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.



NIAC is not my represntetiv.

by rain bow movment on

NIAC is representetiv of carpet traders,gold traders,realestate investors  & builders,arm dealers,black market spare parts traders,pharmaceutical company and so on.

Trita & Co are living in a fairy land, that everything happen by magic .

grew up people this barbaric islamic regime will not go away easily,it have to be removed by force,like hitler,ghadafi,sadam,asad.

we knew that the Imerialist west and east are not much loving Iranian people.but this is a price we pay to get back our pride and the country .

if the next government is not a secular democratic or a puppet,then the people have a chance to remove them from power as it's easier to deal with them rather than heinous IR regime.



Thank you Darius jan

by anglophile on


Feelings are mutual 







by LoverOfLiberty on

Why thank you, friend.  :)

And, thank you for your great citations....many of which I've found very informative.

One day Iran will have the representative form of government and personal liberties her people deserve.

I just hope that day is not too far in the future.


Youth is Wasted on the Young!

by Faramarz on

If the blogger's only attribute is her youth, then she can be your future not mine.

Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to take a picture with my new Polaroid!


Sadegh Bozorgmehr

by Simorgh5555 on

I have a better analogy.

We Shahollahis are vintage chardonay (It gets better with time) and NIAC is just some cheap alcopop shandy.

We Shahollahis are Mozart and NIAC is Britney Spears. There's no competition. Like Britney NIAC will face in time and wither away.  

Yes, the majority of monarchists are old if that is what you are saying. Not all of us though. I'm not passed the hill yet.


Darius Kadivar

anglophile jan LOL

by Darius Kadivar on

It's so good to have you around buddy !


Kodachrome Simon & Garfunkel 1981





As a semi-literate Shahollahi that I am

by anglophile on

Where can I get my Kodak camera repaired?

Sadegh Bozorgmehr

A simple fact we ALL must understand

by Sadegh Bozorgmehr on

You Shahollahis and bache Mojaheds are relics of bankrupt ideologies that have less support in Iran than even the IRI.

These young sober minded youth are our future. Compare the author post to posts by semi-literate Shahollahis. It's youth vs. death, digital vs. kodak.


Keyboard warriors of the Shah, Khamenei, and Rajavi--take note. You have zero chance against the savvy new generation.


"We've found PEACE in our time"

by LoverOfLiberty on

"But we are going to speak of PEACE and not WAR as long as we have the U.S. Constitution, Freedom of Speech and organizations such as NIAC and ACLU on our side.


PEACE Is The Way."


In the fall of 1938, many Americans and Europeans felt the same way.

But, we all know-or should know-how successful that approach towards a difficult regime turned out to be.


“But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer.  War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.  When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people.  A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration.  A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.  As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), “The Contest in America.” Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 24, Issue 143, page 683-684. Harper & Bros., New York, April 1862.


"A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one!"

Alexander Hamilton


Thank you dear ILI

by anglophile on

I think I got my answer. Very nicely put :)


Dear Anglophile! Excellent Q! H possible!


In the very complex global business structure these days it is possible that a business owner inadvertently ends up supporting organizations which they had not intended to support...!?But, once they find out they are supporting they may actually come to like supporting it...!?

Dr. Love, Ph.D., M.D., J.D., Member Neocons Association.


Excuse me can somebody help me with this question?

by anglophile on

You know, being a Londoner, I am not so up to date with the allegiances of my cousins on the west or even the east coast of the former British colony. This is my question: is our new proprietor a NIAC supporter (too)?


God Bless Neocons such as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Abrams, et al...


These people know how to deal with barbaric animals like Sad'dam & company and will bring IRR thugs down.

Go Mitt Romney in 2012!

Mousa Jaan, how are  Hassan & Hossein? Please give them this kind...


Dr. Love, Ph.D., M.D., J.D., Member of Necon Association.



"Mr mousa, as usual, I dont know wht u r talking about!!"

by mousa67 on

no. you know exactly what i was talking about and that is why my comment was  flagged and deleted, my fluff ball of london residing cyber bassiji and ardent niac supporter. LOL

but my comment  was along the lines of: "did you take the omega watch of the unarmed iranian demonstrator before or after he was murdered?"

now i am not responding to you on this blog any longer my crafty islamist cockney since i know what you and your niac partners are up to. but shall remain fully @ your service in other  non niac related blogs. :) 



قالیچه حضرت سلیمان


 برای خرید و یا اجاره با نمایندگی تماس بگرئید!!

I wear an Omega watch


Beautifully summarised AO

by anglophile on

Point by point, spot on!


On a comical note (or perhaps not) I don't know why whenever there is a mention of "Farsh", the Isamic regime is closely associated with it. Must have something to do with the trade. I am sure no Farsh-foroosh in the west can sell Farsh without being approved by the regime.


Hmm. Interesting parallels! 

Anonymous Observer

So, Ms. Farshneshani makes political films in Iran?!!!

by Anonymous Observer on

I assume with the blessing of the IR, since no such film would be allowed for a second in Iran otherwise.  What does that tell you about this person?  A person who is licensed by the IR to make a political film in Iran?  Must be IR friendly, no?  And also NIAC friendly?  What does that tell you about NIAC?

And to beat the dead horse about Mossadegh?  Oh, brother...get a life people.  No one on this planet--except for vindictive Iranians cares about what happened between two countries six decades ago:



Mr mousa, as usual, I dont know wht u r talking about!!

by مآمور on

Remember, when u(us) r mad at some thing , posting it on a public forum would not be the same as getting it out and getting over with it and then feeling better.

It is called 'registering' your(our) madness!!

I wear an Omega watch


ok, i got it: nothing is sacred but NIAC:)

by mousa67 on

since both comments of mousa67, the self confessed neo con, jew, zionist, american on a blog which consists of nothing but a string of incoherent attacks on "neo-cons" and jews deleted, i shall refrain from commenting on niac related blogs in future. as i said before, big talk on internet is your undeniable right, not 20% but 100%.



Rahbar Ali Geda wishes he got as much devotion as Rahbar Trita

by AMIR1973 on

gets from his followers. You have to respect the NIAC IRI lobby for being a very "disciplined" group of cultlike followers in praising their beloved Dear Leader.


Camp NIAC Soldiers March in Step!

by Faramarz on

It is amusing to read the NIACie crowd's reaction here.

You get all these one-liners like, "excellent, brilliant, blah, blah, blah" as if you guys even read this blog.

Iran's story today is not about the imminent attack by the US or the Israelis that we have been warned about for the last two decades. Instead, it is about Narges Mohamadi and her two children.

Open your eyes and your heart to the sufferings of your own people for once.

Don't worry, your board member Thomas Pickering will find some business for the US oil companies sooner or later.



Great and informative article . Thank you

by Albaloo on

Great and informative article . Thank you


   History does not

by vildemose on


 History does not look kindly on the oppressors and their enablers. Niac is on the wrong side of history.

All Oppression Creates a State of War--Simone De Beauvoir


A great and well written article ….

by Bavafa on

And many thanks for your contribution in giving Iranian-Americans a voice in Washington. 


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


P.S. Don’t mind NIACiers, they are still questioning the Birth certificate


iraj khan

Beheshteh Farshneshani,

by iraj khan on

Thanks for telling it as it is.

We have been facing the same problems here on this website that takes its name from our beloved Iran and Iranians, hence making some of us to stick around and defend it.

You talk about Ahmari and his sidekick while here on IC we face the Israeli Lobby on steroid. They are all for the Sanctions, assassination and bombing Iran.

We face all kinds of defematory comments for stating our opinions about diplomacy and peace over war on Iran.

We've been harrassed at our places of work with misinformation, threatened to be 'reported' or 'deported'.  

But we are going to speak of PEACE and not WAR as long as we have the U.S. Constitution, Freedom of Speech and organizations such as NIAC and ACLU on our side.

Thanks for posting this article here.

PEACE Is The Way.


Sosan Jan- I tell you what annoys a 'neo-con' like me

by Simorgh5555 on

Firstly, NIAC and Ms Farshanasi do not have a clue what the word 'neo-con' means. Neo pref. means new 'New' or 'Recent'. Most of the US Neocon politicians were former Soviets, Trotskyites, Marxists and people of the hard Left. People whose political affiliations were at one time no different from your duste jun junit Noam Chomsky (who was a self-confessed Zionist and spent time in a Kibbutz) and your good self.

I support military action against the Islamic Republic because there is no other way round regime change other than military action. This desire is out of my profound love for Iran and to emancipate it from the shackles of a Shia-Fascist political system which has enslaved 65 million Iranians. I am neither a conservative or a liberal because like most human beings I am multi-dimensional and refuse to have my beliefs my pigeon-holed in simplistic terms.

The second thing I resent is the attitude of some Iranians (and Farshanasi is not alone in this) who have become complacent with the Islamic Republic. They do not want to see regime change because they like having the best of both world. They like to have a job and successful career in America and every summer take a holiday in Iran staying at the their aunties house eating Ashe Reshte and then going to their villas in Kenardasht and Ramsar. Their cute British or American accents make them a novelty and they love the attention they get. They then return back to their adopted homes with a suitcase full of rugs, Gaz, pistachios, ghotab,saffron and just about anything their dollars can buy (taking advantage of the exchange rate) and dishing it out to their friends and families who have a years worth of supply of food stuff without ever having to visit an Iranian grocer.  Some even doing business with the mullahs in trade. These people are better off with the Islamic Republic and its obvious why.

Thirdly, I feel a senseof dismay when reporters and videojournalists  routinely travel back  to Iran to make a name themselves in the eyes of curious Western audiences as if they were Columbus visiting the New World and reportig back to the Spanish Royal court about his contact with the savages. I am not saying Farshanasi is delibertaly doing this but she must be relishign this. If she was in any way informed she would firmly place the blame of all the suffering of Iranian people on the Evil Terrorist Regime which occupies it an dnot the West. In actual fact the more the regime remains intact, the more humanrights conditions deteriorate and the more poor people are the more material it gives for them to cover.

If the regime was removed tomorrow allowing women to remove the hijab and exposing Iranians to all the freedoms we take for granted in the West Ms Farshanasi's videos and films like A Separation will lose their appeal instantly. 

I don't want Iran to be a badbackt country and an object of curiosity for the wrong reasons. I don't want poverty in Iran just because it makes good rap music for Hichkas and Shahin Najafi. I want regime change good and proper. Military action against the IR is right. Military action is good. Military action against the IR and the killing of all Hezbollah and Basij is actually beautiful. Violence is the ONE AND ONLY solution.



Pretty nice article for an intern with masters on film

by MM on





Did we read the same article? It is full of substance to those who can appreciate facts.


so if no NIAC then who?

by مآمور on

so if Titra is not qualified to represent Iranian-Americans or he is not good enough!! just because he does nt want Iran to get bombed!! and some people have lost all their connections to Iran and dont care what will happen to iran as long as they take a revenge on IRI,so who would be qualified to represent u??

Shah of sunset

I wear an Omega watch


Soosan Khanoom

by Faramarz on

The article lacks substance and is merely a cry for attention. So I obliged!

Nothing escapes your eagle eyes, Soosan Khanoom!