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Iranian Front Group Funds Institutions Across US

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (C) arrives at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Alavi Foundation is an Iranian front group that funds mosques and educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

In 2009, federal prosecutors charged that the Alavi Foundation was a front group for the Iranian government and violated U.S. law by transferring rental income from its properties to Iran’s Bank Melli, which was sanctioned in 2007 for supporting the Iranian nuclear program.

Those properties included a 36-story office building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan worth $1 billion owned by the Alavi Foundation along with the Assa Corporation. Other properties included Islamic centers comprising schools and mosques in New York City, Maryland, California, Texas and Virginia.

A suit was later brought against the Alavi Foundation and the Assa Corporation by survivors of Iranian-regime terror attacks. In 2017, a New York court ruled the U.S. government could seize the Manhattan skyscraper  from the Alavi Foundation. (The court concluded the foundation knew and helped hide the fact that the Assa Corporation was also a front for the Iranian government.)

The decision was overturned by an appeal’s court later that year saying the buildings did not qualify as being owned by Iran under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act: “Given the lack of evidence demonstrating Iran’s day-to-day control of Alavi, we conclude, as a matter of law, that defendants cannot be deemed Iran’s alter egos.”

The building on Fifth Avenue was built in the 1970s on land owned by the Pahlavi Foundation, a non-profit corporation formed in New York by then Iranian leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Pahlavi was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and the foundation morphed into the Alavi Foundation, which was tasked with promoting Shiite Islam and Persian culture and the Iranian regime in the U.S.

The Alavi Foundation continues to fund both Islamic and non-Islamic institutions across North America. Here are 10 Islamic groups in the U.S. the foundation has funded since 2014:

 

California

  • San Diego — the Farsi School received $13,800 in 2016
  • Carmichael — the Qoba Foundation received $5,000 in 2016. In addition, its website suggests Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi are top scholars.

 

New York

  • the Persian Society of New York received $5,000 in 2016
  • the Islamic Institute of New York received $20,000 in 2015
  • the Ahlul Bayt Mosque received $60,000 in 2016

 

Connecticut

  • the Jafaria Association of Connecticut received $16,100 in 2015. In May of 2017, the association hosted an event with Sheik Jaffer Ladak, who (based on his Facebook likes) is a supporter of Ayatollah Khamenei.

 

Maryland

  • the Muslim Community School received $123,000.00 in 2014. Clarion Project previously reported that Sheik Jalil Nawee teaches Qu’ran classes there. Nawee’s daughter posted an image on Instagram in support of the Iranian-funded Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

 

Michigan

  • the Islamic House of Wisdom received $3,000 in 2014. The imam there, Mohammad Elahi, has been seen in pictures with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

 

Kansas

  • Az Zahra Center received $7,500 in 2015.

 

Location Unknown

  • the Imam Ali Foundation received $12,000 in 2016. Interestingly, the foundation supports Ayatollah Sistani, who is seen as the moderate among the marjas (the highest level Shiite authorities in the Middle East). Sistani refused to meet with Khameini when asked to do so.

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RM
Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow, national security analyst and the director of Clarion Intelligence Network. Mauro is also an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Justen Charters is a research analyst with the Clarion Intelligence Network.

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