At how many conferences can you be guaranteed to meet Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Russian imperialists, anti-Ukrainian fascists, Chinese spies, Qaddafi devotees, Corbyn fans, Assad apologists, neo-Nazis, Trump devotees, French Holocaust deniers, Western anti-war feminists, African American separatists, Venezuelan socialists and anti-Semites of every conceivable form and type?
There's really only one, and it's run by an organization that the U.S. Treasury designates as a front for the Iranian regime's most hardline power-brokers.
And the New Horizon conferences recently achieved another layer of infamy this February, when former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer Monica Witt was charged with helping Iran launch a cyber-spying operation on her erstwhile intelligence community colleagues. Witt attended the conference in 2012, and at the 2013 she attended again – and defected to Iran, where she remains.
For years, New Horizon has drawn a host of far left and hard right ideologues – from Robert Faurisson to CodePink to the Nation of Islam - from the underbelly of European and North Atlantic political life to consort with Iranian officials, and with Alexander Dugin, the rising Russian fascist ideologue, occult philosopher and guru to Donald Trump's alt-right base.
"We are in a transition of the unipolar moment," Dugin declared, during his keynote speech at last year's conference. With the 9/11 attacks and rise of Putin in Russia came the emergence of the "multipolar world," Dugin told the assemblage of anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists and acolytes of his "neo-Eurasianist" ideology, defined by the "rise of China, the resistance of Iran against globalization, [and] the growth of [the] populist moment in the West. Trump’s election was a sign that the American people have chosen multipolarity."
That "multipolarity" really means, Dugin-style, a "traditionalist" federation of ethnostates throughout Eurasia which, he hopes, will be engineered by far right parties and states such as the Austrian Freedom Party, Italy's League, Iran and Syria - with Moscow as a kind of de facto imperial center. The Kremlin both openly and quietly facilitates and funds this political pivot away from NATO and a united Europe, through all manner of influence and funding campaigns.
New Horizon’s annual conference of "the International Institute of Independent Thinkers and Artists," along with sister conferences "Hollywoodism" and "All Against Arrogance," has also played a curious role in hosting shadowy figures who, like Witt, end up involved in international espionage.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice announcing sanctions against the organization in the wake of the Witt case, "New Horizon hosts international conferences that have provided Iranian intelligence officers a platform to recruit and collect damaging information from attendees, while propagating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial."
But it's not just for Iran that the conferences have become a recruitment-pool-for-subversion-and fascism bonanza.
Mateusz Piskorski was a repeat visitor to New Horizon conferences. A Polish activist who set up a Duginist think tank in Warsaw, Piskorski went on to monitor fraudulent elections in Crimea, and then set up his own party, Zmiana (Change), aiming to fuse left and right into an illiberal populist movement.
In 2015, Piskorski attended the "All Against Arrogance" conference featuring Dugin and conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen, and attended by ambassadors from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba. By the end of the following year, Piskorski was in jail, charged with spying for both China and Russia.
Then there was Piskorsi's pal, German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter, who also founded a Duginist think tank based in Berlin of which Piskorski was the Vice Director, contributes writings and video for Dugin's own Katehon think tank, and was, for four years, a regular participant as an "expert" in German and Middle East affairs for the Kremlin-funded RT News .
At the same time, Ochsenreiter had another "journalistic" interest: he was the editor of a neo-Nazi revisionist magazine, Zuerst!, which pledges to "serve German - not foreign - interests" and preserve "German ethnic identity" against, yes, against - "de-nazification".
While working his way up the ladder of the far-right Alternative for Germany, the proceedings of a Polish trial laid bare his alleged payment of 1,000 Euros to a fascist Polish associate to go to Ukraine and firebomb a Hungarian cultural center. The ideas was for the culprits to pose as Ukrainian Nazis, hoping that the false flag would set off a firestorm of anti-Ukrainian revanchism in Hungary, increasing the alienation of the pro-EU administration in Ukraine from its neighbors. Polish authorities believe Ochsenreiter’s actions are only one part in an intricate fascist network operating at the behest of Russia’s secret services.
Dugin, himself, is no stranger to international intrigue. His patron, Konstantin Malofeev, has helped bankroll pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine, many of whom are Duginists, and his colleague, Sergei Glazyev, is Putin’s advisor on Eurasian integration.
Like Dugin, Glazyev supports the convergence of left and right-wing ideas in the service of an illiberal geopolitical agenda, which often converge with older networks organized around the late fascist agitator and crank Lyndon LaRouche, who built a worldwide cult following based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism. LaRouche network activists at the conferences have included Webster Tarpley and William Engdahl.
A final example of the dizzying international crockpot of New Horizon participants is Caleb Maupin. Once an organizer with the syncretic Stalinist party Workers World, and an Occupy Wall Street enthusiast, he saw the Duginist light at the 2014 New Horizon conference. He explained his conversion from the "hedonism of the [Marxist-Leninist] left" to "populism" in a discussion with Dugin and other far-right activists in Moscow last year, in which he applauded Donald Trump.
That led him to become the UN correspondent for Iran’s anti-Semitic English language Press TV, then to report for RT, and to board an Iranian ship claiming to be on a "humanitarian mission" to Yemen in 2015 that various countries charged was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group, to get involved with the Students and Youth for a New America and declare the left "panders to blacks," and to organize a debate with one of the headline speakers at the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, Augustus Invictus, who has had this to say about whether six million Jews died in the Holocaust: "I am still waiting to see those facts."
How has Iran become a magnet for so many unsavory kooks and spooks?
Anton Shekhovtsov, author of Russia and the European Far Right, sees it as part of a long tradition. "For Eurasianism, Iran is very important. Geopolitically speaking, they guess that Iran is an ally in the fight against globalism and the U.S. And there’s a deep and longstanding fascination by the European far right with Third World authoritarian regimes."
Apart from the central role for Putin’s Russia, the warmth towards authoritarians is certainly borne out by various attendees. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is a unifying figure of celebration, as he is among far left and right circles more widely. Libya’s former dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s devotees are there, too. It’s worth remembering how Saddam Hussein was an object of pilgrimage for the European and U.S. far right, and some from the left.
"For Iran, it’s legitimacy. They’re seeking some legitimacy," Shekhovtsov continues. "Some of them probably believe that [conference attendees] have some leverage, that they can somehow modify public opinion in the U.S."
There are indeed plenty of New Horizon attendees who have served in U.S. government service and could be thought of as possible agents of influence – on the extreme fringes of American political life.
They include the State Department veteran banned by Twitter for harassment, Peter Van Buren, ex-U.S. Psychological Operations Battalion officer Scott Bennett, and former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and Assad truther Philip Giraldi.
The latter is the executive director Council for the National Interest and writes for the American Herald Tribune, a conspiracy-theory "news site" cited by Alex Jones - both of which are official "friends" of the conference. Giraldi enjoyed a moment of fame (or infamy) when ex-CIA spy Valerie Plame retweeted, doubled down on, then apologized for having tweeted his 2017 far-right Unz Review column, "America's Jews are Driving America's Wars," in which Giraldi also opined that Jews should be labelled when appearing on television, "like a warning label on a bottle of poison."
New Horizon has also attracted controversial U.S. political figures like former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel and current Virginia State Senator Richard H. Black, who likes to visit Bashar al-Assad and then spout pro-Assad propaganda on Hezbollah-affiliated TV networks. In 2018 he claimed that Britain’s MI6 was planning a fake chemical weapons attack on Syria, using White Helmets "actors" in Syria, which it would blame on Assad and be a casus belli for the West.
As you may have gathered from this survey of the Iran conferences’ participants, on top of a commitment to a radical undermining of American "imperialist" influence, and a sympathy for authoritarianism, fascism and subterfuge, another key feature, if not requirement, of New Horizon attendees is uncompromising anti-Semitism.
It is at its most grotesquely explicit when dedicated U.S. far-right anti-Semites are given a platform, such as Mark Weber, longtime journal editor of the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review, whose worldview is summed up by his 1989 statement, "The Holocaust hoax is a religion"; and Kevin Barrett, an anti-Semitic ideologue who blames neoconservative Zionists for 9/11 and believes "Al Qaeda is Israeli."
Of course, David Duke, former KKK head and prolific neo-Nazi racist, has apparently attended, and conducted an interview there with one-time ecology activist and now "pro-Palestinian" far right figure Ken O’Keefe. O’Keefe has the distinction of once addressing a far-right gathering in London where every ten words or so that came out of his mouth included the phrase "fucking Jews."
In case of any confusion in terms of terminology, even the most superficial perusal of the speeches and social media posts from the Iran conferences shows a complete conflation between the terms "Zio," "Zionism" and "Jews." It's worth remembering that "Zio" didn’t become a common anti-Semitic slur until Duke innovated its use over the past decade as a more "subtle," less legally actionable term for "Jew."
Duke doesn't even both to keep the rhetorical Zios-not-Jews mask on when he discusses his enthusiasm for the Iran conferences, clearly channeling the conference atmosphere:
"The real reason why the Zi0nist Supremacists really hate Iran is because that nation is currently the only country which dares to publicly tell the truth about Jewish Supremacy in the world today."
Another serial feature of the conference's anti-Semitism is straight-out Holocaust denial.
Faurisson's contribution to the audience was a paper on "Hollywoodism's part in creating the myth of 'the Holocaust' [also known as] the 'Shoah Business'…[which] serves to justify ad infinitum new wars and new crusades.'" He urged Iran to make use of the "poor man's atomic bomb" - Holocaust revisionism - to disarm and delegitimize the warmongerers.
Some of the New Horizon participants are clearly useful idiots, looking to make friends and contacts, who don’t fully comprehend their complicity in a fascism-friendly, dictator-washing espionage recruitment pool. Other are willing idiots, who recognize on some level they’re coordinating with Iran’s regime machinery and a global class of pro-Kremlin agitators, but don’t actually understand the extent to which they are actually agents of those forces – despite Iran’s exploitation of their presence on social media and state television.
The third category of participants is willing assets: those who eagerly seek the media exposure offered by Iran and Russia and are committed to the conference’s transnational, ideological milieu, and come to Iran to trade tips about how to undermine the "imperialist," Zionist-controlled governments of the U.S. and Europe.
For these figures, Iran is a revolutionary model, a "point of the spear" against "Zionism," AKA the evil neocons behind 9/11, AKA the demonic impostors who call themselves Jews (a tenet of the Nation of Islam, for instance, whose newspaper is another official "friend" of the conference.)
Some openly advocate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, insisting that there is a cabal of Jews/Zios ruling the world through their financial institutions, while celebrating Iran as "the capital of the free world," as one speaker put it.
The enthusiasm of such self-described "anti-imperialists" an anti-Semitic conference in Iran that foregrounds a Russian fascist, and the real-world boost the conference gives to subversion throughout Europe and the U.S., exposes the delusions, and the danger, of advocates pushing the innocuous-sounding aspiration of a Duginist-style "multipolar world."
David Duke’s synopsis of that December 2013 interview, conducted "at the site ot [sic] the Hollywoodism Conference in Tehran," presents a perfect encapsulation of the climate year after year in that Teheran hall.
The conference, in his words, "exposes the Zio control of Hollywood which not only promotes lies about the enemies of Jewish extremism, but literally poisons the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people in the West and all over the world. Once more it is shown that Iran is on the side of morality, love, family, and the Zionists are the side of hate, war, degeneracy, violence and blood as well as torture and genocide!"
Alexander Reid Ross is a Lecturer in Geography at Portland State University. He is the author of Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press, 2017). Twitter: @areidross