Those of you reading this blog for some time know that I have a soft spot in my reporting for frauds: there are so many and so little time to expose them all! In this post, I’m going to revisit one of my old fraud-‘flames’ from the past, and introduce you to a new one who deserves her fifteen-minutes of Warholian “fame.” Last Friday, Buzzfeed News published a piece on an Iranian-American, Saghar “Erica” Kasraie, who was moved to create a video, Truth from an Iranian, which fabricated a claim embodied by the hashtag #IranDetestsSoleimani, which has accompanied it as it bounced its way around the right-wing internet. She touts herself as an Iranian-born “human rights activist working on Iran policy.” Her video has nearly 10-million views on YouTube and Facebook. But it, and Kasraie are both frauds.
In it, she falsely claims that “the people of Iran are happy” about Soleimani’s murder and giving out treats and “baking cakes” to celebrate it. In fact, millions of Iranians mourned at his funeral. This, she unsurprisingly calls “propaganda.” Not sure how you can fake a crowd of a million people at a funeral. Her other claims are completely bogus as well. One may argue about the military leader’s legacy, but one can’t argue about facts.
She also claims that the peoples of the Middle East including Iraq and Iran ‘don’t hate Donald Trump.’ Again, facts matter and this claim has no basis in truth. She further says: “Thank you Mr. Trump for making a very hard decision and for having the moral courage to [do so].” She “begs” people who “know nothing about the Middle East to keep your opinions to yourself.” Anyone in this category, she claims, is “distorting the media flow of information.” A truly bizarre claim of which she herself is guilty. I would parse it as “if you disagree with me then shut the f*** up.”
This is a perfect example of the exploitation of social media by political charlatans peddling nostrums.
Let’s start with these claims included in the Buzzfeed report:
“I’m grateful for President Trump and the groups that support him,” Kasraie said of the support her video has received from pro-Trump internet communities. “I think I represent Iranians that support Trump.”
Which Iranian groups support President Trump? The royalists who support regime change in order to reinstate the Shah’s dynasty; and the MeK which seek to install a cult-like dictatorship of terror. What do these two groups represent among Iranians both at home and abroad? A tiny sliver of the overall population. The largest and most representative groups in the U.S. of Iranian-Americans is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). It does not support Trump by any means.
To whom has Kasraie hitched her wagon? Buzzfeed reveals that she served as a registered foreign agent for Libyan warlord and accused war criminal, Gen. Khalifa Haftar (sometimes spelled “Hiftar”), who has been fighting for years against the UN-recognized government which assumed power after the overthrow of Muammar Ghaddafi a decade ago. Haftar has no particular ideology or political agenda. His main goal appears to be to take control of Libya’s oil and other natural resources and plunder them on behalf of his Middle Eastern allies the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
Haftar hired a Texas-based lobbying firm, Linden Government Solutions, to represent his interests in the U.S. It paid the company $2.1-million for its services:
Linden president Stephen Payne has close ties with the Republican party. He served in the George W. Bush White House as a presidential advance representative and also traveled with former VP Dick Cheney.
When Pres. Trump, contrary to U.S. avowed policy to support the existing Libyan government, telephoned Haftar last April to offer his support, Linden earned almost its entire fee.
In 2019, Kasraie was a registered lobbyist working for the firm on the warlord’s behalf. She minimized her involvement by claiming she only arranged “logistics” for DC visits and was a “consultant.” Federal documents filed on her behalf clearly indicate she was a lobbyist. For some reason, she’s trying to conceal this aspect of her resume and does not refer to it on her LinkedIn account or media appearances. On her Facebook account, she does claim to have worked for the House of Representatives. In what capacity, no one knows but her. I approached her and she sent me her email address. I then sent her questions. Instead of responding to them, Jennifer Willingham, who characterized herself as Kasraie’s “representative” contacted me and asked what I was writing and for whom. Needless to say, my questions were not answered.
After the video went viral, she became the darling of the right-wing media universe and did interviews for Christian Broadcasting Network and FoxNews. There she revealed another interesting tidbit about her background. She called herself an “advisor” to the National Iranian Congress. When I read that it rang a bell. That’s where the other Iranian fraudster comes in.
Back in 2012, after he appeared in an Israeli TV interview extolling Israel and denouncing Iran’s government, I wrote a post about Amir Abbas Fakhravar. At that time (and still), he was the darling of the American Enterprise Institute, which appeared to be funding much of his work advocating regime change on U.S. media. During an Israeli media appearance, he didn’t reveal which Israelis were funding his visit, but clearly they were within the political-intelligence apparatus who favored his advocacy of violent regime change in Iran.
Fakhravar claims he was jailed in Evin Prison as a political dissident. But his many critics say that while he was jailed there, he was no dissident. In fact, he’s been accused of serving the intelligence services as a snitch against fellow prisoners while in there. How else can one explain why he was permitted to emigrate from Iran using a passport in his own name? He left for Dubai and there met Richard Perle who, in 2005, was riding high as a Bush-Cheney foreign policy advisor. From there it was only a hop, skip and a jump to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which adopted him as its pet Iranian dissident.
A Middle East Eye profile called him a “snake oil salesman.” An Iranian-American friend tells me that he is jokingly referred to by Iranians as ‘Nangavar.’ The name ‘Fakhravar’ means “bringing honor.” ‘Nangavar’ means “bringing shame.” Clearly, he’s ‘beloved’ among his fellow Iranian-Americans.
The admiration between AEI and Fakravar was mutual, as he established a non-profit, rather awkwardly called the Iran Enterprise Institute. That didn’t last long. But he has moved on to create what appears to be a government-in-exile called the National Iranian Congress. The website is rather grandiose, while at the same time looking rather empty and forlorn. Fakhravar is listed as the “Chairman of the Senate.” Below him, the pictures of a score or more of Iranian-Americans are displayed. Presumably, all have been elected to this ghostly body. One assumes that these are real people and not stock photos. But who knows?
There is also a “Secretary General” and numerous “departments” which correspond roughly to cabinet posts. Curiously, none of the departments list anyone running them. Finally, there is an “NIC Judiciary” and an attorney general. Below his picture, there are six blank profile images saying “No Image Available.” It’s hard to know whether there were ever any real judges appointed or whether, perhaps, they’d been liquidated due to their bad deeds. Or perhaps they’d gotten tired of having no cases over which to preside.
The group holds an annual Iran Democratic Transition conference in Washington, to which it invited right-wing think tankers and members of Congress to speak. Among their past keynote speakers were Sen. John Cornyn, Trent Franks, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, and Dana Rohrabacher. A dead giveaway that this is a monarchist enterprise is that Reza Pahlevi was a guest speaker at NIC’s launch.
This is the outfit for whom Kasraie serves as an advisor. Her Facebook page reveals that she spends a good deal of time lobbying on Capitol Hill on behalf of a “democratic Iran.” Clearly that means something different to them than it does to most Americans, since NIC offers a “constitutional monarchy” as a future option for Iran. Currently, she works for a Christian evangelical relief outfit, the Victor Marx Group, where she is ‘vice president of human rights policy.’ She also maintains an affiliation with a public relations firm, Epic based in Nashville. Her Facebook slogan is “a sinner saved by grace.” I think that tells us what we need to know about her religious affiliation.
NOTE: If you haven’t voted in my 2020 Islamophobe of the Year poll yet, this is your last chance. The poll below is an expanded version of the one I featured on Twitter earlier. Some browsers detect the embedded poll as “insecure content” or a script. If you can disable that setting for this website or web page, the poll should display.