On September 26, simultaneous reports by the Semafor website in the United States and the Persian-language network Iran International revealed the infiltration operations of the Iranian regime and some of its agents. This shocking and significant disclosure exposed how the Iranian regime had infiltrated various American organizations through its agents, posing as fabricated researchers, experts, academics, and advisors.

One of these agents is Ariane Tabatabai, who was employed in institutions affiliated with Harvard University, and among her tasks was to take actions against the opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). She consistently warned about the dangers posed by the PMOI, which is the main opposition to the Iranian regime.

In their article written by Jay Solomon, Semafor provides further details:

“In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues — particularly its nuclear program — by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative.

“The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: At least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.”

The communications revealed to the press give a glimpse of the access Rouhani’s diplomats have had to Washington’s and Europe’s policy circles, particularly during the final years of the Obama administration, through this network.

The IEI wrote many op-eds and analyses, interviewed with TV channels, and took to Twitter to promote the need for a compromise with Tehran on the nuclear issue.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, a Berlin-based Iranian diplomat and former Foreign Ministry spokesman, was in connection with Mostafa Zahrani, the head of the IPIS think tank in Tehran, as well as Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary.

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021.
Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

The regime’s ministry of foreign affairs guided this network of so-called experts on the regime’s talking points and influence strategy.

Adnan Tabatabai offered Iran’s Foreign Ministry to ghostwrite pieces on its behalf. “Our suggestion could be that we as a group, work on an essay (2000 words) regarding the ongoing talks,” Tabatabai told Zarif in one same email published by Semafor. “It could, for example, be published under a former official’s name, through the CSR or IPIS — of course after you and your team revised the piece.”

The suggestion was accepted by Zarif, who recommended that “these articles or Op-Eds” be published under the names of various Iranian and non-Iranians abroad, as well as former officials.

In another example, Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, a close protégé of Robert Malley, sent an article on defusing the nuclear crisis to Zahrani in June 2014, ahead of publication. “I look forward to your comments and feedback,” he wrote in the email, which included his article, “The Conceptual Perils of Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran.”

The article was shared with Zarif and published 12 days later in the National Interest, under the title, “False Dilemmas in the Iran Talks.” Some minor changes were made to the article.

Tabatabai, the current Pentagon official, on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Zahrani in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d been invited to Saudi Arabia Faisal and Israel.

“I am not interested in going, but then I thought maybe it would be better that I go and talk, rather than an Israeli like Emily Landau who goes and disseminates disinformation. I would like to ask your opinion too and see if you think I should accept the invitation and go.” She wrote to Zahrani.

Vaez was also very active in the media. Since IEI began working in 2014 up to July 2015, when the nuclear deal was signed, he was cited in most major U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

Following the report, Senate and House Republicans called for an investigation into the Iranian regime-backed influence operation.

The Republican chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee and House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations jointly wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tuesday, in response to the report, and requested a review of the security clearance approved for Tabatabai, the Pentagon official described in the Iranian documents.

“Was the Department aware of Ms. Tabatabai’s participation in Iranian government-sponsored influence networks, such as the Iran Experts Initiative?” Reps. Mike Rogers and Jack Bergman wrote. They requested the Pentagon answer this question, and six others, by next Tuesday.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded the administration suspend the security clearances of any U.S. official tied to the IEI. He also called on the White House to refrain from resuming nuclear negotiations with Tehran, given the information about the IEI initiative.

“These reports and the emails they expose are indescribably troubling. When Joe Biden was elected, the Iranian regime’s nuclear program was in a box, their economy was on the brink of collapse, and their oil exports had cratered. President Biden and Biden officials have allowed the regime to get within reach of a nuclear arsenal, restore their economy, and export millions of barrels per day of oil worth hundreds of billions of dollars. They have agreed to secret nuclear side deals that are being kept from Congress, including ransom deals worth additional billions of dollars. They have implemented these policies while regime officials, including the Ayatollah’s hand-picked President, continue to openly brag about trying to murder former American officials.

“Americans have rightly been asking why the Biden administration is so friendly with the Iranian regime, and why Biden administration officials have so single-mindedly enabled Iranian nuclear progress and terrorism. These reports and emails suggest a vast Iranian influence operation that goes to the very top of the administration.

“The Biden administration should immediately cease its secret diplomacy with Iran and its dismantling of sanctions, and any officials linked to these emails should immediately have their security clearances pulled until these allegations are fully resolved and accountability is imposed.”

Source » iranfocus