Last week, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi was arrested in Massachusetts. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Afrasiabi is charged with "acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act". Afrasiabi presented himself as an independent political scientist, academic and expert. He allegedly wrote articles, including for The New York Times. (Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)
The US is apparently not immune from the Iranian regime's operatives; unfortunately, the significance of this issue has long been downplayed.
Last week, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, also known as Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi, was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Afrasiabi is charged with "acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)".
What is alarming is that Afrasiabi, who has been in the US for almost 35 years, was working for the Iranian regime and getting paid for nearly 13 years without being detected. It is alleged that from July 2007 to November 2020, he received at least $265,000 from the Iranian government. According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act, anyone who is paid to lobby the US federal government is required to "register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives."
Looking at Afrasiabi's activities cannot possibly tell us what other agents of Iran may be doing. Afrasiabi presented himself as an independent political scientist, academic and expert. He allegedly wrote articles, including instance for The New York Times, a book, and gave TV interviews while getting guidance and payments from the Iranian regime. When Iranian officials reportedly asked him to revise an article already submitted, he followed up on their instructions.
In addition, without disclosing his ties with his paymaster, the Tehran regime, he helped a US Congressman draft a letter to President Barack Obama in favor of a deal desired by Iran. He also allegedly tried to acquire important information, such as sending an email to an official in the State Department asking the administration's "thinking" about Iran's nuclear program.
Why do Iran's agents conceal their connections to their paymaster? To evade paying taxes? To maintain some legitimacy and credibility by not exposing their links to what the US Department of State has called the "world's worst state sponsor of terrorism"?
The ruling mullahs of Iran attempt to spread their propaganda through their agents and to promote their preferred narratives. Some of this propaganda may include the following:
- Sanctions on Iran ought to be lifted.
- The nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a good deal for the West and the international community.
- Iran's involvements and interventions in other countries are minimal or nonexistent.
- Iran's military role in Syria and Iraq are for protecting those nations from extremist groups...
It is worth mentioning that a year ago, three Republican Senators, Ted Cruz (TX), Tom Cotton (AK) and Mike Braun (IN), called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
"NIAC's innocuous public branding masks troubling behavior," the senators wrote. The congressmen noted that this entity was a lobby group acting as a "foreign agent of the Islamic Republic.... For example," the senators wrote, "on December 31, NIAC circulated an email memorandum blaming the United States government for Iranian-backed militias' repeated attacks against US forces in Iraq and brazen attempt to storm the US embassy in Baghdad."
NIAC is not registered as a lobby group and has been reportedly operating for more than a decade. The organization calls itself a "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing interests of [the] Iranian-American community."
Intriguingly, however, according to the senators' statement:
NIAC's former acting policy director, Patrick Disney, admitted in internal emails that he and the organization's legislative director spent more than 20 percent of their time conducting lobbying activities. He wrote, "I believe we fall under this definition of 'lobbyist'...."
In addition, the former FBI associate deputy director, Oliver Revell, stated:
"[A]rranging meetings between members of Congress and Iran's ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran."
Revell's statement came after NIAC's Swedish-Iranian founder, Trita Parsi, reportedly arranged meetings between Iran's then-ambassador to the United Nations (and current Foreign Minister) Mohammad Javad Zarif and members of the US Congress and the. According to the Iranian American Forum:
"Some of these documents are posted here and reveal NIAC's relation and collaboration with Iranian officials and business interests inside Iran. They show that NIAC coordinated its lobby with the Iranian ambassador to the UN to influence the US policy with Iran. Some of NIAC's internal documents released during the lawsuit have been used to prepare this report."
For safeguarding America's national interests, it is urgent that the US follow up on the recommendation of these Senators, at least to investigate who might be operating for the Iranian regime and what they might be up to.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu