Neocon Upstart Attacks Academic Freedom

Smearing those who attempt to fairly represent Iranian Americans


Neocon Upstart Attacks Academic Freedom
by Beheshteh Farshneshani

I thought it would be a typical Thursday at work last week, but as soon as I arrived to the office, an associate pulled me aside and pointed to a series of defamatory tweets against me and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the organization for which I intern.

The tweets were directed at me by neoconservative upstarts Sohrab Ahmari and Peter Kohanloo in response to comments I tweeted (here and here) regarding an article written by Ahmari demonizing American academics who had recently traveled to Iran.

At the time, I was completely unaware of the author's ideological affiliation and only later was it revealed to me that Ahmari is a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a neocon think tank in London. In a recent article, MJ Rosenberg provides a wonderful exposé revealing the agendas of Ahmari and some of his associates:

"Ahmari, the neocons' favorite Iranian, is very much in the mold of the neocons' favorite Iraqi. During the run-up to the 2003 invasion Ahmed Chalabi was their darling because, as an Iraqi émigré, he was thought to have unique credibility. Neocons loved hearing an Iraqi say that invading Iraq would not only prove successful but would be welcomed by his fellow Iraqis. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a fake, whose agenda was almost entirely personal. The war he and his friends promoted was an infamous catastrophe. And, to put it mildly, the invasion he told us that Iraqis would welcome was not welcomed."

To neoconservatives' disappointment, Iranian Americans, including myself, are unlikely to be familiar with the names of Ahmari or Kohanloo, let alone give those who argue for war on their motherland any credibility. As Rosenberg correctly observers, "Neither of these spokesmen [Ahmari and Kohanloo] have a following, either among Iranian Americans or Iranians, a fact that probably makes them deeply resentful of the Iranian-American organization that does, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)."

It is no wonder Ahmari was so quick to take my personal tweets and turn them into a diatribe against NIAC. I simply assumed he was either an angry neo-royalist or an amateur journalist fixed on very superficial notions of liberty which, as an Iranian American, I felt compelled to confront. Therefore my comments were and proudly remain to be a reflection of my own views, not NIAC's or anyone else.

In his article, Ahmari condemns three American professors, stating that "all three should be ashamed" for participating in a conference on the Occupy Wall Street movement held at Tehran University in Iran. "The mere presence of intellectuals from the free world," Ahmari says "allows tyrants to burnish their otherwise stained reputations and overcome their sense of isolation."

Arguments of this nature which seek to limit the scope of academic freedom are very familiar to me. As a graduate student at Columbia University, I recall similar arguments made by various conservative groups against the University's decision to invite Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak at a public forum in 2007. I was appalled by these arguments, not because I supported what President Ahmadinejad had to say, but because I did not think merely listening to ideas we deplore translated to our endorsement of those ideas. Similarly, I do not condemn these professors for maximizing on the academic freedom granted to them in this country, which in fact sets America's democracy apart from Iran's authoritative theocracy. Unlike Ahmari, I have faith in the strength of the American democratic resolve to resist even the most warped ideas.

Among the professors that partook in the conference was Dr. Heather Gautney, an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, and steadfast supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who upon returning from the conference, published a piece on recounting her experience in Iran.

In her piece, Dr. Gautney breaks many of the anti-American stereotypes attributed to Iranians and conveys a nuanced account of her experience in Iran. She portrays academics and students at Tehran University in a pro-American light with "desires to know America, study in its universities, and experience its unique culture."

In reproaching her article, Ahmari claims, "Prof. Gautney betrayed not the slightest suspicion that the rosy picture of Iran she absorbed may have been stage-managed by her regime handlers." In fact, in reflecting on whether to accept the invitation from Tehran University, Dr. Gautney wrote she was, "naturally filled with suspicion" but with encouragement from her friends and academic colleagues, she decided to accept the invitation.

Dr. Gautney also acknowledged that the short 100 hours she spent in Tehran, did not foster enough understanding to give her agency into deeper issues; such as the election fraud, the repression and the lack of freedom imposed by the Iranian regime. But Ahmari ignores this and continues with absurd reductionism to assert that "mere naivete cannot account for how these gruesome realities eluded professors Gautney, Hammond, and Vitae, or how they allowed themselves and their institutions to be co-opted by a theocratic regimes PR campaign."

Ahmari gives much credit to the Islamic Republic's power of persuasion and propaganda and deliberately ignores the basic reasoning power and liberties that America's academics and citizens have to accept or reject the knowledge that they consume. If it were left to Ahmari, he would extend the "No Contact Policy" of the State Department that bars U.S. diplomats from communicating with their Iranian counterparts to the academic arena.

Three decades of growing strife in U.S.-Iran relations is a testament that our current silent treatment has failed as a tool of statecraft, yet Ahmari wishes to contaminate our academic institutions with similar dubious limitations that would restrict the free flow of information and make vigorous debate and exchange of ideas impossible. His imperious remarks are a reminder that our academic institutions are under grave threat from neoconservative forces that wish to impose political constraints on freedom of academic inquiry. Mindful of Ahmari's desire to limit academic freedom, I don't see why he left Iran in the first place; for that is where such repressive measures are welcomed, yet Ahmari is here, promoting them in America.

Constrained by the White House's resolve to find a diplomatic solution, the neocons have resorted to using whatever coercive means available to intimidate and discourage any level of engagement, including greater academic exchange, between Iran and the U.S. for fear that such exchanges will foster a more human perspective of Iranians, which is exactly what Dr. Gautney does at the end of her article: "After we said goodbye to our new friends in Iran, Glenn [her husband] said, 'We can't go to war with this country. We just can't.'"

It is precisely this message the neocons fear will be conveyed to the American public and threaten the potent political climate conducive to their war-driven agenda, and replace it with a nuanced understanding that just might pave the path for a peaceful resolution.

Dr. Gautney's message is clear -- it is one of peace and those who are displeased with it are not of the same view as those peace-loving Iranians, film director Asghar Farhadi refers to in his victory speech at the Oscars.

In a recent Zogby poll views of Iranians useful to the neoconservative cause, like Ahmari and Kohanloo, placed well outside the fringes of mainstream Iranian-American thinking. To the neocons' disappointment, the polls showed that the majority of Iranian Americans prefer to see a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, while only 3% of Iranians would like to see military action taken against Iran. Ahmari is clearly part of these three-percenters who desire attacking Iran, as he himself admits in an issue of Commentary:

"The likelihood of an all-out Western land invasion aimed at toppling the mullahs is low. But a limited military intervention aimed at destroying their nuclear facilities may nevertheless precipitate regime collapse. Iran's nuclear sites are spread out over a wide geographic area; an intervention aimed at disabling them must be wider in scope than the Israeli strikes that destroyed Iraq's facilities in 1981 and Syria's in 2007. A successful strike will require destroying much of the country's national defense and security architecture. Having invested so much prestige, moreover, in one signature national project -- the nuclear program -- the regime stands to lose what little legitimacy it has left should a week-long airstrike rubble its nuclear sites."

Later in a podcast, Ahmari's lackey, Peter Kohanloo, was asked how he, as an Iranian American, can support a war that will hurt Iranians. Kohanloo responded: "I would say the Iranian American community is not in any position to initiate or prevent a war, that is up to the president and the U.S. government."

It is evident that the ultimate objective here is to silence the voice of Iranian Americans and smear those who attempt to fairly represent them. In this regard, Ahmari and Kohanloo serve as useful tools in promoting the neoconservative war agenda against Iran. As 'native informants', they shamelessly exploit serious issues of human rights as a lubricant to promoting their employers' broader agenda.

In the markets of opinions, ethnic heritage can easily be conflated with expertise, and it is not surprising that these Iranian American outliers have chosen to sell their heritage to causes unpopular to the community they purport to represent. By employing these native outliers as 'analysts,' the neocons present the illusion of credibility in order to diffuse representative voices and slowly inject divisive war hawk jargon into the debate.

Be it the voice of Iranian Americans, the freedom of academics, or the decision of diplomats, neoconservatives will attempt to set fire to any bridge that attempts to mend the people of Iran and America. American academia is only the latest victim of this wicked witch hunt.

First published in

Beheshteh Farshneshani holds a BA in Government & Politics from the University of Maryland and an MFA in Film Writing from Columbia University. Her MFA thesis is a feature length screenplay of the 1953 Iranian coup, in which the American CIA covertly overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. She has made several films, both in Iran and in the United States, that are primarily focused on social and political issues facing Iran and Iranian society. She is presently wrapping her thesis to be optioned to film studios for production and doing research as an associate at the National Iranian American Council.



Faramarz , so true, this democracy at work is funny/entertaining

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

The volunteer, author Beheshteh Farshneshani doesn't even know that most of the Iranian American community don't like NIAC, do not support NIAC, do not feel NIAC's priority of actions represent the Iranian American community , Not a great sign when one is assuming the NIAC has legitimacy as a result of literally limited to ProIRR Irooni's etc etc.

I was at a persian new years party around the outskirts of orlando over a year ago, so many iranians showed up I was surprised, over 600, which surpised me as I had not seen a single other Iranian around Orlando.

Anyways, talking with our community about our interests, religion, sex and politics, my view from asking various questions was that half of the people I asked did not know NIAC and the other half most would never support them and the issue was around serving the regime not the people of Iran.  In this day and age, being viewed as a traitor to iranians, by your own community should normally spell death, unless your funding sources are "well lets just say not transparent".  If one feels the disgust of the community is unjustified, figuring out how to resolve this should be a higher priority for a supporter than anything else.

Advice to NIAC, start by doing market research and find out what most iranian americans want done. Hint regime change of IRI.


Not so fast Oon Yaroo!

by Faramarz on

I looked at the sonogram and the baby that she is carrying looks exactly like Rahbar Seid Ali!

That baby does not carry my genes and DNA!

Oon Yaroo

Faramarz, you did look at the girl & that constitutes for an ...

by Oon Yaroo on

that constitutes for an arranged marriage blessed by no other than the girl's godfather khamenei! Happy honeymoon baby!


Hoseini, you are missing the point!

by Faramarz on



What NIAC is doing is like a woman who is trying to force herself on you by going around and telling the people that she is your girlfriend and is carrying your child. And what we are saying is, “stop lying; we don’t even know who you are.”

Your suggestion is, “if you don’t want NIAC as your girlfriend, then go find somebody else!”

And all we are saying is, “we don’t know who this bitch is, never met her in our life, and please get off our back!”

Is that simple enough?


Siavash300 and simorgh555 you guys

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

anywhere near london?

let me know if so, when i know of a meeting we will do in kensington it will be good to see you there.


Don't like NIAC? Create One

by hossein.hosseini on

To All NIAC Bashers,Since NIAC and TP do not represent Iranian-Americans (all 289,465!! of us), please form an organization that does. Make sure it has as much clout if not more as NIAC in the center of universe (D.C.) that is. Until then, keep moaning :))Best Wishes



Siavash300 & Simorgh555 I agree completely with what you say.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Your comments on this article, I totally agree with and i feel your pain.

The Thing is, you guys care for Iranians above all and are thinking from a genuinely pious place, its evident in what you write, others have various agenda's not in harmony with that, which is what has us where we are today.


N.I.A.C is enemy of Iran and Iranians

by Siavash300 on

Just be aware that this organization is enemy of Iranians residing in the west. The organization fails to address the current threat of all Arab nations around the Persian Gulf for 3 Iranian Islands. It fails to address  the effort of lizard eater arabs for changing the name of Persian gulf. It fails to address the issue of Iranian journalists who were detained in Iran prisons.

 Iran has the highest number of journalist prisoners in the world.

N.I.A.C  fails to address the highest rate of prostitution in the name of "Sigheh" by mullahs in Iran.

  It fails to address the increasing number of drug addiction among Iranians because of high degree of poverty.

   It fails to address the excution and imprisonment of freedom fighters such as Nasrin Sotodeh, etc. It fails to address the barbaric nature of stinky ruling mullahs who stone people such as Sekineh Mohamadi. N.I.A.C only discuss what is in the mind of Israel president about lizard eater arabs which has nothing to do with Iranians. Is that the only thing bother Iranian Americans? Of course NOT.

The writer of this article and other people such as S.K, who described her trip to Iran as a bitter sweet indicating ruling mullahs were bitter but Iran was sweet, or Sadegh Bozogmehr, Iraj Khan, who claim they are not "supportive of I.R.I" don't come up with any solution. They complain but they don't come up with any solution leading to overthrowing stinky ruling mullahs.  The same principal applies to N.I.A.C and writer of this blog. It doesn't address the main issue. Any solution to overthrow stinky mullahs from government. How to do it? 97% of Iranians are against ruling Islamic rag heads. 97% of Iranians think mullahs have to go back to cemetary or Mosque as they were doing that kind of business before they took power and before they reached to peacock throne. Mullah's place was in mosques and cemetaries to read koran for dead people, not in the politic. The Islamic bastards can not even control their body odor. They smell like a gutter, now they became representative of Iranians among international community.

Did N.I.A.C ever said something close to that? No they didn't. So what does that tell you?

The only person who came up with practical solution is Simorgh555.  I am still waiting to hear other people's opinions, suggestions and their ways of solution for overthrowing mullahs from the power. Please make suggestion. Don't be just complainer. It won't help Iranians who were enslaved by bunch of stinky Islamic rag head thugs for 32 years.     




To Soosan, the daughter I never had

by anglophile on

You deeply honour me Soosan jan if you call me pedar. On a light note, I am glad I am not the age of my avatar otherwise I would have been five feet under for the last fifty years!


Here is a little poetic dedication to you dear Soosan:



Soosan Khanoom

anglophile .. Can I call you Pedaram !

by Soosan Khanoom on

cause that picture of yours is about the same age as my dad ...  change it to something much more age appropriate ! Justin Bieber would be good ...  LOL 

Anglophile jan you have a great sense of humor and I love that.  People with that never age !


I wish I could call you my daughter Soosan jan but

by anglophile on

but I am afraid I am not "that old"! Thanks for the "feel good" factor!

Anonymous Observer

I wonder if our budding regime friendly filmmaker

by Anonymous Observer on

has anything to say about this:


especially as a woman.  What's her opinion about this issue?  Or is stating her opinion--if negative--will cause her filiming privileges to be revoked in the great Islamic Republic? 

Soosan Khanoom

well anglophile ...

by Soosan Khanoom on

I am in my 40s and Beheshteh is in her 20s ...  She is my daughter's age. 

but I am not going that far calling me oldie ... oh come on ...I certainly do not feel or even look old ... 



Soosan Khanoom

Simorghe , how about your kids?

by Soosan Khanoom on

Do they feel like you? As an older generation you may be having your reasons to hold to so much hate but is it really the same with your children? So why not give this generation a chance?  They may contribute something much more worthy for the sake of our country that we have failed to within past 34 years/ And for sure it has nothing to do with supporting IRI but supporting campaigns that are more effective in bringing people in a united front. 


Sosaan jan I have a little problem with your comment

by anglophile on


Are you an "oldie" - like me - or a youngie - like Fereshteh? Because on one hand you sympathise with her (like you are her age) and on the other you call her "dokhtaram". Kholaaseh taklif ma ro roshan kon khanome khoob :) 



LOL OY jaan, you are a logician!

by anglophile on

Thanks for elaboration my friend.

Soosan Khanoom

Beheshteh jan this site has been occupied

by Soosan Khanoom on

by older generation Iranians. We are suffering from hard to cure chronic diseases. In addition to that we speak different language.  But please do not get discourage dohktaram. May be you can bring more youthful and soulful voice to this site ... until then the usual business is going to be the same old song:

" bomb bomb" followed by a regime change with the help of uncle Sam .. 



"Against" vs. "For" Something - Revisited

by Faramarz on

Afsaneh Khanoom,

NIAC is against Israel/Neocons/AIPAC/Regime Change, etc.

The majority of Iranian-Americans are for Regime Change and a secular democracy.

Points well-taken.


Dear Mousa67?


Do Hassan and Hossein like Alpo?

Oon Yaroo

Anglophile Jaan, Clintonian response vs Lagrangian response!

by Oon Yaroo on

Recalling President Clinton's response during Monica's affair on what the meaning of is is, I wanted to remove any possibilities of confusion on the part of our fellow NIACies!

In Lagrangian language, the meaning of no is no and the meaning of yes is yes! Not maybe, it depends, sometimes, at night, in the afternoon, only when I am in Iran, but not when I am in US, ....! Do you get the drift, Anglophile jaan?

iraj khan

آفتاب آمد دلیل آفتاب

iraj khan


Defamation Is In Progress,

the Defamation of Beheshteh's character, her motivations, her..

This is a formula that is being used on IC for a long time.

Defemation, harrassment, threats, contacting some one's place of work with disinformation.

It's a technique widely taught and used as a propaganda tool. many are familiar with this technique. But those who use it think others don't know.

It's used to change the subject and if possible to demonize the other.

Like what they did to Persians in the movie called '300'. Persians in that movie were portrayed as some non-human creatures, then killing them would be OK.

Question: How many signatures did the neocon, 'Bomb Iran' crowd collect to send to Google for deleting the Persian Gulf's name from its map?


Oon Yaroo jan with NIAC there are two other possiblities:

by anglophile on

e) All of the above f) None of the above LOL 


looks like NIAC is as popular amongst iranian americans

by mousa67 on

as islamic regime amongst iranian iranians. LOL

and ahmadinejad's mamoor: remember that england is not yet under sharia rule. so stop fantacizing about 15 year old children as it would get you into trouble, leading to your deportation out of london back to gaza strip after serving time in one of her majesties prisons.


Oon Yaroo

Ms. Beheshteh Farshneshani, please answer two simple questions!

by Oon Yaroo on

Is IRR bad?

Does NIAC support IRR?

The answer space is simple and contains 4 possibilities:

a) yes, yes,

b) yes, no,

c) no, yes,

d) no, no.

If your answer is (b), then we will follow you through rain, storm, wind, snow, darkness, sadness, happiness, sickness, until eternity!

Hafez for Beginners

"Against" vs "For" something

by Hafez for Beginners on


Beheshteh: Remember, Iranians are better at being "Against" something than "For" something. The single most detrimental trait they have, in my opinion. I think in psychology it's called "depression" - Will they ever learn to be "the change you want to see in the world?" as Gandhi said - ie. if you want tolerance, start by being tolerant yourself? I don't know, but I decided some time ago  to leave the political forum of our culture -  the energy was too negative, and not relevant to my interests.

I hope your future would also bring making movies about Persian culture! Nothing "For" or "Against" the beauty of say, the Maiden-eh Naghsh-eh Jahan in Isfahan, the camera looks at say, Bagh-eh Shazdeh in Kerman and just sees beauty - that's the magic of the arts - it doesn' ask you to take a position. It's beautiful - and when you are in your heart, you don't go to the "For" or "Against" place - an exhausting, soul destroying place. 

Do keep your soul protected. 



Amusing how

by Reality-Bites on

NIAC members have already appointed themselves the spokespersons of Iranian Americans.

If only Ms Farshneshani and her NIAC colleagues spent even half the time they spend on bashing Israel, Neo-cons and anyone else who doesn't like the Islamic Republic, on actually taking the Islamic Republic to task for 33 years of gross human rights violations and outright criminality against numerous citizens of Iran, not to mention turning Iran into a pariah state that has shown nothing but hostility towards the West, where, I may add, nearly all NIAC members have chosen to live.

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

حال نمیخواهیم مدرکِ ایشان (بهشته فرش نشانی) را به زیرِ سوال بریم اما این چه جور فیلمسازیست که یک صفحه هنری درست و حسابی‌ ندارد ؟! فیلمهایش کجا هستند و چرا به فارسی‌ هیچ ندارد ؟!

امیدواریم که خودِ ایشان به اینجا تشریف آرند و جوابگو باشند وگرنه امروزه روز دیگر نمی‌شود بدین نحو رفتار کرد،گر ادعا میکنی‌،باید پاسخگوی آن در برابرِ خلق باشی‌.


No. I didnt read your deleted comments

by مآمور on

I didnt see them, and I dont care what u say my omega watch!! it was on the hand of captured IDF soldier and I bought in an auction  on ebay!!

u might be old but not mature!! u talk  like 15 years old girl speaks!!

I wear an Omega watch

Anonymous Observer

Sadegh Bozorgmehr

by Anonymous Observer on

If you're looking for a new start and fresh ideas, this IR approved "filmmaker" is the last person on the planet who can make that happen.  

Re-beating the six decades old Mossadegh dead horse and sticking to the old IR playbook of blame America for everything and the resulting vindictiveness is the farhest thing from "digital vs. Kodak."  It's more like going back to reinventing (or dis-inventing rather) the wheel.   


Only NIAC can help NIAC to un-trivialize itself!

by fanoos on

For so long as NIAC members including its leader, Mr. TP, implicitly and explicitly rub elbows with and support IRR, they will continue to be a trivial entity to and an infinitesimally small dot on the radar of Iranian people. And to all the NIAC supporters here, I have one thing to say to you. Go pound your kaashkk!