An investigation by the news outlet Semafor, published merely days before the largest terrorist attack against Israel, is receiving a closer look after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Iran played a crucial role in planning the acts of barbarity perpetrated by Hamas.
In early 2014, playing into the Democratic obsession with the Iran Deal, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a program to promote a positive image of Tehran on global security issues, especially its nuclear program, by a network of influential overseas academics and researchers who could serve as their agents.
They called it the Iran Experts Initiative and it became clear that the liberals in the Obama State Department served as perfect marks.
The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails reported for the first time by Semafor and Iran International. The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative. At least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance, according to Semafor.
The documents offer deep and unprecedented new insights into the thinking and inner workings of Iran’s Foreign Ministry at a crucial time in the nuclear diplomacy — even as Tehran’s portrayal of events is questioned, if not flatly denied, by others involved in the IEI. They show how Iran was capable of the kind of influence operations that the U.S. and its allies in the region often conduct.
The emails were obtained and translated by Iran International, a Persian-language television news channel headquartered in London — which was briefly based in Washington due to Iranian government threats — and shared with Semafor. Semafor and Iran International jointly reported on some aspects of the IEI. Both organizations have produced their own stories independently.
The communications reveal the access Rouhani’s diplomats have had to Washington’s and Europe’s policy circles, particularly during the final years of the Obama administration, through this network. One of the German academics in the IEI, according to the emails, offered to ghostwrite op-eds for officials in Tehran. Others would, at times, seek advice from the Foreign Ministry’s staff about attending conferences and hearings in the U.S. and Israel. The IEI participants were prolific writers of op-eds and analyses, and provided insights on television and Twitter, regularly touting the need for a compromise with Tehran on the nuclear issue — a position in line with both the Obama and Rouhani administrations at the time. The emails describe the IEI being initiated following Rouhani’s 2013 election, when he was looking to find an accommodation with the West on the nuclear issue. According to the emails, Iran’s Foreign Ministry, through its in-house think tank — the Institute for Political and International Studies — reached out to ten “core” members for the project, through which it planned to liaise over the next 18 months to aggressively promote the merits of a nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington, which was finalized in July 2015.
While Biden’s top aide who spied for Iran has had his role suspended and instead took a cushy job at Princeton University, the documents also reveal how Malley has had helped an Iranian spy infiltrate named Ariane Tabatabai infiltrate some of the most sensitive positions in the U.S. government. He first got her in at the State Department but now under Biden, she works at the Pentagon, serving as chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, Christopher Maier.
Last week, writes Tablet Magazine, “Maier told a congressional committee that the Defense Department is ‘actively looking into whether all law and policy was properly followed in granting my chief of staff top secret special compartmented information.’
The emails, which were exchanged over a period of several years between Iranian regime diplomats and analysts, show that Tabatabai was part of a regime propaganda unit set up in 2014 by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The Iran Experts Initiative (IEI) tasked operatives drawn from Iranian diaspora communities to promote Iranian interests during the clerical regime’s negotiations with the United States over its nuclear weapons program. Though several of the IEI operatives and others named in the emails have sought to portray themselves on social media as having engaged with the regime in their capacity as academic experts, or in order to promote better understanding between the United States and Iran, none has questioned the veracity of the emails.
The contents of the emails are damning, showing a group of Iranian American academics being recruited by the Iranian regime, meeting together in foreign countries to receive instructions from top regime officials, and pledging their personal loyalty to the regime. They also show how these operatives used their Iranian heritage and Western academic positions to influence U.S. policy toward Iran, first as outside “experts” and then from high-level U.S. government posts. Both inside and outside of government, the efforts of members of this circle were repeatedly supported and advanced by Malley, who served as the U.S. government’s chief interlocutor with Iran under both the Obama and the Biden administrations. Malley is also the former head of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which directly paid and credentialed several key members of the regime’s influence operation.”
The Biden administration so far has been silent on the matter.
Tablet does not beat around the bush in describing why an alleged Iranian spy is still serving as a chief of staff at the Department of Defense. “Why an Iranian operative is still at the Pentagon, especially in a job which gives her daily access to classified information that puts the country’s most sensitive military operations at risk, is another matter entirely. “The optimistic reading,” says Theroux, “is that they were watching her to see what she does and the FBI has her apartment all teched up. But to be an optimist you have to believe the FBI is clean, rather than see this as a huge counterintelligence failure. Though, of course, it’s not a failure if they were complicit.”
So far, however, the evidence points to a less optimistic reading: The Biden administration allowed Malley to push an Iranian agent into sensitive national security positions because she was best equipped to carry out the administration’s own policy—to appease a terror regime with American blood on its hands. Because the number of American officials who want to be responsible for protecting Iran’s nuclear weapons program is limited, the White House went outside the federal bureaucracy for someone who was well-connected to the regime, and would relish the job of advancing its interests—an Iranian spy.”
Members of Congress have finally begun to take action. Thirty senators, all Republican, sent a letter demanding to know why Tabatabai has been allowed to stay on the job.
In the letter, the senators suggested that it is “unconscionable” for Tabatabai to continue holding a sensitive national defense-related position and called for the immediate suspension of her security clearance.
“Iran continues to threaten U.S. military personnel in the Middle East and remains intent on assassinating American citizens here in the United States. Given these facts, we find it simply unconscionable that a senior Department official would continue to hold a sensitive position despite her alleged participation in an Iranian government information operation,” the senators wrote. “While we note that Assistant Secretary of Defense for SOLIC Christopher Maier, who is Ms. Tabatabai’s current supervisor, testified before the House on Thursday that the Department is “actively looking into whether all law and policy was properly followed in granting my chief of staff top secret special compartmented information,” we urge you to suspend Ms. Tabatabai’s security clearance immediately pending further review, as the State Department did with her former supervisor, Robert Malley.”
The recent attacks in Israel, which were plotted by Iran, have only made the matter more urgent.
More than 800 Israelis and 9 Americans have been killed in Israel by Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 9, 2023
So far, no Democrats have joined Republicans in asking why someone connected to Iran has access to our national security apparatus, but that should not surprise anyone.