DOJ charges Iranian with acting as an unregistered foreign agent

Kaveh Afrasiabi’s writing has appeared in a number of high-profile news outlets over the years, from the NY Times to the Guardian and HuffPost. The Iranian born political science professor’s opinions always mirrored those of Iranian officials. According to an indictment unsealed today by the DOJ, there’s a very good reason for that. Afrasiabi was on the Iranian government’s payroll:

Since at least 2007 to the present, Afrasiabi has also been secretly employed by the Iranian government and paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City (IMUN).  Afrasiabi has been paid approximately $265,000 in checks drawn on the IMUN’s official bank accounts since 2007 and has received health insurance through the IMUN’s employee health benefit plans since at least 2011.

In the course of his employment by the Iranian government, Afrasiabi has lobbied a U.S. Congressman and the U.S. Department of State to advocate for policies favorable to Iran, counseled Iranian diplomats concerning U.S. foreign policy, made television appearances to advocate for the Iranian government’s views on world events, and authored articles and opinion pieces espousing the Iranian government’s position on various matters of foreign policy.  Afrasiabi has long known that FARA requires agents of foreign principals to register with the U.S. Department of Justice and has discussed information obtained from FARA disclosures with others.  Nevertheless, Afrasiabi did not register as an agent of the Government of Iran…

Afrasiabi has admitted in his own communications that his extensive body of published works and television appearances, in which he has consistently advocated perspectives and policy positions favored by the Iranian government, has been attributable to the funding he receives from the Iranian government. For example, in a July 28, 2020 email to Iran’s Foreign Minister, Afrasiabi included “links for many of [his] works, including books, hundreds of articles in international newspapers and academic journals,” telling Iran’s Foreign Minister “Without support none of this would have been possible! This has been a very productive relationship spanning decades that ought not to be interrupted.”

If you’re interested in perusing some of his propaganda work you can check it out at the NY Times, the Guardian and HuffPost. Axios reports that he also helped write this piece credited to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif which appeared in the NY Times in 2015. But in addition to newspapers, Afraisiabi was also a frequent guest on news networks funded and run by China and Russia.

Honestly, looking at one of his most recent media hits I’m not sure this guy was fooling a lot of people. His defense of Iran shooting down a U.S. drone, which appeared on Chinese media, seems pretty rote in its Iranian boosterism: “Hopefully the Trump administration got the message yesterday. They got some bruising from Iran and after risk analysis decided it’s not to their benefit to start a full-scale war with Iran…”

Still, rules are rules and this guy obviously knew he was required to register as a foreign agent. He didn’t do that so now he’s hopefully going to pay a price for trying to manipulate the public.

Finally, there’s one thing that gets mentioned in the DOJ press release which isn’t spelled out. Afrasiabi also tried to influence “a congressman.”

“Our arrest of Kaveh Afrasiabi makes it clear that the United States is not going to allow undeclared agents of Iran to operate in our country unchecked. For more than a decade, Mr. Afrasiabi was allegedly paid, directed, and controlled by the Government of Iran to lobby U.S. government officials, including a Congressman; and to create and disseminate information favorable to the Iranian government,” stated FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Bonavolonta. “The FBI will continue to do everything it can to uncover these hidden efforts and hold accountable those who work for our adversaries to the detriment of our national security.”

The DOJ clearly means one specific person but doesn’t say who that was. I don’t know but I’m wondering if we have another Democrat like Rep. Eric Swalwell who was getting friendly with Iran’s PR man.