The New York Times is embroiled in another scandal concerning one of their writers and this time the Department of Justice is involved.
Kaveh Afrasiabi is an opinion writer for the New York Times. He has now been taken into custody and is charged with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent for the Iranian government. According to a report by The Algemeiner, this occurred last week and has received very little media coverage to date. If convicted, Afrasiabi could get 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors are also accusing Afrasiabi of emailing Iranian officials in 2020 advising “retaliation” after the U.S. military airstrike that took out Qasem Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. At the time, he proposed the Iranian government “end all inspections and end all information on Iran’s nuclear activities pending a [United Nations Security Council] condemnation of [the United States’] illegal crime.” According to CBSN Boston, Afrasiabi claimed the move would “strike fear in the heart of [the] enemy.”
Afrasiabi is a former political science professor who resides in Watertown, MA but is a citizen of Iran. He also served as an advisor for Iran’s nuclear negotiation team. The DOJ claims that he has allegedly been “publishing books and articles that advance Iranian viewpoints while secretly employed by the Iranian mission to the United Nations.” That is a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
#US– Kaveh Afrasiabi is arrested this week and charged for being an unregistered foreign agent of #Iran. New York Times has published more than a dozen of his opinion articles and letters to the editor.
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) January 25, 2021
The Department of Justice issued a press release concerning the New York Times writer: “Afrasiabi allegedly sought to influence the American public and American policymakers for the benefit of his employer, the Iranian government, by disguising propaganda as objective policy analysis and expertise,” Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme stated.
The press release went on to state that Afrasiabi also frequents American television programs where he discusses foreign relations matters, specifically in regards to Iran’s relations with the United States.
That was followed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office accusing the Iranian scholar of pushing propaganda.
“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,” FBI Special Agent In Charge Joseph Bonavolonta declared.
It is being alleged that Afrasiabe was paid, directed, and controlled by Iran in order for him to lobby U.S. government officials to aid Iran’s interests politically and financially. He has supposedly been involved in the dissemination of Iranian propaganda for over a decade.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, 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. In doing so, he intentionally avoided registering with Department of Justice as the Foreign Agents Registration Act required,” Demers added.
Interesting to see the @nytimes publish #Iran‘s talking points while refraining to notify their readers that a “frequent New York Times opinion contributor”, Kaveh Afrasiabi, was arrested recently for secretly lobbying for Tehran.https://t.co/NtE0xrfBJk pic.twitter.com/CQWQj0iXnI
— M.Reza Massali (@m_mrezamm) January 28, 2021
Afrasiabi appeared to feign outrage, calling claims that he acted as a secret Iranian agent “absurd” and “wild.”
“Whatever I did was perfectly legal and fully transparent,” Afrasiabi defensively wrote in a statement to the Algemeiner.
“My conscience is clear, and if the U.S. government had an iota of sense of appreciation, they would thank me for all my tireless activities for the cause of détente, non-proliferation, human rights, inter-religious dialogue, and understanding,” he added.
He did, however, admit to being paid by the Iranian mission at the United Nations.
“I received checks from the Mission’s UN account and it never occurred to me that I was doing anything illegal,” he decried.
Afrasiabi has received $265,000 in payments from the Iranian government since 2007, as well as health insurance coverage. He claims that the payments did not affect his writing. “At no point in my professional career, I have been moved by anything other than my rather puritanical moral responsibility as an intellectual,” he stated.
He also asked why the U.S. government didn’t charge him years ago: “Ironically, the government complaint against me admits that they were aware of my relations since 2007, which raises the question of why allow an illegal activity to go on for 13 years unless they knew that it was not illegal or ‘secret.’”
Afrasiabi is alleging that the charges are politically motivated: “Was this the outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last gasp two days before the inauguration? Who knows.”
According to The Algemeiner, Afrasiabi parsed his defense with nuance and insisted that he was not “lobbying America on behalf of Iran, but rather lobbying Iran on behalf of America.”
Unbelievably, Afrasiabi was released Friday on the condition that “he have no contact with any known, current, or former members of the Iranian government unless in the presence of his lawyer.” He also reportedly posted a $250,000 unsecured bond and his family posted an additional $325,000 to spring him from custody.
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