According to a source with knowledge of the discussions, Koch and Soros’s operatives hosted a secret meeting plotting to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
According to internal correspondence obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, a group of progressive activists is running a covert campaign to revive the Iran nuclear deal by connecting it to the Iranian human rights movement. The campaign is funded by George Soros, Charles Koch, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Together, activists from organizations like J Street, NIAC Action, the Open Society Foundations, Human Rights Watch, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund are urging politicians to use human rights legislation as a pretext for resuming talks with Iran over a nuclear deal. That is stated in an email from a J Street lobbyist addressed to fellow activists in January that was obtained by the Free Beacon.
“I’m writing to suggest that this group convene virtually next week to brainstorm and hopefully find consensus on the elements of legislation to support the Iranian people that we could propose to diplomacy-oriented lawmakers,” J Street’s Dylan Williams wrote. “Given the usual need to be discrete [sic], the charged nature of the topic, and the outrageous threats against several members of this group, please do keep this initiative close-hold,” he added.
The activist groups “plan to pursue a dual-track legislative agenda, where they would find a way through legislation to give pro-deal Democrats cover by supporting Iranian women and Iranian human rights, without in any way challenging the revival of a nuclear deal, while at the same time building a coalition of members of the House and Senate willing to write a very public letter to the president urging him to keep the door to diplomacy over on the nuclear file,” a source familiar with the discussions told the Free Beacon.
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The announcement comes as public pressure on American lawmakers to strengthen sanctions against Iran is growing in response to the Iranian regime’s bloody crackdown on protestors and ongoing military assistance for Russia. The tactic shows that even the most ardent supporters of the nuclear accord understand that the diplomatic approach has lost its political viability and that lawmakers who want to rejoin the agreement will need to at least seem to support the Iranian human rights movement.
The Biden administration’s attempts to renegotiate the nuclear deal have been hampered by the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters, military buildup in Latin America, and threats against the United States. However, proponents of the deal argue that negotiations should proceed despite these worries.
According to a source briefed on the discussions, the activists’ strategy—developed during a private summit in New York in December—includes pitching human rights legislation to lawmakers who support the Iran nuclear deal in order to give the lawmakers political cover to sign a letter asking the Biden administration to take another look at the agreement.
According to a source with knowledge of the conversations, the activists gathered for a strategy conference the week of December 3 at the Pocantico Center in Kykuit, the John D. Rockefeller family’s estate in Westchester County, New York. According to the New York Times, the family’s 200-acre estate has a 40-room stone manor, an underground gallery with works by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, and “expansive Italian-inspired gardens with French and English influences” with views of the Hudson River.
The email was sent by J Street’s Williams to a select number of activists, including Ryan Costello of NIAC Action, Mike Amitay of Open Society, and Matt Duss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. All of these organizations have received funds from either political megadonor Charles Koch or George Soros.
Requests for comment from Williams, Duss, NIAC, and the Open Society Foundations went unanswered.
Human Rights Watch declined to make a clear statement regarding the lobbying effort. Speaking on behalf of the organization, a spokeswoman stated that it “doesn’t take a position on the JCPOA,” referring to the Iran deal’s official initialism, and said it works with “policymakers and others in foreign policy on how to promote and protect human rights in Iran.”
Even if the Iranian regime violates human rights, a number of the email recipients have recently published articles pushing for further discussions on the Iran deal.
“As fears intensify over the Iranian government’s increasing use of violence against protesters, Western capitals are under pressure from groups that have long opposed diplomacy with Iran to scrap nuclear negotiations. Europe and the United States should not bow to these pressures,” wrote Ellie Geranmayeh, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, in an October article for the Koch-funded Quincy Institute.
“A diplomatic route to the restoration of the nuclear deal, rather than bombs or more sanctions, remains the best outcome—both for the West and for the Iranian people,” Geranmayeh wrote.
“Negotiating with Iran while the regime is brutally repressing peaceful protests is not an attractive option, but an Iranian regime emboldened by nuclear weapons is a far greater threat to the Iranian people, the United States, and its allies and partners in the region,” Davenport wrote. “It is time for a diplomatic plan B to stabilize the cycle of nuclear escalation and create space for future diplomacy.”
A similar story was published in December by Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association, who was also on the email.
According to the individual briefed on the conversations, the legislation discussed in the email was unrelated to the resolution denouncing Iran’s human rights breaches that the House overwhelmingly supported last week. However, the source claimed that because the legislation permitted lawmakers to express their criticism of Iran’s actions without really taking action against the regime, it might boost the pro-diplomacy stance.
Recently, Mizan News, an agency affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, reported that a former defense minister named Ali Reza Akbari has been executed.
Californian human rights activist Nick Nikbakht, who in January assisted in planning a demonstration in front of Katie Porter’s Orange County campaign headquarters, hailed the resolution that was approved by the House. Nikbakht, however, stated that it is insufficient for politicians to merely pay lip service to the issues without specifically pursuing the Iranian government through sanctions and other measures. Porter is a supporter of the Iran deal and has received the endorsement of the pro-regime lobbying group NIAC. His district is home to one of the largest Iranian-American communities in the nation.
Nikbakht declared, “If [politicians] continue only passing resolutions, then we know that they’re kind of playing games and their heart is not where their mouth is.”