A Massachusetts-based political scientist and author is accused of secretly working for the government of Iran while lobbying U.S. officials on issues like nuclear policy, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, on Monday, officials said. He is charged in New York City federal court with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of Iran.
An email seeking comment was sent to an attorney for Afrasiabi. Afrasiabi appeared before a Boston federal court judge via videoconference during a brief hearing and a detention hearing was scheduled for Friday.
Authorities said Afrasiabi, an Iranian citizen and lawful permanent U.S. resident, has been paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City since at least 2007. At the same time, he made TV appearances, wrote articles and lobbied U.S. officials to support the Iranian government’s agenda, officials said.
In 2009, Afrasiabi helped an unidentified congressman draft a letter to President Barack Obama about U.S. and Iranian nuclear negotiations, according to court documents. He never disclosed that he was working for Iran, officials said.
After the January 2020 U.S. military airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Afrasiabi told Iran’s foreign minister and permanent representative to the United Nations that Iran, in response, should “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 court documents.
Doing so will “strike fear in the heart of enemy” and “weaken Trump and strengthen his opponents,” Afrasiabi wrote, according to court documents.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said Afrasiabi portrayed himself “to Congress, journalists and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran.”
“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,” William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said in a statement.