As the Khomeiniist regime in Iran approaches its 40th year, the ISICRC staff brings you a four part report series on Tehran’s Western collaborators and facilitators.
Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi was detained and quickly released in the US last month. The international forces Tehran rallied together to demonstrate on her behalf, shines a spotlight on Tehran’s 40-year plus efforts to court and recruit militants of various ideological flavors. These efforts, which began even before the regime came into power, have been highly successful in gaining support and agents for itself by exploiting racial tensions, anti-colonialist feelings, and the Islamic supremacists.
Born Melanie Franklin, Hashemi was arrested by the FBI at St. Louis’s Lambert airport on January 15th. The New Orleans native was born in 1959 to an African-American Christian family. While in college, inspired by Khomeini, she converted to Shi’a Islam. She is married to an Iranian, become a citizen of the Islamic regime and has lived and worked in Iran since 2008. She flew to the U.S. in order to film a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement for Press TV, when she was taken into custody under a material witness warrant. This means she was not accused of a crime but was obligated to provide testimony for an ongoing criminal investigation.
Nation of Islam
One of the first voices to speak out in Hashemi’s defense was Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan has traveled to Iran frequently for decades. He regularly meets with regime leaders, both during his trips to Iran and when they visit the U.S., and they continue to fund his incendiary activities. Hashemi interviewed Farrakhan during his most recent trip to Tehran, in November to commemorate the anniversary of the US embassy seizure.
Despite the fact that the Nation of Islam’s teachings are considered heretical by all Muslim scholars, the Khomeiniist clerics have never taken issue with it or questioned the piety of the organization, as Farrakhan and his associates have proven themselves to be of invaluable use to the regime. In addition to the stature he enjoys among some, Farrakhan has served as a link between the regime and some American Democratic politicians, most notably Keith Ellison. Thus, he receives red carpet welcomes in Tehran while more traditionalist Shi’a clerics who have raised issues regarding Khomeini’s and Khamenei’s interpretations of Islamic law have been imprisoned and exiled.
The American Far Left
Another voice quickly raised in Hashemi’s support was that of former Georgia congressperson and firebrand leftist, Cynthia McKinney. McKinney’s steadfast support of Tehran’s regime dates back at least to her association with Ramsey Clark’s (one of the figures during the Carter administration who helped the regime come into power) ANSWER coalition. Founded as a front group for the Marxist -Leninist Workers World Party in 2002, ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) serves essentially as a propaganda echo chamber for every anti-western totalitarian dictatorship. In 2010, McKinney attended a dinner hosted in New York by then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for “American social justice activists” and leaders of the American extreme left.
In her statement on the Hashemi affair, McKinney referenced 1950s Black French leftist intellectual Frantz Fanon’s writings on “the colonization of the mind and body.” One of the primary influences on left wing third world politics, McKinney’s mentioning Fanon is significant, due to the fact that his ideas directly influenced the 1979 Khomeini ‘revolution’ through their interpretation into the Iranian context by Iranian novelist Jalal Aaleh-Ahmad and sociologist Ali Shariati.
Aaleh-Ahmad and Shariati refashioned Shi’ism into a rallying force for ‘class struggle’ and ‘anti-western imperialism,’ based on Fanon’s concepts. Many leftist, formerly secular Iranian intellectuals and students were drawn to Islamic radicalism in this way. It was also through Fanon’s contacts, which included Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault and other western notable leftist thinkers, that the Khomeini movement during the 1970s was able to win quick alliances and propaganda for itself through the international radical left wing and student movements.
One of these radical left groups that still maintains close ties to Tehran is Code Pink. Having joined the Nation of Islam’s protests for Marzieh Hashemi in Washington D.C., Code Pink leaders then sent yet another delegation to Iran in order to offer their support of the regime. Iranian activists have long been monitoring this group’s propaganda campaigns on Tehran’s behalf, which have gone as far as deceitfully manipulating photographs and Internet articles. Code Pink’s founder, a wealthy heiress Susan “Medea” Benjamin, has been a highly effective colluder with a regime infamous for its misogyny. They have even gotten feminists, such as Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler, to attend events in favor of Tehran, using the leftist trope of “anti-imperialism.”
One of the main links through which Americans are exposed to radical leftist worldviews are, of course, the universities; hence not a surprise that Tehran has for years been funding multiple US higher academic institutions, endowing Middle Eastern and Iranian studies faculties, and ensuring that students learning about the region only hear the regime’s perspective.
These leftist and academic connections could be openly seen a few years ago, when Tehran attempted to back the 2011/2012 Occupy Wall Street protests. Calling OWS the ‘American Spring,’ Ali Khamenei predicted “it will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the west.” Numerous regime leaders spoke publicly in support of the protests, and the Basij militia went as far as creating a website to promote OWS. Their outreach campaign worked, and in the summer of 2012, a group of American professors connected to Occupy Wall Street travelled to Iran and spoke at pro-regime conferences.
In August 2017, a New York congressman demanded the federal government investigate the multi-million dollar contributions made to various universities by the Alavi Foundation, the US branch of the Bonyad Mostazafan, one of the largest Khomeinist clerical holding companies in Iran. In addition to disseminating biased information, these regime-funded ‘scholars’ emerged as key voices promoting the Obama administration’s 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal that allowed Tehran to exponentially expand its power across the Middle East. Many of these academics coordinated their activities with the regime’s unofficial US lobbying organization, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
The Black Lives Matter movement that Hashemi was filming has also been courted by Tehran for several years. From the very beginnings of that movement in 2014, the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei saw it an opportunity to project some of his own regime’s actions on the U.S., deflecting attention away from Tehran’s own notorious human rights abuses. In 2015, activists from BLM received all-expenses-paid-trips to Tehran by the regime to speak at a conference on ‘American police brutality’ while activists just streets over in Tehran and throughout Iran were being brutalized.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) February 22, 2017
The U.S. gov. commits oppression inside the U.S., too. U.S. police murder black women, men, & children for no justifiable reason, and the murderers are acquitted in U.S. courts. This is their judicial system! And they slam other countries’ and our country’s judicial system. #BLM
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) December 27, 2017
Running Amok in Africa
Nigeria’s Tehran-aided Islamic Movement held a demonstration demanding the US government release Marzieh Hashemi on Friday, January 18th, in the country’s north-western city of Kano. The regime has been seeking power and influence in that country for quite some time. A 2011 article noted :
“In July 2010, after the world began to see the Iranian regime for what it is, Ahmadinejad(the former regime president) traveled to Nigeria and Mali in an attempt to forge new alliances with African states, hoping to do damage control on Iran’s growing isolation…..The Iranian regime has offered the Nigerian government a bribe, and despite everything, the Nigerian government seems happy to accept it.
In a press conference in Abuja, Nigerian ambassador to Tehran Al-Haj Abubakr Chika told reporters that Iran has offered Nigeria a one billion dollar “loan” in order to help Nigeria with a trade and economic development project. Chika added: ‘This loan will strengthen and expand trade and economic relations between Iran and Nigeria.”
These moves came after Tehran was discovered to be conducting illegal arms trafficking in Nigeria
“In late October 2010, Nigerian intelligence officials discovered weapons in 13 shipping containers marked building materials in Lagos’ Apapa Port. Following an investigation, Nigerian agents learned that Iran was behind the shipment of arms. At first it was assumed that the shipment was going to the Gaza Strip, however further investigations revealed that the weapons were bound for Gambia under the supervision of a group of Nigerian officials.
The shipment had been organized through International Trade and General Construction, an IRGC front company. It was picked up from the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas by CMA CGM (a French shipping company) and transported to Nigeria.
After the discovery of the shipment, the Nigerian government reported Iran to the United Nations Security Council, and Gambia has cut all diplomatic ties with Tehran.”
A fall 2018 Middle East Quarterly article by Hassan Dai provided further details regarding Tehran’s activities in Nigeria, and gave some background information on the above-mentioned Islamic Movement there:
“To win the hearts and minds of African Muslims, the Iranian regime and its institutions organize conferences, conduct religious and political events, work with local partners, and run more than one hundred Islamic centers, schools, seminaries, and mosques in more than thirty African countries ….. In addition, Tehran has offered financial and economic incentives to African governments…The two main organizations spearheading this quest for soft power are the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, which operates through cultural attachés at Iranian embassies, and the Al-Mustafa International University, which trains foreign clerics and missionaries around the world…They also provide the regime with a recruiting pool for the IRGC’s Quds Force and other Iranian institutions responsible for terrorism or military activities abroad.
……Al-Mustafa and ICRO work together to organize al-Quds rallies in African countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda.
Al-Mustafa’s most important African centers are located in Nigeria, a country with several million Shiites, where the university operates five schools and seminaries with nearly one thousand students from Nigeria and neighboring states.
In December 2015, during a bloody government crackdown, the Nigerian army attacked the centers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria—a pro-Tehran Shiite organization with thousands of members—killed dozens of activists and arrested its leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. Since the crackdown, Al-Mustafa’s Nigeria operations have been under government scrutiny.”
Despite all this, the Khomeiniist leadership’s racist views are evidenced by the case of Mohammad Javad Larijani, who referred to Barack Obama in 2010 using the Farsi equivalent of the N-word. Prior to Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been referred to in the very same way by some of the regime’s mouthpiece media outlets reporting in Farsi; making openly racist comments and depicting black people in a derogatory way.
Nazis, Fascists and Holocaust Deniers
In spite of all this rhetoric and effort made to promote itself as the champion of oppressed black people across the globe, the regime has no problems with also allying itself with white supremacists and open neo-Nazis. The appearance of Hitlerphiles such as David Duke, David Irving, and Michele Renouf at the regime’s annual Holocaust denial conferences has received wide press coverage. Less well known is the regime’s outreach to extreme conservative Catholics in the US, among them anti-semitic writer and theologian E. Michael Jones, who has visited Iran and appeared on Press TV numerous times. These far-right ties are not just a recent development.
Modern Islamic fundamentalism from its beginnings was deeply tied to global fascism, and after their defeat in World War II, many ex-Nazis found sanctuary and new leaders to follow in Islamists. It was support from ex-Nazis that crucially aided Khomeini’s rise, his bills during his Paris exile were paid by Francois Genoud, a Swiss neo-Nazi lawyer who was the heir to Adolf Hitler’s last writings. Genoud founded Al-Taqwa bank to aid Islamist movements, and after his death, the bank was run by Swiss Nazi and Muslim convert Achmed Huber, who used it to help fund pro-Tehran terrorist movements, including Hezbollah.
General Otto Remer, a Nazi officer who saved Adolf Hitler’s life in 1944 and then became a neo-Nazi leader in Germany after the war, publicly stated his admiration for Khomeini in an interview with an Islamist newspaper shortly before his death during the 1990s. The regime today continues to have close relations with both Germany’s NPD neo-Nazis, and Italian neo-Fascists.
Hashemi warily returns to Tehran
Marzieh Hashemi was released on January 23rd after giving her required testimony to a Washington, D.C. grand jury, and she returned to Iran on January 30th amid pomp and circumstance (below video). However, rumours and questions surrounding this incident, which is sealed by the American courts, the relatively quick manner in which she was dealt with and then freed has led to speculations that Hashemi may in fact be a US intelligence agent, whose work and propaganda activities for Tehran are merely a clever means of infiltrating and gathering information about the regime’s inner workings. The fact that she was given a welcome home parade on her arrival, just as Shahram Amiri, a nuclear scientist who claimed he was kidnapped by the CIA in 2010, was, is spiking questions regarding what Hashemi’s ultimate fate will be. Amiri was also treated as a hero upon his return to Iran, but soon afterwards he was imprisoned and ultimately executed on charges of spying for the US.
Iranians have also noted the stark hypocrisy of the regime in its accusations that Hashemi’s detention somehow was an abuse of press freedom by the US. Press TV has never once so much as admitted to the number of journalists the Khomeiniist regime itself has arrested over the years, nor has Hashemi been known to talk about any such thing. Journalists in every corner of Iran however, have suffered persecution from the regime since its inception, and their arrests and imprisonment continues today, as noted and tracked by Reporters Without Borders.