A group of high-profile Iranian dissidents is demanding that Congress investigate clandestine efforts by the Islamic Republic to influence U.S. policy through the channels of Voice of America’s Persian service.
According to a letter sent to the heads of Congress’ foreign affairs committees and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the group of nearly 100 dissidents—including foreign policy experts, university professors, interfaith leaders, prominent real estate developers, human rights activists, and others—oppose the hardline regime in Tehran. The group asserts that Congress is not doing enough to expose the Iranian regime’s lobbying campaigns in D.C. and propaganda network, which is believed to include some at VOA Persia.
Multiple reports have surfaced speculating that VOA has been infiltrated by loyalists to the Iranian regime who produce biased coverage in favor of Tehran. The letter sent to Congress pointedly cites VOA’s Persian service as a source of pro-Iran corruption.
The Trump administration is pursuing a tougher stance on Iran for repeatedly violating international agreements governing the nuclear deal. The dissidents assert that U.S. officials have been too lenient on the regime and ignored its surreptitious efforts to influence American diplomacy in favor of 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 letter said. “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.”
“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,” the dissidents wrote. “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.”
Peter Kohanloo, a chief architect of the letter and president of the Iranian American Majority, said “Never before have so many Iranian dissidents of different political persuasions and backgrounds come together to speak with one unified voice. 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.”
Members of the dissident group indicated to lawmakers that they are willing to testify publicly at congressional hearings which would complement past efforts by Congress to investigate corruption at Voice of America.
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