Federal prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled charges against a political scientist accused of working secretly on behalf of the Iranian government by lobbying U.S. lawmakers and publishing pro-Iran propaganda in U.S. news outlets.
According to prosecutors, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi has received $265,000 in secret funding from the Iranian government since 2007.
He has also received health benefits provided to Iranian diplomats dispatched to the United Nations, prosecutors said in a federal complaint.
John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement that Afrasiabi was “a secret employee” of the Iranian government “who was being paid to spread their propaganda.”
Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney in Boston, alleged that Afrasiabi sought to influence the American public on behalf of the Iranian regime “by disguising propaganda as objective policy analysis and expertise.”
Afrasiabi, who has been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 1984, has been an outspoken advocate of Iran for more than two decades.
He also allegedly had direct contact last year with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
In an email from January 2020 cited by prosecutors in a criminal complaint, Afrasiabi urged Zarif to “strike fear in the heart of [the] enemy” in “retaliation” for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
In a July 28, 2020, email to Zarif, Afrasiabi acknowledged receiving funding from the Iranian government.
“Without support none of this would have been possible! This has been a very productive relationship spanning decades that ought not to be interrupted,” he allegedly wrote.
Afrasiabi is charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Iranian government.
He was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, according to prosecutors. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.
Afrasiabi advised Iran’s nuclear negotiation team from 2004-05, according to his website.
He has a Ph.D. from Boston University and stints teaching at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.
According to prosecutors, Afrasiabi has lobbied U.S. lawmakers and the State Department regarding U.S.-Iran relations.
He has also pushed pro-Iran propaganda in television appearances and opinion pieces published by major U.S. news outlets like The New York Times and Huffington Post.
The complaint against Afrasiabi says that he had contact with unidentified members of Congress in 2009 regarding a letter sent to President Barack Obama about Iran’s nuclear program. The letter cited Afrasiabi as a foreign policy expert on Iran.
According to the complaint, Afrasiabi remained in contact with the lawmaker and his staff over the next several years.
A review of YouTube shows that Afrasiabi has appeared most frequently in recent years on RT and CGTN, which are TV outlets controlled by the Russian and Chinese governments, respectively.
The New York Times has published several opinion pieces by Afrasiabi, most recently in September 2018.
In the piece, Afrasiabi and a co-author argued that the presidents of the U.S. and Iran should meet at the U.N. General Assembly in New York to open up dialogue between the two countries.
The Times described Afrasiabi as “a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.”
The Huffington Post, a liberal news outlet, published a piece by Afrasiabi in May 2009 calling for President Obama to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following his election to a second term as Iran’s president.
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