WASHINGTON — In a move unprecedented since the Ayatollah Khomeini
revolution 21 years ago, the U.S. government has authorized an Iranian
cabinet officer to lobby Iranian-American citizens in meetings across
America, the State Department acknowledged under questioning yesterday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi traveled to Cambridge, Mass.,
earlier this week to give a speech to faculty and students at
Harvard University, before heading out to Los Angeles yesterday for
three days of closed-door meetings with Iranian-American
businessmen, WorldNetDaily.com has learned.
Until yesterday, the U.S. government has placed travel restrictions
on top Iranian government officials similar to those placed on Soviet
diplomats at the height of the Cold War. Those travel restrictions were
aimed at curtailing spying by Soviet intelligence officers traveling
under diplomatic cover.
The State Department policy has allowed the Iranians to attend
meetings hosted by international organizations, but forbids them from
holding public meetings with Iranian-Americans or from traveling outside
of the metropolitan areas of New York and Washington. Only diplomats
from Iraq and North Korea face similar restrictions today.
Neither the State Department nor the National Security Council would
comment on whether the travel restrictions have now been officially
lifted, or whether Kharrazi’s trip was a one-time affair.
Over the past two years, the administration has gradually loosened
the travel restrictions on lower-level Iranian officials on a
case-by-case basis, allowing Iran’s permanent representative to the
United Nations, Nadi Nejad-Hosseinian, to address conferences hosted by
lobbying groups seeking to lift U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.
Only two months after assuming his post in New York in February 1998,
Nejad-Hosseinian was authorized to travel to Los Angeles, where he met
with Iranian-American supporters of the Islamic regime and addressed a
forum hosted by the World Affairs Council.
In September 1998, President Mohammad Khatami, a cleric, became the
first Iranian head of government to visit the United States since the
revolution when he attended the annual meeting of the United Nations
General Assembly. Khatami returned to New York again earlier this month.
Although he listened to President Clinton’s speech to the General
Assembly, the two did not meet, the State Department said.
The plight of the Iranian Jews
The Iranian Foreign Minister’s trip to California comes at a
sensitive time for relations between the two countries, and especially
for Iranian Jews, who are concerned over the fate of 13 Jews jailed by
the regime in the Iranian city of Shiraz on charges of spying for
Kharrazi will meet with officers of the Iranian-American Jewish
Federation today, sources in Los Angeles told WorldNetDaily.com. The
foreign minister plans to offer them financial incentives as an
inducement to drop their criticism of the regime and to work to end U.S.
trade sanctions on Iran.
The meeting has the Iranian Jewish community in California in an
uproar, since it is planned to coincide with the announcement in Shiraz
by a revolutionary appeals court of revised sentences for 10 of the 13
Jews. Charges against the other three were dropped when the initial
sentences were handed down July 1.
The court is expected to announce lighter sentences today for some or
all of the 10 Jews, but will not exonerate them.
“These people are innocent. Anything short of complete exoneration
will not be satisfactory to us,” said Sam Kermanian, a leader of the
Iranian-American Jewish Federation.
Kermanian’s group has been engaged in back-door negotiations with the
regime to obtain lighter sentences for the Jews and better treatment for
them while in jail, according to press accounts in Persian-language
newspapers over the past year. While insisting in public that they be
released, in private Kermanian’s Federation has been willing to
compromise with Tehran.
Top officers of Kermanian’s group were prominent businessmen in Iran
who had their factories and other holdings confiscated by the
revolutionary regime in 1979. Foreign Minister Kharrazi is offering to
help them reclaim their property in exchange for their cooperation,
sources privy to the negotiations told WorldNetDaily.com.
Israel’s consulate in Tehran was also confiscated at the time of the
revolution, but could now be returned to the Iranian Jewish Federation
in Tehran as part of a deal to placate the Jewish community, the sources
It would not be the first time the regime has offered financial
inducements to Iranian exiles in exchange for their support.
Dr. Hoosang Ram, a banker who handled the personal finances of the
former shah, was induced to return to Iran several years ago on promises
he would be able to regain his property, according to members of Ram’s
family. Ram reportedly gave the regime information that allowed them to
recapture several hundred million dollars worth of assets from the
former shah’s international holdings. Instead of thanks, the regime
placed Ram under house arrest in Tehran.
The State Department has privately been encouraging Iranian-Americans
to meet with government officials from Tehran, and has told community
leaders they require no special permission for such meetings.
U.S. Jewish leaders have not rejected a dialogue with Tehran, as long
as it includes tough talk on the objectionable behavior of the Iranian
regime and the release of the jailed Shirazi Jews. On Aug. 31, Malcolm
Hoenlein, director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, met with the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Mehdi
Karrubi, at a New York reception hosted by an inter-parliamentary
After the meeting, Hoenlein told the Associated Press that he had
asked Karrubi to look into the cases of 11 Jewish children who have
disappeared near Iran’s border with Pakistan in the past decade. He also
requested Karrubi’s assistance in getting charges dropped against the
At 11 a.m. today, the Conference of Presidents will hold a conference
call to discuss Kharrazi’s trip to Los Angeles and to determine how to
respond to the revised sentences handed down against the Shirazi Jews by
the Revolutionary Court. They are expected to announce their response by
“We would prefer that the lawyers defending the 13 be allowed to
prove their innocence, and show that they were framed by the regime’s
intelligence ministry, rather than them being released in the context of
a deal,” said Pooya Dayanim, a spokesman for the Council of Iranian
Jewish Organizations in Los Angeles.
Dayanim’s group, which represents younger generation Iranians, was
not invited to the close-door session with Kharrazi because of its
insistence on exonerating the Jews. The main lawyer for the 13 in Iran,
Esma’il Naseri, told the Persian-language service of Radio France
International on Tuesday that he had recently received
from government officials because of his defense of the Jews. Officials from the judiciary had threatened him with “assassination, cancellation of [his] law license, removal from office” and even charges of “collaboration with the Israeli enemy” if he and his colleagues failed to denounce their clients as “true spies,” he said.
Speech at UCLA
Kharrazi will meet with Iranian-American businessmen from Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego during his three-day California trip, knowledgeable sources said.
“He wants to get people on board to spearhead trade once the U.S. sanctions are lifted,” the sources said.
He will also hold a public meeting with faculty and students at UCLA today at noon, and will hold a press conference on Saturday. Members of Iranian opposition organizations have reportedly been banned from both meetings by the University authorities.
Kenneth Timmerman, a veteran foreign correspondent whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is currently developing a special investigative report for the
Western Journalism Center on relations between the governments of Iran and the United States.