While there have been many media reports exposing Iran’s agents and spies in the Middle East and Europe, little attention has been paid to Tehran’s operatives in the US. Unfortunately, however, their importance in shaping American policies toward Iran, promoting the regime’s propaganda, getting paid by Tehran without reporting it, and harming the US national interest has long been downplayed.
Just last week, political scientist and author Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts. According to the US Justice Department, he has been 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 more shocking is that Afrasiabi, who has been in the US for almost 35 years, had allegedly been working for the Iranian regime for more than 13 years without being detected. His chargesheet states 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.
Examining Afrasiabi’s activities could be an important way to shed light on how Iran’s agents operate in the US and other countries. He presented himself as an independent political scientist, academic and expert. He allegedly wrote articles and books and gave TV interviews while getting guidance and payments from the Iranian regime. In one instance, when an Iranian official asked him to revise an article that he had already submitted, he reportedly complied with the instructions. In addition, without disclosing his ties with his paymaster, he helped a US congressman draft a letter to former President Barack Obama in favor of a deal that Iran wanted. He is also accused of trying to obtain important information by sending an email to an official in the State Department inquiring about the administration’s “thinking” on Iran’s nuclear program.
US policy on Tehran has a significant impact on the regime’s economy, its military adventurism in the Middle East, the development of its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, and its pursuit of regional hegemony and pre-eminence. As a result, it is realistic to argue that the regime has operatives who attempt to sway public opinion in the US and push the government to introduce specific policies that favor the ruling clerics.
The Iranian leaders use their agents to spread propaganda and promote their narratives, such as that the American sanctions on Tehran ought to be lifted; that the nuclear deal is a good one for the West and the wider international community; that Iran’s involvements and interventions in other countries are minimal or nonexistent; that Iran’s militaristic roles in Syria and Iraq are aimed at protecting those nations from extremist groups, and so on.
Many questions remain unanswered about why Iran’s agents hide their connections to their paymaster. Is it to avoid paying taxes? Or is it to maintain some legitimacy and credibility by not exposing their links to the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism?
The significance of the role that Iran’s agents play in the US must not be downplayed. When Mehdi Hosseini, the chairman of Iran’s Oil Contracts Restructuring Committee, was asked in 2013 whether there were any Western entities that pressured their governments on behalf of Iran, he stated: “Yes. They have done this in the past.” These efforts, he added, “help us and we should exploit these opportunities.”
Last year, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Braun called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). The congressmen stated that this entity was a lobby group that “may be conducting lobbying and public relations activities in coordination with or on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” NIAC is not registered as a lobby group and has reportedly been operating for more than a decade. The organization calls itself a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing the interests of (the) Iranian-American community.” Intriguingly, 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.’”
There are likely many people in the US who are disguised as “independents” but in reality get paid by the Iranian regime, promote its propaganda, and harm the US national interest. America and other Western countries must take this issue seriously and track these people down.
Source » arabnews