades-worth of extraordinary


humanitarian work performed by Baquer Namazi, Siamaks 80 year-old father.
He led a completely apolitical life after the Revolution. He went into exile and
became a senior official for UNICEF. The agency, in fact, has released a
statement in his support and asking for his immediate release:

In its appeal, UNICEF noted his commitment to children and his spiritual
courage and moral convictions. As a UNICEF representative, Namazi survived a
1994 shooting in southern Egypt targeting a U.N. convoy that killed five people.

Mr. Namazi dedicated many years of his career to improving the lives of some
of the worlds most disadvantaged and vulnerable children, often working in
difficult and even dangerous circumstances, the statement released Thursday
said.

The elder Namazi is long retired and poses no threat to anyone. But for
members of the clerical regime, afraid of losing power and perks, even an old
man offers leverage they may exploit to extract a confession from Siamak.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of this affair is that Michael Weiss and his neocon
comrades, in their desperation to sabotage U.S.-Iran relations have made
common cause with the most hardline and vicious of Irans clerical regime. They
make for very strange bedfellows.

One can only hope that leaders on both sides will see reason and negotiate for
Siamaks release. His ongoing imprisonment harms bilateral relations and holds
them hostage to the whims of marginal extremists on both sides. As Esfandiari
wrote:

President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have sought to
secure Western goodwill toward their country. Will they take responsibility for
the fate of those who placed confidence in their bridge-building with the outside
world? Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the only person who
can stop the Intelligence Ministrys overreach. Will they persuade the supreme
leader to intervene on behalf of the Namazis?

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7/11/2017 Michael Weiss and the Iran-U.S. Hardline Nexus That Led Iranian-American to Evin Prison - The Unz Review

In preparing this article, I contacted the National Review, CNN,


Kowsar, and Weiss himself for comment on various matters raised
here. None responded to my inquiries.

[1] In the interest of full disclosure, I first came to know Michael Weiss in 2007,
after he commissioned a weeks worth of blog posts from me in 2007. He asked
if Id be willing to move my blog, Tikun Olam, to the Jewcy site. After I
expressed interest and asked for further details, he promised an agreement
would be drafted for my review.

Then I waitedand waited. After several months, it became clear that there
would be no agreement forthcoming. Needless to say, it was an inauspicious
start and end of a publishing relationship.

By the next year Weiss had left Jewcy and moved to Britain. By 2009, Jewcys
founder and leading funder abandoned the venture. It later became a
subsidiary of Tablet Magazine, which is funded by the pro-Israel Likudist
Jewish Avi Chai and Kesher Foundations.

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