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FBI arrests NYT columnist for working as Iran govt’s secret agent in the USA, says he earned at least $265,000 for ‘pushing propaganda’

Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi has been charged in New York City federal court with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of Iran

A regular contributor to the American daily newspaper, The New York Times, who was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, on January 18, has confessed to working at the behest of the Iranian Government.

The federal government accused Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, also known as “Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi, of acting as a secret foreign agent of the Iranian government in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). According to reports, Afrasiabi has been charged in New York City federal court with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of Iran. The US Attorney’s Office accuses him of pushing propaganda.

According to reports, the Iranian apologist had been lobbying US officials to support the Iranian government’s agenda. In a press release made by the US Department of Justice following Afrasiabi’s arrest, Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme said: “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.”  

The assistant director-in-charge of the FBI William F Sweeney added in the same press release that “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”.

The federal authorities said that Afrasiab allegedly used his position to push propaganda on behalf of the Iranian government without ever registering as a foreign agent and was, in turn, paid by the government of Iran for his services.

According to the authorities Afrasiabi has been paid by the Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City, to a tune of at least $265,000, since 2007. And since then the journalist, whom NYT describes as a “political scientist and expert on Iran’s foreign affairs”, has written several articles, opinion pieces, made TV appearances in which he “advocated for positions, policies and perspectives” favoured by Iranian officials after seeking “approval, direction and guidance” from Iranian officials.

“He has received about $265,000 in checks drawn on the International Model United Nations’ (IMUN) official bank accounts since 2007 and has gotten health insurance through the IMUN’s employee health benefit plans since at least 2011”, the US Attorney’s Office alleged.

Afrasiabi is accused of emailing Iranian officials in January 2020 with advice for “retaliation” for the US military airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, an elite unit that handles Iran’s overseas operations.

Afrasiabi at the time proposed the Iranian government “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,” according to the criminal complaint filed against him in Brroklyn. Afrasiabi claimed the move would “strike fear in the heart of the enemy.”

If convicted, Afrasiabi would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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