Iranian Scholar Charged With Acting as Unregistered Agent of Tehran: DOJ

January 19, 2021 Updated: January 19, 2021

An Iranian political scientist has been charged for secretly influencing U.S. policy and public opinion on behalf of the Iranian regime, the Justice Department said.

The department said in a press release that Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi was arrested on Monday at his Massachusetts home for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires individuals working to advance the interest of a foreign entity to register with the Justice Department and regularly file detailed public reports about their activities.

According to a criminal complaint filed in a federal court in New York, Afrasiabi is an Iranian citizen and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. A former political science professor at Tehran University, Afrasiabi is the author of many books and essays on U.S.-Iran relations. His writings have been published in prominent newspapers and academic journals including The New York Times, the Harvard International Review, and the Journal of International Affairs.

The complaint alleged that Afrasiabi, since at least 2007, has also been secretly employed by the Iranian government and paid by Iranian delegations to the United Nations (UN) in New York City. Afrasiabi has allegedly received approximately $265,000 in checks from Iranian UN diplomatic bank accounts during the period.

Throughout his activity as an Iranian agent, Afrasiabi has allegedly lobbied a U.S. Congressman and the U.S. Department of State to advocate for policies favorable to Iran. It is not immediately clear which Congressman he has allegedly had contact with. He has also allegedly counseled Iranian diplomats concerning U.S. foreign policy, the statement said, noting that Afrasiabi has never registered as a foreign agent to fulfill the FARA requirements.

In January 2020, following the deadly drone strike of Iran’s top military leader Qasem Soleimani, Afrasiabi allegedly advised Iranian diplomats to the UN, proposing that Tehran “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.” He allegedly wrote in the email that such a move would “strike fear in the heart of [the] enemy.”

“Anyone working to advance the agenda of a foreign government within the United States is required by law to register as an agent of that country,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney. “Mr. Afrasiabi never disclosed to a Congressman, journalists or others who hold roles of influence in our country that he was being paid by the Iranian government to paint an untruthfully positive picture of the nation.”

“Our laws are designed to create transparency in foreign relations, and they are not arbitrary or malleable,” Sweeney said.