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

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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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Columbia alumni are also anti-Israel, threaten to withhold $77 million in donations

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2,000 people claiming to be Columbia University alumni have signed a letter pledging to “withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support” from the institution until it meets the demands of anti-Israel protesters. The result is $77 million in donations is at risk.

National Review reports that the letter, addressed to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and the school’s trustees, expresses support for the protesters who oppose the university’s “continued collaboration with the Israeli government’s ongoing genocidal violence against Palestinians.”

“The movement for Palestinian liberation, on campus and globally, is often led by Jewish people of many nations,” the letter says. “Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience.”

There does not appear to be a process to verify that people who sign the letters are, in fact, Columbia alumni. It allows people to sign anonymously.

The letter condemns the “administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” specifically president Shafik’s decision to call in the New York Police Department Strategic Response Group on protesters. Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters were arrested at Columbia and at the City College of New York on April 30, including some who barricaded themselves inside a campus admissions building.

Signatories of the letter are pledging to withhold donations until the university meets 13 demands, including: that it divests from companies that “fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine”; calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; removes Shafik as president; bans the NYPD from campus; and drops charges against student activists, reverses disciplinary measures against them, and finances the healthcare for students who were “brutalized” by the police.

The website where the letter is shared claims that the signatories have previously provided over $67 million in financial contributions to Columbia, and that over $77 million in donations are now at risk.

The letter also claims that the university “failed to hold accountable the former Israeli soldiers who carried out a chemical attack on protesting students in January 2024.” That seems to be a reference to an incident involving anti-Israel protesters who told the student-run Columbia Spectator that during a demonstration earlier this year they were sprayed with “skunk,” a chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

While this letter is from supporters of the anti-Israel protesters, Columbia has also received pushback from opponents who say the school is allowing protesters to break the law, disrupt the educational environment, and harass Jewish students, adds National Review.

On Monday, 13 federal judges sent a letter to Columbia leaders saying they will no longer hire the school’s students as clerks due to their behavior and the school’s mismanagement of anti-Israel protests, writing that “Columbia has disqualified itself from educating the future leaders of our country.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alumnus, said in April that he would withhold donations from the university due to the anti-Israel protests.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.”

 

 

 

 

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