Law and Order

Political Scientist Was ‘Secret Employee’ Of Iran, US Says

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  • A political scientist living in the U.S. has been charged with acting as a ‘secret employee’ of the Iranian government. 
  • Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi is accused of receiving $265,000 in secret payments from Iran since 2007. He also allegedly received health benefits that the Iranian government provides its UN diplomats. 
  • He has published numerous articles in prominent U.S. news outlets, including The New York Times. He also allegedly lobbied lawmakers for policies favorable to the Iranian regime. 

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled charges against a political scientist accused of working secretly on behalf of the Iranian government by lobbying U.S. lawmakers and publishing pro-Iran propaganda.

According to prosecutors, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi has received $265,000 in secret funding from the Iranian government since 2007. He has also received health benefits provided to Iranian diplomats dispatched to the United Nations, prosecutors said in a federal complaint.

John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement that Afrasiabi was “a secret employee” of the Iranian government “who was being paid to spread their propaganda.”

Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney in Boston, said that Afrasiabi allegedly sought to influence the American public on behalf of the Iranian regime “by disguising propaganda as objective policy analysis and expertise.”

Afrasiabi, who has been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 1984, has been an outspoken advocate for Iranian foreign policy for more than two decades, publishing works in outlets like The New York Times and Huffington Post.

He also allegedly had direct contact last year with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. In an email from January 2020 cited by prosecutors in a criminal complaint, Afrasiabi urged Zarif to “strike fear in the heart of [the] enemy” in “retaliation” for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

WATCH:

In a July 28, 2020, email to Zarif, Afrasiabi acknowledged receiving funding from the Iranian government.

“Without support none of this would have been possible! This has been a very productive relationship spanning decades that ought not to be interrupted,” he allegedly wrote.

Afrasiabi is charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He was arrested at his home in Watertown, Mass., according to prosecutors. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

Afrasiabi’s website discloses some of his past work for the Iranian government.

From 2004 to 2005, he advised Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, his website says. The website also lists Afrasiabi’s academic pedigree, showing a Ph.D. from Boston University and stints teaching at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

According to prosecutors, Afrasiabi has lobbied U.S. lawmakers and the State Department regarding U.S.-Iran relations. He has also pushed pro-Iran propaganda in television appearances and opinion pieces published by major U.S. news outlets, according to his website and the criminal complaint.

The complaint against Afrasiabi says that he had contact with unidentified members of Congress in 2009 regarding a letter sent to President Obama regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The letter cited Afrasiabi as a foreign policy expert on Iran. According to the complaint, Afrasiabi remained in contact with the lawmaker and his staff over the next several years.

A review of YouTube shows that Afrasiabi has appeared most frequently in recent years on RT and CGTN, which are TV outlets controlled by the Russian and Chinese governments, respectively.

The New York Times has published several opinion pieces by Afrasiabi, most recently on Sept. 5, 2018.

In the opinion piece, “Trump and Rouhani need to talk,” Afrasiabi and a co-author argued that the presidents of the U.S. and Iran should meet at the U.N. General Assembly in New York to open up dialogue between the two countries.

The Times described Afrasiabi as “a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.”

The Huffington Post, a liberal news outlet, published a piece by Afrasiabi on May 20, 2009, calling for President Barack Obama to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following his election to a second term as Iran’s president.

“Not to do so reflects a poor judgment on the White House’s part, particularly since Obama has yet to fulfill his own post-election promise of responding to Ahmadinejad’s letter that congratulated him for his victory,” Afrasiabi wrote following the election, which was heavily disputed by outside observers.

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