Council on Foreign Relations Under Fire for Decision To Host Closed-Door Confab With Iranian President

Ebrahim Raisi's government plotted to assassinate U.S. officials

L: Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi (Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker) R: CFR president Michael Froman (Getty Images/Fiona Goodall)
September 12, 2023

A prominent Washington, D.C., think tank is under fire for its decision to host Iran’s president while he is in New York City for the United Nations’ annual gathering.

The Council on Foreign Relations, one of Washington’s most influential foreign policy hubs, is scheduled to host an invitation-only event with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi next Tuesday, a source confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon, when the Iranian leader is in New York City to attend the U.N.’s General Assembly, the annual weeklong gathering of world leaders.

Former senior U.S. officials and Iranian dissidents blasted the think tank for hosting a regime mouthpiece who is engaged in plots to assassinate American leaders. News of the event was first outed by a CFR fellow on Twitter. CFR has not posted details about the event on its website or publicly acknowledged it is taking place. The think tank also would not respond to Free Beacon requests for comment.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo—whom Raisi’s government is plotting to assassinate along with other American officials, such as former White House national security adviser John Bolton—called the CFR event "immoral and indecent."

"Hosting Iranian president Raisi, the Butcher of Tehran—who was responsible for the murder of 1,000s of Iranian innocents—is immoral and indecent," Pompeo told the Free Beacon. "Not only has he, personally, terrorized his own citizens, he will, from New York City, espouse his continuing efforts to destroy Israel and kill Americans including former government officials."

"Wide open debate on American foreign policy is necessary," Pompeo said, but "providing a platform for an unrepentant, anti-Semitic terrorist murderer does not further that goal."

The CFR event only became public during the weekend, when senior fellow and Iranian dissident Roya Hakakian declined the invitation via a message on X, formerly Twitter.

"I see the presence of Ebrahim Raisi at the Council on Foreign Relations as a political baptism for a man who has been implicated in countless crimes, including, most recently, of crimes against humanity by a Swedish court," Hakakian wrote after receiving an invitation to the private affair from CFR president Michael Froman. "For criminals like Raisi, the only venue for conversation must be a court of law."

Hakakian said the event is all the more distasteful in light of Iran’s efforts to murder and imprison anti-government protesters who are seeking to unseat the hardline regime for the killing last year of a young woman who did not properly wear her head covering.

"As a proud naturalized American citizen, I cannot help but think that providing such a storied platform to such a man will be legitimizing him, and it is, therefore, an insult to the memory of the protesters who were, and are, fighting for democracy, and it is, therefore, profoundly unamerican," she wrote.

One senior congressional aide said the CFR event with Raisi could violate American anti-terrorism laws, which outlaw interactions with the Iranian government due to its global terrorism enterprise.

"It is straightforwardly illegal for Americans to provide him with funds, goods, or services," Omri Ceren, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), wrote on X. "I don't mean it's a sanctions violation. It is illegal. It is breaking a law."