Did a Pro-Iran Law Firm Organize Military Letter on Behalf of the White House?

Three-dozen retired flag and general officers signed a letter supporting the recently signed Iran Deal on Tuesday. Navy Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett solicited the signatures via email, where he boasted that he is working with the White House on this project, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

According to a report at TownHall, Adm. Barnett is currently an employee of Venable LLP, a law firm and lobbying group, which has repeatedly taken public positions on issues including opposition to “enhanced interrogation” and support of changes to the Department of Defense’s Transgender policy, among others. There is reason to believe that the firm has interest at stake in sanctions being lifted from Iran.

Venable maintains close ties with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), an Iranian-American interest group with its own political action committee. The PAAIA is a public proponent of the Iran Deal, insofar that the group signed a joint statement with the National Iranian American Council, which has long established relations with the Iranian regime.

One of Venable’s Partners, Robert S. Babayi, is also the co-founder of the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), and Venable is known to have hosted presentations for the IABA Iranian Americans living in or doing business in Iran and Iran sanctions. Babayi is also a U.S. Advisory Team member for IBridges, which is an organization that promotes high-tech entrepreneurship in Iran, Sheidler wrote.

The behind-the-scenes activity of another Venable lawyer also raises questions about the vein of the letter produced this week. Majid Javedani-Tabrizi, identified in a 2013 article by Asharq Al-Awsat as a lawyer for Venable, is also the CEO of Sana Pardakhat, self-described as “the leading holding company in Iran with three wholly-owned subsidiary in IT and Telecommunication, Engine, and Health sector.”

In November of 2014, Sana Pardakhat entered into a joint contract with Chinese finance company SCE Property Holdings Ltd. and French Lyon Airport Company for a 1.2 billion Euro investment to expand Khomeini International Airport (KIA). Sanctions have hobbled Iran’s aviation industry, raising risk premium for foreign investment projects.

Sheidler’s report pointed out that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been managing and operating KIA since they usurped control of the airport in 2004; they are reported to have used the airport to smuggle billions of dollars worth of luxury goods ever since. The IRGC presumably has oversight and interest in any deal regarding KIA.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Friday that Barnett said that the letter was his idea and that “he did not write it due to a request from the White House.” Bernett also noted to the Beacon that Venable had no involvement with the letter.

The other signatories of the letter produced this week were likely unaware of Venable’s clandestine interests at stake in securing Congressional approval of the Iran Deal. The White House has not yet commented.