An agent for the Iranian government was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, on Monday, after ten years lobbying in secret for the mullahs whilst posing as an independent political scientist.
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, also known as Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi, is charged with “acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)”, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran. However, all the while, Afrasiabi was actually a secret employee of the Government of Iran… who was being paid to spread their propaganda,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Demers said that Afrasiabi had “intentionally avoided” registering his affiliation with the Justice Department, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and will now be held responsible for his actions.
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme.
“This Office is committed to the robust enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which provides the American people the tools they need to evaluate opinions and arguments in the marketplace of ideas by requiring foreign agents to declare their paymasters. Those, like the defendant, who conceal the full extent of their work for a foreign government when the law requires disclosure will face consequences for their actions,” he added.
Afrasiabi has now appeared in a Boston federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal.
As with many of Tehran’s lobbyists in the U.S. and Europe, Afrasiabi’s main target was the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI), which the government likes to falsely portray as a terrorist group that has no support in Iran, but because he posed as an independent political scientist, it took too long to see this as propaganda.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the U.S. branch of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the MEK’s parent organization, said the move to arrest Afrasiabi and hold him to account was “welcome and long overdue”, but warned that there are more like him across the U.S.
“Unfortunately, for the past three decades, the Iranian regime has been running an extensive network of agents and operatives, many of them U.S. persons, in clear violation of American law. The impunity with which Tehran has run its emissaries in the United States had emboldened them,” Jafarzadeh said.