Kerry's Fund-Raiser Worries Advocates Of Iran Democracy
By ELI LAKE Staff Reporter of the Sun
WASHINGTON -- Iranian American supporters of the effort to bring democracy to Iran are raising concerns about the resurgence of Senator Kerry's campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, questioning the role of a Kerry fund-raiser who wants to normalize ties with Tehran.
Hassan Nemazee, an Iranian American financier based in New York, was on the board of the American Iranian Council when that organization arranged for President Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, to apologize for America's role in the 1953 coup that brought the Shah to power in Iran.
Kerry’s campaign seemed in disarray after he fired his campaign chief, with last week’s first-place finish in the Iowa caucus, Mr. Kerry has emerged as the front runner in his party’s race to field a challenge to President Bush this November.
In a December 3 address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry said that if he was president, he “will be prepared early on to explore areas of mutual interest with Iran.”In that same speech he chastised the Bush administration for failing to hand over Iraqi-based insurgents to Tehran in exchange for members of Al Qaeda. “It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that this administration refuses to broker an arrangement with Iran for a mutual crackdown on both terrorist groups,” he told the council.
Mr. Kerry and his fund-raiser have drawn the criticism of many Iranians pushing for America to support Iranian democrats. “Unfortunately Mr. Nemazee is still advising Mr. Kerry,” a spokesman for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran,Aryo Pirooznia, told The New York Sun yesterday. “Everyone remembers in the last of year of the Clinton administration when Mr. Nemazee gave a speech at the AIC calling for the removal of all sanctions against the Islamic Republic. We will be asking any Iranian-American of principle to vote for President Bush knowing that Mr. Kerry has recently said that Iran is moving toward democracy.”
Mr. Pirooznia has in the past organized protests against the American Iranian Council, whose board Mr. Nemazee used to sit on. Iran’s hard-line council of guardians yesterday vetoed a proposal from the Parliament that would curb the council’s power to screen candidates for the legislature. Earlier this month, the council barred thousands of “reformer” candidates from running in next month’s elections for that body.
Mr. Nemazee, who did not return three phone calls yesterday from the Sun, helped form the Iranian American Political Action Committee in 2002. That organization says it does not take a position on Iran’s relations with America. Its Web site says, “We have seen time and again that as soon as foreign policy issues are raised, great divisions appear within the community.” The PAC focuses primarily on civil liberties issues affecting Iranian-Americans and on loosening barriers for Iranian citizens who want to get visas to visit America.
In 1999, President Clinton nominated Mr. Nemazee to be his ambassador to Argentina.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked his confirmation after Forbes magazine ran a story critical of many of his business relationships. Inside the Iranian-American community, Mr. Nemazee has a reputation for supporting the opening of trade relations with Iran.
“This is not personal, just a political difference of opinion, but Mr. Nemazee is in favor of dialogue with moderates, as far as I have observed,” a friend of the Nemazee family and an Iranian democracy activist, Shahla Samii, told the Sun. “I have been in contact with many in the younger generation. Many of the people I have contacted and most of them within Iran and outside the country do not want America to normalize ties with the Islamic Republic.”
Another activist in New York, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi,told the Sun Mr.Nemazee “is promoting a certain kind of relationship between the American government and the Islamic Republic that is completely inappropriate. He seems to put his money in places where he supports candidates who basically are not interested in confronting a government that is becoming armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and that has admitted to holding major members of Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Kerry voted in July of 2001 in favor of renewing the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which authorizes American sanctions on foreign companies investing in Iran’s oil and gas sectors.