Yasmine Taeb is an Iranian-American, an official with the Democratic National Committee, and a senior policy counsel for the Center for Victims of Torture.
She has also expressed support for the Iranian regime, which her parents fled bringing her to the United States illegally when she was in second grade. For instance, she wrote an enthusiastic tweet, sharing FM Zarif’s response to Senator Tom Cotton’s letter. That letter accused 47 US senators of making a propaganda play in challenging the Iranian government regarding the circumstances of the nuclear deal. Among other comments, FM Zarif claimed that the whole world is “not the United States”. Whose side is the candidate for the 35th District State Senate seat in Virginia really on? Why would someone who is contemplating a career in US politics side with a regime known for its human rights violations and sponsorship of terrorist activities, rather than with her own government?
— Yasmine Taeb (@YasmineTaeb) February 4, 2014
Taeb’s family left Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Perhaps her family, war refugees, rather than dissidents or members of opposition groups, never really had a problem with Tehran’s actions around the world, or the fact that at the height of the Islamic Revolution, its acolytes took Americans hostage. Her warm support for FM Zarif is not in any way derailed by Iran’s financial support for Hezbullah, which has targeted and murdered Americans, the frequent threats against the United States by the various government officials, or the support for Assad’s butchery in Syria. Furthermore, Ms. Taeb does not express any cognitive dissonance over supporting FM Zarif’s claims to international law above US authority while working as an adviser for the Center for Victims of Torture. Her denunciations of the regime’s history of show trials, extensive torture against human rights lawyers, dissidents, members of the opposition, members of non-Persian nations, and hostage taking of Americans and dual nationals appear to be non-existent.
Whether such a candidate is worthy of holding office is something for her future constituents to decide.
However, as they ponder this decision, they should take Ms. Taeb’s stated political positions. Advocating against an anti-BDS measure percolating in US Congress, Ms. Taeb expressed concerned about restrictions on freedom of speech in the United States. But will she be as concerned about the ability of her critics to use the marketplace of ideas to criticize her political positions and course of actions? Recent events suggest otherwise.
On Sunday, June 9, a critic of the Iranian regime known as “Heshmat Alavi” was deplatformed by Twitter after Alavi wrote up a thread suggesting that Ms. Taeb is sympathetic to the Iranian government and is otherwise either connected to it or serving its political agenda in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Murtaza Mohammed Hussain from The Intercept wrote an article, alleging that Alavi is not one person, but rather a conclave of twenty MEK operatives based in Albania who are feeding the right-wing critics of Iran on Twitter information and talking points. Alavi was accused of being a member of a fraudulent community, and MEK itself was accused of embracing extremism. Soon after the article came out, Alavi’s account was shut down by Twitter and all his threads were deleted. Many will surely note that the process was unfair to whomever Alavi maybe, since the article did not present hard evidence substantiating what otherwise appears to be a character assassination attacks by a publication known for its support of pro-Iran positions against one of its harshest critics. Who is Mr. Hussain? His record of writing includes a variety of newspapers with a record of support for the Iran deal, including The Guardian, known to be a pro-Qatar, pro-“reformist” publication, and Al Jazeera English.
There is no direct evidence that Ms. Taeb asked The Intercept to attack Mr. Alavi. However, there is a known history of cooperation between her and publication. In the past, The Intercept has written a positive article essentially endorsing Ms.Taeb vis-a-vis her primary opponent. The Intercept has interviewed her regarding policy issues and is clearly a familiar and friendly outlet.
Conveniently, no investigation was launched. Alavi was not informed about the process, and the account was not merely suspended pending such an investigation but deleted. Arguably, this is a clear example of a major social media network throwing its weight around to silence inconvenient and unpopular voices be they political conservatives in the United States or dissidents of powerful states or supporters of otherwise controversial positions. That, however, is nothing new. What is more interesting is that The Intercept took such offense at the tweet against Ms. Taeb that it wrote an entire article “exposing” Alavi though Alavi had written a great deal on various Iran-related issues and at no point was he subjected to such intense scrutiny and such poorly supported accusations. Let us know, by the way, for the sake of the argument that a group known as MEK, while it has its dark past and has taken controversial political positions, has been removed from the terrorist listing in the United States… seven years ago.
Why would The Intercept be bothered by Alavi’s alleged affiliation with that group even if it were the case? The latest news about Albania, by the way, is that Iranian opposition was targeted by pro-Iran terrorists, and were victims rather than perpetrators of extremist or violent activity. Further worth noting is that these IRGC operatives worked under a diplomatic cover and were subsequently expelled from the country. Infiltrating legitimate political circles for the sake of receiving immunity from scrutiny and prosecution – what a novel idea! Rather than defending dissidents and anonymous writers (The Intercept is known for its all-out support for the Russian asset Edward Snowden), The Intercept and its writers looked to unmask an Iran critic, who has a reason to fear attempted assassinations. Just in 2018, Iran has masterminded three attempted attacks on various members of opposition groups in Europe.
The Intercept did not comment on those events in December 2018 or anytime thereafter and seemed to have no concern about Iranian terrorists posing as diplomats and targeting critics for murder in Europe. All of a sudden, however, one person dares to criticize a US candidate for her position, and he himself becomes an enclave of terrorists plotting in a land far far away. Is there a connection between the Intercept and Ms. Taeb? Is this publication really so concerned about potential influence on the democratic process by some foreign entities that instead of responding to Mr. Alavi’s comments on the merit it had to depersonalize him altogether?
— Kamran Fareedi (@kamran_fareedi) April 20, 2019
Note: the above tweet shows Yasmeen with whom she claims to be ordinary Iranian Americans but in fact, they are members of the Iranian Lobby “NIAC” in Washington DC.
Clearly, this has nothing to do with the marketplace of ideas, because the public arguably should be exposed to all potential criticisms of the running candidates and be able to evaluate those criticisms regardless of the source. Mr. Alavi is not being accused of engaging in any sort of illegal or unethical activity such as hacking or storing classified information on a server vulnerable to hackers; so why should the public be protected from his commentary? Ms. Taeb, despite her seeming concern about the freedom to enjoy discourse, did not immediately step in Mr. Alavi’s defense or confront the allegations. A secure candidate, when subjected to such a controversy, would utilize this opportunity to illustrate the strength of her convictions. Instead, in her silence, she sided with The Intercept’s and Twitter’s course of action.
Yet far from being defamatory, Mr. Alavi’s analysis of Ms. Taeb appears to be based on evidence. Ms. Taeb, is on the record of supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the nuclear deal with Iran), has also been an outspoken opponent of the idea of sanctions against Iran, which, she claims ultimately hurt the Iranian people – despite the evidence that it is the Iranian government that chooses to spend its resources on military operations and support for terrorism, rather than on infrastructure or any sort of legitimate governance policies, has surrounded herself with apologists for the Islamic Republic. She is pictured on many a political occasions with the founder of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, who, despite her claims to feminism, has visited Iran numerous occasions, expressing solidarity with the regime and buying into the well known and false regime narrative about the “hardliners” supposedly strengthened by any pressure against Iran’s illegal activities and “reformists” (such as President Rouhani, on whose watch the number of executions and arrests has actually increased). She has tweeted her own support for “diplomacy” without explaining what to do when one is dealing with an aggressive adversarial entity that oppresses its own people and invades other countries, engaging in provocative and threatening development of conventional and non-conventional weapons. None of that by itself is dispositive of anything but exceptionally poor judgment on the part of someone who has been involved in party politics for over a decade.
— NIAC Action (@NIACAction) June 10, 2019
However, Ms. Taeb’s involvement in and continuous support of the National Iranian American Council tells a lot more about Ms. Taeb’s position than any of her public commentary. Yasmine Taeb is not merely a NIAC member but a former NIAC Congressional fellow. Interestingly enough, she also wrote several articles about Islamophobia, a topic dear to NIAC’s heart, while working for the Center for American Progress. What is NIAC? Founded by Dr. Trita Parsi, a left-leaning Zoroastrian Swedish ex-pat, who has since publicly resigned from the directorship position, NIAC was supposed to be the voice of the Iranian American community in the United States, and focus its work on building relations between Iranians and Americans. These claims are misleading on both counts. NIAC neither enjoy the wide support that it claims nor engages in people-to-people relationship building. Rather, it parrots the line of the “Reformist” faction of the Iranian government, which has been used by the true leadership of the Islamic Republic, the ayatollahs, to manipulate public opinion in the West. Furthermore, the US courts have found both NIAC and Dr. Parsi to be unregistered agents of the Iranian government.
Thank you @NIACAction (National Iranian American Council) for your strong endorsement & all that you're doing to increase political engagement in the Iranian-American community and overturn discriminatory policies like Trump’s #MuslimBan. #SD35 https://t.co/umbEcQxyeN
— Yasmine Taeb (@YasmineTaeb) February 3, 2019
Ms. Taeb, an experienced hand in politics, surely would have noted these decisions, when NIAC itself took action against another critic, Hassan Daeislami, by bringing him to court with a defamation complaint – and losing. NIAC’s playbook has not changed since then. NIAC reached the height of its influence under President Obama, when Dr. Parsi was a frequent visitor to the White House. However, even after falling from grace when President Trump took office, NIAC and its affiliates continue to disseminate the same talking points, accusing the US of masterminding a war action against Iran, despite all evidence to the contrary, spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and sending out disinformation about the travel restrictions issued by the administration in 2017. A number of NIAC’s members and fellows ended up in security positions or as Congressional staff, which counted as major victories for a lobby group seeking to exact political influence.
This fellowship helped Ms. Taeb advance her political career, while understanding the workings of the federal government and building connections and relationships. NIAC then supported Ms. Taeb in various ways – by hosting her for panel discussions, endorsing her candidacy, and organizing political fundraisers on her behalf.
Despite NIAC’s history of deception, problematic legal status, and clear links with the Iranian government, Ms. Taeb has enjoyed NIAC’s support and maintained her relationship with that organization, never denouncing its ties to Tehran. Meanwhile, Ms. Taeb’s constituents are being deprived of an opportunity to examine her positions, because Ms. Taeb’s ideological allies were concerned this would damage her chances of promoting her positions through a position of power. Any candidate operating in good faith would by this point steer clear of any such assistance, particularly when the questions being raised about her political affiliations are legitimate and concerning.
There is nothing new about unscrupulous or hypocritical political operatives. However, if we are to turn the unfortunate attack on Mr. Alavi into a discussion on unwanted foreign influence, what better way to start is by asking why these concerns about undue involvement of foreign entities should only work one way – the way that happens to suit Iran? Regardless of Ms. Taeb’s own goals and intentions, her statements, her actions, her affiliations, and her bothersome silence in the face of a troubling character assassination attack against one of her critic serves Iran’s interests. If she is as concerned about the future of the United States as she claims to be, she should consider who benefits from the silencing of political discussions – and whether that is something that she is willing to tolerate on her watch.
However, no one should hold his breath awaiting unequivocal condemnation. Ms. Taeb was last observed retweeting the new head of NIAC expressing glee at Mr. Alavi’s disappearance from the conversation on Twitter