By Barry Rubin

There are days when you think: No, this nightmare can’t be real! Is the Obama Administration really so bad? Have the policymakers really taken leave of their senses?

And then you see this:

The U.S. Consulate-General in Saudi Arabia “hosted Dr. Trita Parsi, founder and President of the National Iranian American Council…..Dr. Parsi chaired a roundtable luncheon hosted by CG [Consul-General] Tom Duffy. This event was very well-received by the audience, a mix of prominent academics, businesspeople, journalists, and intellectuals. There was significant audience participation and interest in the topic.”

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According to Parsi’s own site, to which the official U.S. site helpfully sends you, “Dr. Parsi was invited to speak and share his expertise on U.S.-Iranian relations and Iranian politics during the first week of October at several events in Riyadh, Dharan and Jeddah.” The official U.S. consulate site tries to pretend that Parsi is actually some kind of noted scholar whereas his claim to fame consists almost entirely in convincing the repressive Tehran dictatorship to back him.

The U.S. State Department recently also organized a paid tour for the imam of the “Ground Zero” mosque who rejects U.S. policy toward Hamas, blames America for the September 11 attack, and claims the United States has murdered large numbers of innocent Muslims.

Under what program is all this done?

“As part of the US government’s public affairs outreach, the State Department tours prominent US-based experts and academics in the region to provide an opportunity for officials from foreign ministries, academics, journalists, and members of the business community to engage with them.”

Parsi has been the leading lobbyist in America for the Iranian Islamist regime and, at least until last year’s election, was also an apologist for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He worked actively (in partnership with the anti-Israel front group J Street, no less) to stop U.S. sanctions on Iran.

And this is the man who the State Department sponsored in Saudi Arabia? What must the Saudis have thought? I’ll tell you:

Aha, the Americans pretend to oppose Tehran but in fact they are playing a double game, making a deal with that regime. Well, if the Americans are backing Iran we better appease the Iranians real fast before it is too late.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).