On Dec. 19, 2008. at 2 p.m., the New York-based Alavi Foundation, which supports Iranian causes, contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation. This can be best described as the ultimate chutzpah, for on the very same day, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted the president of the Alavi Foundation, Farshid Jahedi, “on a charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying documents required to be produced under a grand jury subpoena concerning the Alavi Foundation’s relationship with Bank Melli Iran and the ownership of a Manhattan office building.”
Alavi’s contribution to Clinton came just two days after the Treasury Department also designated Alavi’s partner, the New York-based ASSA Corp., as a terrorist entity, and the New York Southern District’s attorney seized and forfeited its assets. According to the Treasury Department, “Assa … continued to provide services to Bank Melli by maintaining Melli’s interest in 650 Fifth Avenue Co. and transferring income from 650 Fifth Avenue Co. to Bank Melli.” ASSA owned 650 Fifth Avenue Co. together with the Alavi Foundation. Incredibly, the government seized only 40% of the 36-story building controlled by ASSA, leaving the Alavi Foundation in charge of the remaining 60%.
The Alavi Foundation was established in 1973 by the Shah of Iran as the Pahlavi Foundation, “to pursue Iran’s charitable interests in the United States.” It was renamed the Mostazafan Foundation in 1981 by the Ayatollah Khomeini and renamed again in 1992 as the Alavi Foundation.
As early as 1979, the foundation and its partner Bank Melli were recognized as procurement fronts for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Twenty years later, the U.S. government recognized Bank Melli as a vehicle controlled by the Iranian Government. The bank was finally designated a terrorist entity on Oct. 25,2007. What took so long? The Alavi Foundation’s Web site states that its mission is promoting and supporting Shiite educational, religious and cultural programs: in essence, delivering the mullahs’ message to America. The foundation also owns and funds several mosques and educational centers in New York, Maryland, Texas and California.
In 2007, Alavi’s IRS filing reported $87,899,567 in assets and $3,315, 237 that went to charity. Of this, $365,056 went to schools and universities, $328,667 was spent on book publications and distribution, and $262,325 was given to schools in the form of interest-free loans.
The Alavi Foundation continues to operate despite five different lawsuits against it in the U.S., filed by survivors of Iranian and Hezbollah terror attacks. The fact that the Iranian government appoints the board of this Iranian foundation apparently does not satisfy the courts. Thus, the plaintiffs failed to prove that Alavi takes direct orders from Tehran. Yet Alavi’s function as an arm of the radical leadership of Iran is evident. In 1993, the foundation’s director after Khomeini took over in 1979, Manoucher Shafie, together with his successor Mohammad Hossein Mahallati, director from 1983 to 1992, were suspected by U.S. authorities of “exporting germ-warfare toxins to Iran.” Neither was convicted.
The Mahallatis are well known in revolutionary Iran. Ayatollah Fazlollah Mahallati, father of foundation director Mohammad Hossein, was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mentor and the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. He oversaw the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, killing 241 American Marines.
Mohammad Hossein Mahallati’s brother, Mohammad Ja’far Mahallati, served as Iran’s Ambassador to the U.N. from 1987 to 1989, during which time the foundation, run by his brother, gave at least $1.4 million to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman’s Brooklyn mosque. The blind sheikh is serving a life sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, in Butner, N.C., for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Meanwhile, former Ambassador Mahallati has become a popular lecturer at America’s elite universities and is now a visiting professor of religion at Oberlin College. His research focuses on the “ethics of friendship in Muslim cultures.”
Moreover, to better spread the mullahs’ dogma, in 1999, Mohammad Ja’far Mahallati co-founded his own charity, the Boston-based Ilex Foundation, of which he is a trustee. Ilex is described as “a cultural bridge-building institution.” Ilex’s Trustees’ list reads like the who’s who among Middle East academics in the U.S., with names like Richard W. Bulliet of Columbia University and Olga M. Davidson of Wellesley College.
Although the Alavi contribution to Clinton is legal, it is malodorous. However, as long as the U.S. government continues to treat different Iranian entities as though they are separate from the state it recognizes as a sponsor of terrorism, the mullahs will be free to advance their agenda in the U.S.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is director of the American Center for Democracy and author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It.
* This article was first published by Forbes, on January 2, 2009
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy is author of “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It.