A US-based political scientist and author is accused of secretly working for the government of Iran while lobbying US officials and advising Tehran how to retaliate when US killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, federal authorities have said.
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, 63, was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, recently. He had written articles for New York Times and a few other journals.
Authorities said Afrasiabi, an Iranian citizen and a lawful permanent US resident, has been paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) in New York City since at least 2007.
In 2018, The New York Times published an opinion piece co-written by Afrasiabi that called for a meeting between then-President Trump and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. The Times described Afrasiabi as “a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.” The Times also linked to a book written by Afrasiabi, but the US Attorney’s Office now accuses him of simply pushing propaganda.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran,” assistant attorney general Demers said. “However, all the while, Afrasiabi was actually a secret employee of the government of Iran and the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) who was being paid to spread their propaganda.”
Afrasiabi also wrote a 2012 opinion piece published by the Times which claimed world leaders gathering in Tehran for a summit would “elevate Iran as the movement’s new president for three years and enhance Tehran’s regional and international clout” but “the United States … adopted a purely negative approach toward the Tehran summit.”
Demers said Afrasiabi “intentionally avoided” registering with Department of Justice as the Foreign Agents Registration Act required.
“He likewise evaded his obligation to disclose who was sponsoring his views. We now begin to hold him responsible for those deeds,” Demers said.
Afrasiabi was paid “approximately $265,000” along with health benefits by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City (IMUN), according to the US Attorney’s Office.
However, Afrasiabi has denied all wrongdoing in a lengthy statement emailed to Fox News.
“I am saddened by the government’s huge waste of their resources on a case they cannot possibly win. What I did under the UN norms was legal and transparent — one should only ask why they waited 13 years — and I had absolutely no clue that I was violating any US law. I never engaged in any lobbying,” Afrasiabi wrote.