This criminal complaint announced by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York last week received basically no notice.
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, also known as “Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi,” 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). Afrasiabi was arrested yesterday at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, and will make his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal.
Since at least 2007 to the present, Afrasiabi has also been secretly employed by the Iranian government and paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City (IMUN). Afrasiabi has been paid approximately $265,000 in checks drawn on the IMUN’s official bank accounts since 2007 and has received health insurance through the IMUN’s employee health benefit plans since at least 2011.
In the course of his employment by the Iranian government, Afrasiabi has lobbied a U.S. Congressman and the U.S. Department of State to advocate for policies favorable to Iran, counseled Iranian diplomats concerning U.S. foreign policy, made television appearances to advocate for the Iranian government’s views on world events, and authored articles and opinion pieces espousing the Iranian government’s position on various matters of foreign policy. Afrasiabi has long known that FARA requires agents of foreign principals to register with the U.S. Department of Justice and has discussed information obtained from FARA disclosures with others. Nevertheless, Afrasiabi did not register as an agent of the Government of Iran.
For example, in January 2020, Afrasiabi emailed Iran’s Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative to the United Nations with advice for “retaliation” for the U.S. military airstrike that killed Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Iranian government’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, proposing that 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.” Afrasiabi claimed that such a move would, among other things, “strike fear in the heart of [the] enemy.”
Why would it? The Security State was wetting itself a nonexistent threat from “extremists” and covering the Capitol garage floor with a thick layer of semi-frostbit National Guardsmen. The media and foreign policy establishment can’t wait to reverse four years of Donald Trump throttling Iran and make it into a nuclear-capable, regional superpower that will, again, feel free to kidnap US Navy ships and their crews without fear of a shot being fired.
But there is another reason no one was interested in talking about Mr. Afrasiabi. He was a regular feature on the opinion pages of the New York Times.
The New York Times published more than a dozen opinion articles and letters to the editor by Kaveh Afrasiabi. A 2018 Times op-ed under his byline identified him as “a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.” A 2012 Times op-ed identified him as “a former political science professor at Tehran University and former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.”
There is more.
A New York Times spokesperson did not respond to a query about whether the newspaper, which according to a search on its website Monday morning had not yet covered the federal criminal complaint against Afrasiabi, plans to tell its readers about the situation. The spokesperson also did not respond to a question about whether the newspaper plans to publish an editor’s note indicating that the opinion pieces came from someone who was getting paid by the Iranian government.
Afrasiabi said the payments from the Iranian government — about $265,000 since 2007, plus health insurance coverage, federal prosecutors alleged — had not swayed 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 said.
His defense is absurd. A regular stipend plus health insurance premiums are indicative of a much closer relationship than “you’re a rando Iranian in New York, and this is your lucky day.” The fact that the New York Times has yet to disclose that they were fed propaganda by a paid Iranian agent, an agent that had advocated attacking US targets in retaliation for the Cuisinart-ing of Soleimani, is telling. It indicates they must have had some strong inkling that Afrasiabi’s writing was authoritative and the quasi-official Iranian viewpoint.
The reporter goes onto snark:
Perhaps if Afrasiabi had been more transparent about his Iranian government connections, he might have been even more successful in getting published by the New York Times. The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, had a byline on at least seven Times op-ed pieces between 2003 and 2017, four of them between 2015 and 2017, prompting at least some wry speculation that the Times editors will give the Iranian diplomat a Peter Beinart-style promotion to “contributing opinion writer” status.
There is a very ugly truth here.
We are all aware of the “China” sections many papers carry. At least those are openly labeled, and they also identify the true loyalties of the papers running them. Less talked about is the habit of some major American papers of hiring agents of influence to launder foreign propaganda in US papers is hardly news, see The Washington Post’s Radical Islamist Op-Ed Fetish and Washington Post Hints What Others Have Known: Jamal Khashoggi Was a Paid Qatari Intelligence Asset.
It is a safe bet that virtually any op-ed on China or Iran or a few other foreign countries appearing in any of the major outlets is the product of a foreign intelligence service, and the outlet serving it up has a good idea that is the case. They do it because they are fundamentally disloyal to the nation and dismissive of normal Americans who they think are too stupid to understand much of anything…though, for the life of me, I’ve never understood how anyone with a journalism degree was ever able to convince themselves that they were an intellectual elite.
One of the wasted opportunities of the last four years was President Trump being so distracted by the constant attacks of the Deep State and having a very, very thin presence in Justice and the Intelligence Community that he was not able to provide the requisite evidence to expose the national media were, as he described them, an enemy of the people.