A group of nearly 100 prominent Iranian dissidents is demanding that Congress launch investigations into clandestine efforts by the Islamic Republic to influence U.S. policy using a network of lobbyists and propaganda pieces placed in Voice of America's Persian service, according to a letter sent to leading lawmakers and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The group of dissidents, composed of prominent Iranian voices that oppose the hardline regime in Tehran, says that Congress is not doing enough to expose the Iranian regime's lobbying efforts in D.C. and propaganda network, which is said to include some at VOA Persia.
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Iranian-American groups claiming to represent American interests are said to be carrying water for the Islamic regime inside the White House and on Capitol Hill, according to these dissident voices.
The letter cites VOA's Persian service as a source of pro-Iran corruption. The Free Beacon has reported multiple times on claims that VOA has been infiltrated by Iran regime loyalists who seek to spin coverage in a favorable way for Tehran. In one instance, an Iranian dissident was barred from appearing on VOA Persia for voicing critical opinions about the regime.
The letter comes at a time when the Trump administration is seeking a tougher approach on Iran for its repeated violations of international accords governing the nuclear deal. The dissidents maintain that U.S. officials have been too soft on the regime and ignored its surreptitious efforts to make American diplomacy more generous to Tehran.
"We write to request a congressional hearing on the efforts of Tehran's theocratic regime to influence U.S. policy and public diplomacy toward Iran," the dissidents write to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), the heads of Congress' foreign affair committees, according to copies of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
"We ask that you launch an investigation into any and all lobbying activities of Iranian-American groups, which ostensibly promote the interests of our community but whose real goal is to undermine long-term U.S. national security interests in Iran and its neighborhood," the dissidents write.
Organizations such as the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which played a key role in championing the Iran nuclear agreement and worked closely with the Obama administration, have long operated under a cloud of suspicion. Dissident voices maintain that NIAC in particular serves as a mouthpiece for Iran's regime in the United States.
The group of dissidents—which includes foreign policy experts, university professors, interfaith leaders, prominent real estate developers, and human rights activists, among others—also requested that Congress shine a light on VOA Persia's activities.
"We also ask that you launch an inquiry into the Voice of America's Persian service, whose bloated budget is the largest of all language services under the VOA," they write.
"There have been numerous instances of editorials by the VOA's Persian service that have been lenient or favorable to Iran's clerical despots. We consider this to be totally unacceptable and demoralizing for pro-democracy Iranians who watch these broadcasts."
Such hearings would compliment past efforts by Congress to investigate corruption at VOA, including what many describe as its pro-Tehran bent.
Peter Kohanloo, a chief architect of the letter and president of the Iranian American Majority, told the Free Beacon that the missive represents an unprecedented effort by Iranian dissidents to expose the Iranian regime's "influence-peddling agenda."
"Never before have so many Iranian dissidents of different political persuasions and backgrounds come together to speak with one unified voice," Kohanloo told the Free Beacon. "This historic letter is a clear and unmistakable message to Tehran that we will no longer tolerate their influence-peddling agenda, which divides our community and demoralizes pro-democracy activists in Iran."
The group of dissidents informed lawmakers that they are all willing to testify publicly at congressional hearings on both of these matters.