Congressman: Investigate Iranian Funding of Academia

U.S. President Donald Trump with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
U.S. President Donald Trump with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Congressman Dan Donovan (R-NY) called on Education Secretary Betsy Devos to investigate an Iranian foundation that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to American educational institutions, according to Algemeiner.

The Alavi Foundation, based in New York, distributed $50 million since its creation in 1973, ostensibly to promote Persian culture and interfaith dialogue.

“Did this foundation attempt to subvert American academic institutions,” Rep. Dan Donovan asked. “We need to investigate this, and universities have to do a better job of vetting their donors.”

However, a Manhattan court found in June that the Alavi foundation is controlled by the Iranian regime and its activities violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, bringing an end to a nine-year court battle against the foundation. The government will now move ahead with plans to seize the Alavi Foundation’s headquarters, 650 Fifth Avenue.

The Alavi Foundation’s site, a 36-story, midtown Manhattan skyscraper, was originally built in the 1970s by the Pahlavi Foundation, an entity of the Shah-led government of Iran. After the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the new Iranian regime took it over and renamed it. The Alavi Foundation owns 60% of the building. The other 40% is owned by Assa Corporation, which according to The New York Times, is a shell company for an Iranian state-controlled bank. 

The verdict “represents the largest civil forfeiture jury verdict and the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in U.S. history,” acting US attorney in Manhattan Joon H. Kim said in a statement.

(Photo: Screenshot from vide)
(Photo: Screenshot from video)

The Alavi Foundation gave over $600,000 to Harvard and more than $500,000 to Catholic schools, including the Catholic University of America and Sacred Heart University, the Algemeiner reported, citing publicly-available donation records. In 2013 Clarion Project reported the Alavi Foundation donated to 30 different universities in the United States and Canada, including UC Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia and the University of Toronto.

The communications director for the Iranian-American Community of Northern California, Hamid Azimi, said the Alavi Foundation was part of the regime’s “propaganda machine.”

Taking steps to prevent funding of U.S. educational institutions and mosques by foreign extremists was point three of Raheel Raza’s Clarion Project recommendations to the House Subcommittee on National Security delivered in her congressional testimony last week.

EF
Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.