How I was recruited by Iran's Goebbels

How a Jewish woman was taken to the heart of the Iranian terror regime


He was the man charged with promoting the despotic regime’s image in the West.

As head of the blandly titled New Horizons organisation, Nader Talebzadeh role was to extend the tentacles of Iran’s reach, targeting individuals useful to its aims.

The group flew likeminded individuals to a series of all-expenses-paid conferences in Tehran and was, according to the US government, a thinly veiled recruitment and intelligence operation designed to ensnare its foreign guests.

It led to Monica Witt, a US Air Force intelligence officer, defecting to Iran, and attracted Britons including Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, the Muslim convert writer Yvonne Ridley, and the Rev Stephen Sizer, defrocked by the Church last month for “antisemitic activity”.

It was also how Catherine Perez-Shakdam was invited to an audience with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met key members of the regime’s leadership, and learned of an assassination plot to murder Jews around the world.

Talebzadeh, who had studied film in New York, worked alongside Iran’s Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread its message of hate .

“Nader was extremely smart. He knew how to exploit people’s weaknesses. It was quite difficult not to like him. Once I was in with him, I was in the regime club,” Perez-Shakdam said. “The conferences were an outreach programme. They used them to give themselves an air of legitimacy. They were also their way of selecting people they thought could be useful. They were fundamental to what they were trying to do.”

Talebzadeh, who died last year, was, she said,  “Iran’s Dr Goebbels”, adding that it was “quite wrong” to dismiss New Horizons’ meetings as insignificant gatherings of extremists. She added: “Iran spent a lot of money on them. They were central to their programme oto getting their message across.”

The conferences, held between 2012 and 2019, brought together leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, German neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, left-wing conspiracy theorists, and senior members of the IRGC. Booth wrote about her visit in 2018, saying it was “a rare opportunity for 50 alternative minded journalists, former diplomats, politicians and activists to present and debate on topics of geopolitical interest”. That year, they included the German neo-Nazi MEP Udo Voigt, Aleksandr Dugin, the ultra-nationalist Russian dubbed “Putin’s brain”.

Others from the UK who have attended included Aki Nawaz, a rapper whose song All is War imagined being a suicide bomber and Professor Issa Chaer, associate dean of South Bank University’s architecture school, a defender of the Bashir al-Assad regime in Syria

After Talebzadeh’s death Iranian officials said he had “bravely mounted a cultural campaign against international Zionism and global arrogance” and lauded his role in what Iran calls “soft power”.

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