In a rather unsettling situation, an Iranian-American is functioning as an interlocutor between Iran’s leaders and the U.S. Defense Department. Amir Mohammad Estakhri, who lives in Southern California, has been an interpreter for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for interviews Ahmadinejad has done with Charlie Rose and Piers Morgan. Yet he has also been an interpreter for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when Panetta was dealing with the Afghani government. Thus he is working for the U.S. and Iran simultaneously.
Estakhri has worked for officials in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, and also aided David Petraeus, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.
Estakhri said, "My background allows me to easily switch between two worlds. Iran and the U.S. are much less different than people realize." Yet his apology for Ahmadinejad belies his supposed non-partisanship. Back in September, when Ahmadinejad commented vis-à-vis the fatwa decreeing death on British writer Salman Rushdie that Rushdie should keep his whereabouts private "for his own safety,” Estkhri said, “He was just joking. Many foreigners don't understand Ahmadinejad's personality or culture.”
Because Estakhri is so quick to defend Ahmadinejad from statements like these, it is no wonder that some State Department and Pentagon officials are concerned about his position. One said, "We must not have many people who can actually speak these languages."
Estakhri has been interpreting for Ahmadinejad since the Iranian leader appeared on CNN with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour many years ago.
Last May, Estakhri did an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he flatly stated, according to Iran’s chief economics minister, that Iran would not deviate from its course because of outside sanctions, saying, "The more they ratchet up the pressure on the sanctions, it will be like a very strong punch against a wall."
Estakhri doesn’t believe Iran will be changing any time soon. He said, “Despite what many in Washington believe, the Islamic Republic isn't going anywhere and can't be changed from outside."
Just the man we need working for us.