Anne Bayefsky Claims that the Cordoba Initiative is Part of an Iranian Plot

The Hudson Institute‘s Anne Bayefsky in an article on Pajamas Media, attempts to link the Cordoba Initiative’s fund-raising for the planned community center at 45-51 Park Place in New York (rebranded the Park 51 Community Center) to the secretary-general of the High Council for Human Rights in Iran. Her argument represents a noticeable pivot for opponents of the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

At the core of Bayefsky’s reasoning is her claim that the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf was photographed with a representative of the Iranian government in 2008 at a Cordoba Initiative event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

From this single photograph Bayefsky draws the following conclusions:

The Iranian connection to the launch of Cordoba House may go beyond a relationship between Rauf and Larijani. The Cordoba Initiative lists one of its three major partners as the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations. The Alliance has its roots in the Iranian-driven “Dialogue Among Civilizations,” the brainchild of former Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami. Khatami is now a member of the High-level Group which “guides the work of the Alliance.” His personal presidential qualifications include the pursuit of nuclear weapons, a major crackdown on Iranian media, and rounding up and imprisoning Jews on trumped-up charges of spying. Alliance reports claim Israel lies at the heart of problems associated with “cross-cultural relations,” since the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories … are primary causes of resentment and anger in the Muslim world toward Western nations.”

Never mind that recent polling confirms the fact that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a primary cause of resentment and anger in the Muslim world toward the U.S.. Bayefsky is clearly suggesting that a moderate, mainstream group of Muslims can’t possibly build a community center without subversive Iranian connections.

She writes:

In addition, a Weekly Standard article in July suggested that the idea of building an Islamic memorial in lower Manhattan may have originated back in 2003 with two Iranian brothers: M. Jafar “Amir” Mahallati, who served as ambassador of the Iranian Islamic Republic to the United Nations from 1987 to 1989, and M. Hossein Mahallati.

The anti-Muslim campaign that is coming to a head in Manhattan is the product of years of grassroots efforts (see Justin Elliot and Alex Kane‘s excellent pieces on the origins of the campaign) to delegitimize and undermine Muslim Americans. But this attempt by Bayefsky to link the Cordoba Initiative with Iranian influences is particularly disturbing.

Implied in her article — in which she concludes ominously, “The unanswered questions keep mounting,” — is that the Cordoba Initiative, acting as an Iranian agent, is seeking to bring U.S. enemies — as Bayefsky would no doubt label Iranians — on to the “hallowed ground” of the World Trade Center site.

From this the reader can conclude that:

1.) Iran is an existential threat whose operatives seek to spread Iranian influence through community centers in Manhattan, and;

2.) Mainstream, moderate organizations of Muslims simply don’t exist. They can’t help but form links with subversive elements             seeking   to destroy the United States and Israel.

The intolerance directed toward the Park 51 Community Center, in combination with the United States and Israel’s increasingly troubling trajectory of policies towards Iran, has the potential to leave a lasting impact upon U.S. attitudes towards Muslims both domestically and around the world.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. It’s good you took the Iranian off the story. Ali couldn’t be trusted you know. Rumors are he’s been photographed with his Iranian parents and grandparents. One must stay ever vigilant.

  2. Amazing how the hawks are allowed to freely engage in the wildest of conspiracy theories. And Iran is behind them all. To hear the hawks, Iran controls Hamas and Hezbollah and now Cordoba House.

    But when you point out that critics leading the charge against Cordoba House are aligned with AIPAC, then you get charged with conspiracy thinking.

    Why are hawks the only ones entitled to see cynical machinations behind current events?

  3. America has not officially declared war on a nation since World War II. Yet we are now entangled in endless wars with no feasible goals, except sustained military profits and resource grabs.

    Instead, Congress votes to “authorize the use of force” just in case we may need it, which strategically limits the public debate. Although many believe that the stiff Iran sanctions detailed inHR 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act was an Act of War, the Republican proposed HR 1553 is the actual authorization of the “use of military force” backing Israel’s right to “use any means necessary” to protect itself from Iran, including preemptive strikes.

    HR 1553: Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.

  4. where’s Jon Harrison? I tended to agree with him on the threat of an Israeli bombing of Iran. Frankly, I’m sick of this issue, though you’ve got me worried about an attack with all this coverage. Jon, Jon, where for art thou?

  5. I’m so sick of this “ground-zero mosque” affair. Frank Rich (who is either brilliantly perceptive or flabbily obtuse in his thinking and writing — never anything in between) got it right Sunday: the whole business is a put-up job by the Murdoch press. (When will that reptilian Aussie finally kick the bucket?) One hope that the developer will indeed sell the parcel for a juicy profit, and build the project in a different part of NYC.

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