Iranian Americans accused by members of their community of collaborating with the cleric-led Islamic regime in Tehran have planned a fund-raiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The event was scheduled for yesterday at the Los Altos Hills, Ca., home of Gita Kashani, a former member of the board of trustees of the controversial Iranian American Political Action Committee and past president of the Society of Iranian Professionals, a group that sponsored a technology conference in Iran in cooperation with the Iranian government.
The California fund-raiser has been postponed, presumably because of President Clinton’s surgery, according to Kashani and a staffer for HILLPAC, the Democratic political action committee coordinating the event.
The staffer promised Friday someone from HILLPAC would call back WND to comment, but there was no response by press time.
Kashani sees the fund-raiser simply as a chance for the community to hear an exciting politician share her views, but some in the Iranian community in the U.S. believe it would help brand Hillary Clinton as the “pro-mullah” candidate for president.
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a Democrat who voted for Clinton in 2000, warned the senator to stay away from Kashani and her associates.
“If Mrs. Clinton refuses to stop taking money from characters like Kashani – who deny their ties to the mullahs but are known by the Iranian community for a fact to be involved – in the end she will be the mullah’s candidate for 2008,” she told WND.
Zand-Bonazzi said Clinton “should speak to other members of the Democratic leadership in order to take her clues as to which members of the community she should reach out to.”
In an interview with WND, Kashani called the charges “ridiculous,” arguing the fund-raising event is not tied to IAPAC, although her home also was the site of the group’s annual Northern California fund-raising reception last December.
IAPAC says its goal is to “ensure Iranian Americans have an influential voice and presence in the American electoral and legislative process.” The group calls itself bipartisan, with no foreign policy position, but it has been denounced by U.S. Iranian critics as a collaborator with Tehran. The Texas-based pro-democracy group, Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, calls IAPAC a “lobby group for a terrorist regime.”
“I’m just a normal citizen, a mother with three children,” Kashani said. “If this PAC in any way shape or form had anything to do with Iran, I would have nothing to do with it.”
Kashani, who said she’s a registered Republican, insisted the Clinton fund-raiser is not at all related to foreign policy.
“I have no clue what her policy toward Iran is,” she said. “[The participants] just really want to meet her. It could be womens’ rights that they are interested in.”
Kashani said her leadership in IAPAC and service as past president of the Society for Iranian Professionals had no connection to politics, let alone to Tehran.
“I would not want not work with anyone tied to any regime,” she said. “I was raised here, I’m a citizen, I love this country and don’t want any tie to any regime.”
Kashani also contended neither she nor the Society of Iranian Professionals had anything to do with the 2001 Conference on Technology and Development in Isfahan, Iran.
“It was outside of SIP and specifically done in that manner because the SIP charter says it’s to be a non-profit, non-political, non-religious organization,” she said.
But a flyer for the event obtained by WND says, “The Society of Iranian Professionals (SIP), in collaboration with Isfahan’s Office of Mayor and Isfahan University of Technology, is proud to organize a conference on Technology and Urban Development in Isfahan, Iran.”
The stated objective, according to the flyer, was “to facilitate exchange of experts and know-how in areas of Technology and Urban Development. This conference will provide contact and will help identify short term, and long term technology needs in Iran.”
Also, WND obtained a copy of a letter Kashani, as president of the SIP, wrote July 28, 2001, to members of the conference executive committee, chastising the panel for delays in getting the event organized.
Kashani wrote: “At this point it seems like SIP’s reputation is at stake and I feel as President of SIP I need to step in and ask some serious questions.”
Meetings with officials
An Iranian American who lectured at the conference and wishes to remain anonymous, told WND that while in Iran, the U.S. organizers met with high-level Iranian officials.
Despite the denials, the source said, Kashani helped organize the event, although she did not “have the education to understand the consequences of associating with [officials of the Islamic regime].”
The Iranian American also said Kashani met with Nejad Hosseinian in 2000, who then was Iran’s ambassador to the U.N.
Kashani denied the charge, but she acknowledged SIP’s president at the time, Ladan Afrasiabi, met Hosseinian. Kashani maintained, however, the contact was strictly personal, outside the auspices of the SIP.
Nevertheless, WND obtain a memo addressed to Kashani, in her role as SIP treasurer, that asked for reimbursement for “your afternoon meeting with Nejad Hosseinian” May 7, 2000.
‘Outspoken’ mullah supporters
Some members of the U.S. Iranian community who have monitored preparation for the fund-raiser believe a close Kashani friend, Susan Akbarpour, and her husband, Faraj Aalaei, also are behind the event.
Kashani denies that, but said she would rather not say who else is involved.
Akbarpour and Aalaei are regarded by many Iranian-Americans, including the source who attended the Isfahan conference, as outspoken supporters of the mullahs.
The Iranian-American source, self-described as an “extreme leftist,” called Kashani and Akbarpour “Gucci politicians” who may not be ideologically aligned with Tehran’s mullahs but are dangerous, nevertheless, because of their quest for social status and power.
They are used by the Islamic regime to wield power in this country, the source said.
Aalaei, who married Akbarpour in 2003, raised about $100,000 for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign. He is chief executive officer of Centillium Communications, a technology company.
Akbarpour, still an Iranian citizen, came on a tourist visa seven years ago from Iran where she was a journalist with close ties to Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former hard-line president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.
Until recently, Rafsanjani’s daughter was a member of the Iranian Parliament in a faction that identifies itself as “reformist” but has never pressed for an end to clerical rule.
In her short amount of time in the U.S., according to an Insight magazine story last year, Akbarpour has started a newspaper, a magazine and, most recently, a trade association, SiliconIran, whose goal is to get sanctions lifted and promote U.S. business and investment in Iran.
Iranian student activist Aryo Pirouznia, the head of the Texas-based democracy movement, says Akbarpour praised Faezeh Hashemi on Iranian television and demonstrated against pro-freedom groups in California when Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi came to Los Angeles in September 2000.
Iranian-American Jewish organizations were outraged by Kharrazi’s trip, part of a failed Clinton administration effort to renew ties with Tehran that came shortly after Iran’s show trial of 13 Jews.
Insight said Akbarpour was filmed by several Los Angeles-based Iranian TV networks insulting the protesters and supporting Kharrazi. Iranian Jewish activists said she published numerous anti-Semitic articles in the Persian-language edition of her monthly newspaper, Iran Today.
Akbarpour told Insight she would “never help” President Bush and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., because both have taken a no-nonsense approach to the Iranian regime.
“I do believe in getting rid of the clerics,” she said, “but not overnight. That would not lead to stability in Iran. I see this as an evolutionary process.”
Iranian-American activists charge that while on political asylum, Akbarpour has maintained relations with officials of the Iranian government, including meetings with Ambassador Hosseinian in California and New York in 2000.
In Feb 2002, she arranged a series of meetings sponsored by SiliconIran in Palo Alto with Mohammad Razavi, the deputy of Iran’s ministry of Mine and Industry, exploring technology contributions to the Islamic Republic.
Akbarpour also has worked closely with the American Iranian Council to promote rapprochement with the Iranian regime. She was the main organizer of the AIC’s 2002 conference in San Francisco when her husband was a board member.
Kashani told WND the accusations against Akbarpour are completely without merit.
“She has done a lot of good for the community,” Kashani said. “All these allegations are somone’s imagination.”
Jerome Corsi, author of a new book that charges American politicians are being bought by pro-Tehran lobbyists, “Atomic Iran,” said senators such as Clinton, Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Joseph Biden seem willing to overlook the State Department’s listing of Iran as a rogue regime that supports international terrorism.
Corsi said it’s irresponsible for [Clinton] to be “cosying up” to a lobbying group that supports a government that cannot be trusted.
“[The mullahs] already have said they are going to attack us and destroy Israel,” Corsi said. “They support Hezbollah, Hamas, suicide bombers in Israel, insurgents in Iraq, and they’ve killed our soldiers around the world.”
Corsi supports President Bush’s policy to take no action that extends legitimacy to Iran’s ayatollahs.
“Negotiation, engagement, getting safeguards and offering carrots are all fine when you’re dealing with sane people,” he said. “But they will lie to you and play you for the fool.”
Commenting on Kashani, Corsi said it seems nobody from the “pro-mullah lobby” in the U.S. wants to admit their true position.
“When they come under scrutiny, they run for cover,” he said.
Corsi said “those willing to contribute funds know what the game is – to support the mullahs but to have deniability at the same time.”
Sen. Biden came under criticism in March 2002 for holding a campaign fund-raiser at the California home of Sadegh Namazi-khah, a strong supporter of the Tehran regime and leading pro-Iran lobbyist.
Delaware Republican Chairman Everett Moore called on the senator to return the estimated $24,000 raised for his campaign.
“I can’t believe that Sen. Biden would have a fund-raiser at the home of a pro-Tehran lobbyist two weeks after the White House made it abundantly clear that Iran was aiding the al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan,” Moore said. “Frankly, I am appalled that Sen. Biden would have the audacity as the Senate Foreign Relations chairman to take money from a lobbyist supporting a country that brutalizes women, ignores human rights and endorses terrorism.”
That same month, Biden invited members of the Iranian parliament, which is dominated by Tehran supporters, for “a historic meeting” in Washington or anywhere else to discuss issues hampering U.S.-Iranian relations.
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