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A political scientist that has been published by The New York Times was arrested and charged with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of Iran, federal authorities announced last week.
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, who is accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), allegedly sought to influence the American public and American policymakers for the benefit of Iran.
“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 said.
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“This Office is committed to the robust enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which provides the American people the tools they need to evaluate opinions and arguments in the marketplace of ideas by requiring foreign agents to declare their paymasters. Those, like the defendant, who conceal the full extent of their work for a foreign government when the law requires disclosure will face consequences for their actions,” DuCharme continued.
In 2018, The New York Times published an opinion piece co-written by Afrasiabi that called for a meeting between then-President Trump and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. The Times described Afrasiabi as “a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.” The Times also linked to a book written by Afrasiabi, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office now accuses him of simply pushing propaganda.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran,” Assistant Attorney General Demers 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.”
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The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Afrasiabi also wrote a 2012 opinion piece published by the Times which claimed world leaders gathering in Tehran for a summit would “elevate Iran as the movement’s new president for three years and enhance Tehran’s regional and international clout” but “the United States … adopted a purely negative approach toward the Tehran summit.”
As of Thursday morning, the Times did not add any type of disclaimer to Afrasiabi’s columns informing readers he is accused of illegally working on behalf of Iran.
Demers said Afrasiabi “intentionally avoided” registering with Department of Justice as the Foreign Agents Registration Act required.
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“He likewise evaded his obligation to disclose who was sponsoring his views. We now begin to hold him responsible for those deeds,” Demers said.
Afrasiabi was paid “approximately $265,000” along with health benefits by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City (IMUN), according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Afrasiabi faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.
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