New York Times opinion writer arrested as alleged Iran agent, accused of writing ‘propaganda’ pieces

A New York Times opinion writer was arrested and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Iranian government last week, The Algemeiner reported.

Kaveh Afrasiabi, a former political science professor and former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, has been accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, “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.

The press release states that Afrasiabi has a PhD and frequently publishes books and articles. He also appears on American television programs discussing foreign relations matters, particularly Iran’s relations with the United States.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office now accuses him of pushing propaganda.

Afrasiabi was allegedly paid, directed and controlled by the Government of Iran to lobby U.S. government officials and to create and disseminate information favorable to the Iranian government 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,” stated Assistant Attorney General Demers.

“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.”

The Times published an opinion article co-written by Afrasiabi in 2018 that called for a meeting between former President Trump and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

“Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani should listen to reason and take the opportunity this month to sit down for a face-to-face conversation. It would be the truly bold thing to do,” the article states.

In 2012, The Times published an article by Afrasiabi 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 “unfortunately, the United States … adopted a purely negative approach toward the Tehran summit.”

In a statement to The Algemeiner, Afrasiabi called the government’s claim that he was a secret Iranian agent “absurd” and “wild.”

“Whatever I did was perfectly legal and fully transparent,” Afrasiabi said.

“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 detente, non-proliferation, human rights, inter-religious dialogue and understanding.”

Afrasiabi acknowledged that he was 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 said.

Afrasiabi said that he was not lobbying America on behalf of Iran, but rather lobbying Iran on behalf of America.

Afrasiabi was ordered 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 was also required to post a $250,000 unsecured bond, and family members posted an additional $325,000 in unsecured bonds.

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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