A top advisor to President Bush who recently returned from Afghanistan delivered a blistering condemnation of the Iranian regime in a speech Wednesday night to a pro-Tehran lobbying group in Washington, DC that clearly had been hoping to hear a different message.
Dr. Zalmay Khaliazad, advisor to the president for Near East and South Asia and the President's Special Envoy to Afghanistan, told the American-Iranian Council (AIC) that the Iranian government is sheltering Al Qaeda terrorists and continues to support other international terrorist groups, despite explicit U.S. requests to stop.
"We had hoped that after the September 11 attacks, the Iranian regime would end its support for terrorists," Khaliazad said. "But Iran did not stop its support for terror. Indeed, the hard-line elements of the Iranian regime facilitated the movement of al-Qaeda terrorists escaping from Afghanistan."
Khaliazad warned that the Iranian regime was "aggressively pursuing" nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs, which coupled to Iran's support for terrorism, created "a threatening mix."
"It is a particularly dangerous prospect for an Iranian government, not accountable to the Iranian people and supporting terrorists, to acquire nuclear weapons," he added.
He blasted the regime for its human rights abuses and repression of women. "America will stand beside all people, ñ including Iranians ñ who seek a freer future," he said. "Nearly 65% of Iran's population is under 25. This group has been the driving force for change. But the voices and protests of Iran's young people have been repressed ñ at times violently."
The American-Iranian Council is financed by major U.S. corporations seeking to remove U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. The group regularly calls for a "dialogue" between the U.S. and clerical regime in Tehran, with the clear suggestion that the roadblocks to dialogue are in Washington. But Khaliazad pointed out that "the Iranian government has chosen not to engage the United States in a dialogue free of preconditions."
The AIC claimed that major U.S. corporations, including Chevron Texaco, CONOCO, and Exxon Mobil were "co-sponsors" of the one-day conference, but most of the hundred-odd participants gathering at the U.S. Chamber of commerce were Iranian.
Senator Joseph Biden (D, DE) told the group earlier in the day that he favored a dialogue with the Iranian government. "I believe than an improved relationship with Iran is in the naked self-interest of the United States of America." However, he also criticized the regime for its support of terrorism and human rights abuses, stating: "we are squarely with the Iranian people in their desire for a democratic government and a democratic society."
Biden was strongly criticized by Iranian-Americans for attending a fund-raiser held by members of the AIC and another pro-Tehran lobbying group in California last month, as Insight recently reported.
Also addressing the group was Senator Robert Torricelli (D, NJ), who until recently has been an outspoken supporter of the People's Mujahedin organization of Iran, an Islamic Marxist group that is supported by Saddam Hussein and maintains military bases in Iraq.
Senator Chuck Hagel (R, NE) gave a rambling keynote speech emphasizing the need for opening trade with Iran. When asked by Insight if he realized that the AIC was a pro-Tehran lobbying group, Hagel said "Hmpf" and walked off without further comment.
AIC president Housing Amirahmadi called allegations that have surfaced within the Iranian-American community that he was facing a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former AIC staff member "total nonsense."
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer at Insight.