Iranian-American lobbyist Siamak Namazi was arrested in Tehran according to sources close to him. Namazi is a dual-citizen of the United States and Iran; he also happens to be an instrumental puppet-master of the Iran nuclear deal, working behind the scenes with the Obama White House.
Ironically, Namazi's rapprochement with the Islamic Republic left him vulnerable to the tentacles of totalitarian theocracy. The world economic consultant purportedly maintains ties with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an influential Washington lobbying group that has been prodding the White House for decades to fundamentally overhaul its diplomatic policy with the isolated Shiite state. "This Iran lobby...has become a staunch institutional ally of the White House selling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is known," reportsThe Daily Beast. "But while NIAC has done the heavy-lifting—the ad-buying, the leafleting, and congressional meet-and-greets, all designed to sell lawmakers on the Iran deal—its political efforts also underwrite the economic interests of one very well connected but low-profile Iranian family, the Namazis, who played a key role as intellectual architects of NIAC."
Siamak Namazi is not just any detainee shackled in Iran's barbaric Evin Prison, the ninth circle of Dante's hell on earth. The man's underground dealings read like a shadowy figure in a spy novel. In fact, Siamak is the constable of the powerful Namazi clan, a family that operates as the "perfect embodiment of Iranian power politics." The Daily Beast's revealing exposé on this "shady family behind the Iran lobby" documents the sheer extent of the Namazi network's disturbing influence over US-Iranian affairs:
Little known to the American press, the Namazis have rarely acted as spokespersons for their own cause. In fact, attempts to reach various members of the family for comment on this story were met with increasing levels of hostility and threats of legal action. Yet in many ways, the Namazi clan is the perfect embodiment of Iranian power politics, at least as it has played out among the Iranian diaspora. Those close to the Namazis say that they are savvy financial operators rather than ideologues, eager to do business with the West and enjoy all of its political freedoms and perquisites, and yet ever mindful that they’re straddling the delicate fault-line between cashing in with a theocratic dictatorship and being frozen out entirely. They have stayed on the right side of international law if not always on the right side of prevailing political interests in the Islamic Republic.
Accordingly, the Namazis essentially controlled the ebb and flow of US-Iranian business dealings, strategically positioning themselves as gatekeepers and intermediaries to an embattled and sanctioned Islamic state. The Daily Beast notes:
In 1993, Pari Namazi and her husband, Bijan Khajehpour, founded a company in Tehran called Atieh Bahar Consulting (AB). It offered a range of legal and industrial services to foreign enterprises, most importantly the access it provided to the regime, and the advice it dispensed on how best to navigate the vagaries of the regime’s entrenched factions and competitive interests.
At the time, it looked like Iran might even be opening up to big American-based oil companies, then unencumbered by any sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic. But after an announcement in 1995 that Iran had given Conoco a contract to develop an offshore gas field, and an uproar in the U.S. Congress, the Clinton administration imposed unilateral sanctions and barred U.S. companies from doing business there.
Eventually Siamak Namazi, who had worked from 1994 to 1996 at Iran’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, also joined AB. So did his brother Babak, a lawyer. And the AB client list just kept growing. Plenty of companies based outside the U.S. were more than happy to do business in Iran once they had the right connections. As Siamak eventually told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, “If oil companies want to operate in the Iranian market they need to link up with a local partner, and this is where we step in and help them to find the right partner.
Siamak's role as chief ventriloquist slowly materialized as the Namazis worked to open the Iranian markets to Western investment. "In November 1999, when Khatami was still president, Siamak Namazi got together with a Swedish-Iranian expat named Trita Parsi at a conference in Cyprus," reports The Daily Beast. The two masterminds drafted a "white paper" concluding, “the fear of coming across as a lackey of the Iranian regime is still prohibiting many Iranian Americans from fully engaging in the debate on the future of Iran-U.S. relations.” The way around this, they submitted, was to mobilize the Iranian-American community and enlist “Americans of non-Iranian background” to lessen the adversarial posture of both nations."
"But while NIAC has done the heavy-lifting—the ad-buying, the leafleting, and congressional meet-and-greets, all designed to sell lawmakers on the Iran deal—its political efforts also underwrite the economic interests of one very well connected but low-profile Iranian family, the Namazis, who played a key role as intellectual architects of NIAC."
The Daily Beast
"The white paper led to the creation two years later, in 2001, of NIAC," notably, the same lobbying group that helped choreograph the Iran nuclear deal. As founder and current president, Parsi targeted pro-Israel organizations, including AIPAC, for their seemingly-tough stance against Iran. "Parsi also wrote intelligence briefings as an 'affiliate analyst in Washington, D.C.' for AB, focusing on such topics as whether or not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would revive its anti-Iran campaigning on the eve of the Iraq war, or on efforts by the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), the militant Iranian opposition group that exposed Natanz in 2002 would get itself de-listed as a terrorist entity by the U.S. State Department," confirms The Daily Beast.
NIAC has infiltrated the corridors of power and now commands the ear of President Obama. "Perhaps NIAC’s most accomplished alum is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who is now National Security Council director for Iran in the Obama administration and therefore the top U.S. official for Iran policy, bringing together the various departments of government working on U.S. strategy toward the country. She is also, after the White House principals, one of the leading advisers to President Obama on Iran," says The Daily Beast, adding:
In June of this year, as the Iran deal looked likely, NIAC inaugurated an official “lobbying” arm called NIAC Action registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) organization, but for years, internally, the group has described its activities (PDF) as lobbying. NIAC Action is explicitly meant to counter the influence of AIPAC, which has spent millions to block the Iran deal’s passage in Congress by securing a veto-proof bipartisan majority of senators opposed to it—an effort that now appears close to failure.
Siamak Namazi is the fourth American of Iranian descent surreptitiously detained by Iranian intelligence officials. Despite its intimate relationship with the Namazi family, the White House opted to remain relatively inconspicuous regarding Siamak's arrest. "We’re aware of recent reports of the possible arrest in Iran of a person reported to have U.S. citizenship. We’re looking into these reports and don’t have anything further to provide at this time," said a deputy spokesman for the State Department.