“It is outrageous that the Biden administration would not only put all of our security at risk by allowing these IRGC killers here, but also the lives of millions of our friends and neighbors who are not Iranian.”
By Karmel Melamed, JNS.org
With reports that Iran has demanded that the Biden administration drop the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—a regime-controlled terrorist entity—from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) as a final condition for re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian American activists of various faiths have expressed concern for their community’s safety if U.S. negotiators give in to the regime’s demands.
While the majority of leaders in the Iranian Jewish communities in Southern California and New York have long remained refrained from publicly commenting on the Islamic Republic for fear that what they say may be used as an excuse by the regime to retaliate against the estimated 5,000 to 8,000 Jews still living there, individual Jewish activists are instead speaking up.
“The (Iranian) regime has in the past been sending trained agents whose mission has included surveillance of Jewish community institutions and cooperation with Islamic organizations in the United States,” said George Haroonian, an LA-based Iranian Jewish activist. “Taking out the IRGC from the terror list will give an open hand for the regime to implement its intentions.”
Haroonian and other Iranian Jewish activists said they were trying to raise public awareness of the dangers that the IRGC possess not only to American Jews but to all Americans by sharing firsthand experiences of dealing with the regime’s reign of terror.
“We have lived with Islamists in Iran, and we know their psychology, their politics and the way they operate,” said Haroonian. “They are different from Westerners, who will make a compromise and stand by it. Appeasing them will haunt you, and they consider these moves as temporary and a sign of weakness.”
Some American Jewish leaders have said they were shocked that the current U.S. administration has been willing to discuss the delisting of the IRGC from the U.S. terror list during the current nuclear-deal negotiations taking place in Austria.
“That the Biden team would even consider such a move is a travesty,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean for global social action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “If they actually cave and delist the IRCG, it would make the entire world—starting with the U.S. and Israel—more vulnerable to catastrophic terrorism.”
‘Security at risk’
The IRGC was first designated by the Treasury Department in October 2007 under the counterproliferation authorities of Executive Order 13382. That action also designated the IRGC’s Quds Force branch—though not the IRGC overall—as a terrorist group.
In June 2011, the State Department designated the IRGC for its human-rights abuses and in October 2017, the IRGC in its entirety was designated as a terrorist group. Finally, in 2019, the State Department added the IRGC to the FTO list.
Non-Jewish Iranian activists living in the United States who have been very vocal in publicly opposing the Iranian regime said they fear for their lives if IRGC members would be permitted into the country following their delisting from the FTO.
“We fled Iran to get away from the IRGC and the regime’s brutal killers who want to spread their radical Islamic ideology by extreme violence worldwide,” said Roozbeh Farahinpour, an LA-based Iranian American activist who opposes the Iranian regime.
“It is outrageous that the Biden administration would not only put all of our security at risk by allowing these IRGC killers here, but also the lives of millions of our friends and neighbors who are not Iranian here in the U.S.,” he added.
Farahinpour, who had a fatwa (religious edict) issued against him by an Iranian regime cleric calling for his killing eight years ago, said that U.S. officials should avoid permitting the IRGC entry because their members have unleashed their reign of terror for more than four decades against Iranian opposition activists living in Europe.
“Just look at the IRGC’s criminal track record in places like France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, where they have murdered countless opposition activists in cold blood after the European governments failed to bar their entry into their countries and designate them as terrorists,” he said.
‘Truly violent people’
More recently, Iranian American activists opposed to the regime have indeed had cause to worry for their safety due to a recent event that unfolded in Southern California.
Late last month, Sam Rajabi, an Iranian American activist from the LA-based “Normal Life Council” nonprofit group, posted a brief video on social media showing Parviz Parastui, an Iranian actor and IRGC sympathizer, assaulting him during a brief encounter.
Parastui, who had come to Southern California from Iran to promote his new film, was approached by Rajabi in the video and asked repeatedly about his ties to the U.S.-assassinated Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC Quds Force.
“All I did was to ask him [Parastui] politely about his past relationship with Soleimani, and instead of giving me a straight answer, he violently knocked my phone out of my hands and insulted me,” said Rajabi. “This is the best example of the type of truly violent people from the Islamic regime we cannot allow into America.”
Rajabi said he filed a criminal complaint for assault against Parastui with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Southern California. Calls made to the Orange County district attorney’s office as to whether they would arrest and charge Parastui for assault before his return to Iran were not returned.
‘We came here to be safe’
Several Iranian American activists said they have increasingly received direct death threats from the Iranian regime’s thugs online and offline for actively opposing the regime. A possible delisting of the IRGC from the FTO would have a “chilling effect” on their protesting activities in the United States, they said.
“In my case, I was told that they knew where I lived and said they would send ‘a bunch of people’ to hurt me and would make it look like an accident or a random event,” said Navid Mohebbi, a former political prisoner in Iran and a policy fellow at the “National Union for Democracy in Iran” an opposition group to the Iranian regime based in Washington, D.C.
Mohsen Sazegara, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank in Washington, D.C., and now an opponent of the Iranian regime, was one of the founders of the IRGC. He said it was originally established in 1979 to serve as a type of national guard to protect Iran alongside the military but has since morphed into a global criminal terrorist entity.
“From Kabul to Caracas, the IRGC has become this massive mafia consortium with its own political and economic power, which is involved with everything from terrorism, narcotics trafficking, prostitution and exclusively running various industries within Iran,” said Sazegara. “They are a direct threat to U.S. national security and the entire world. U.S. officials who don’t recognize their threat are gravely mistaken.”
Other Iranian American activists opposed to the Iranian regime said they were frustrated that during the past decade, scores of regime supporters possessing as “intellectuals” have increasingly penetrated different facets of American society and tried to sugarcoat the IRGC’s terrorist track record.
“We came here to be safe but now precariously find ourselves surrounded by pro-regime individuals who have infiltrated U.S. think tanks, media and institutions of higher education,” said Dr. Reza Behrouz, an Iranian American activist and neurologist based in San Antonio.
Bryan E. Leib, executive director of the “Iranian Americans for Liberty,” a nonprofit advocacy group opposed to the Iranian regime and based in Washington, D.C., said many Iranian Americans have been especially angered that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in an April interview on MSNBC argued that the IRGC should be taken off the FTO.
“As we all know,” said Leib, “the IRGC has the blood of Americans on their hands through their actions and the action of their terrorist proxies around the world.”