A frequent New York Times contributor was charged as a paid foreign agent of Iran. The charges did not seem to bother the Times.
The New York Times, which published more than a dozen articles and letters to the editor by Kaveh Afrasiabi, finally acknowledged the federal criminal charges against him only in the context of a report that he was among five Iranians included in a prisoner swap deal in which five Americans were freed by Iran and the United States released $6 billion to Iran. The Times article did not mention Afrasiabi’s work published in the newspaper, and it inaccurately described the charges against him as “being an unregistered lobbyist,” Algemeiner reports.
Afrasiabi was arrested in January 2021. He acknowledged to The Algemeiner that he was paid by the Iranian mission at the United Nations. He pleaded not guilty, arguing that he was and is “an agent of peace committed to US-Iran reconciliation and peace and dialogue” and that his writing was motivated solely by his “moral responsibility as an intellectual.”
Iran has invaded Israel this past week, and Israel has now declared a State of War.
And now, rather than be concerned that a foreign agent is publishing in one of the United States’ most read newspapers, President and Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden has pardoned the criminal.
Biden’s “full pardon” of Afrasiabi, issued on Sept. 14, includes four terms.
It says Afrasiabi “shall not commit any additional crime against the United States,” that he waives any claims against the US or its employees, that he waives any claims to funds already seized, and that he “shall not accept or otherwise receive any financial benefit directly or indirectly, in any manner or amount, from any book, movie, or any publication or production, in any form or media, about his situation.”
Violating the conditions could void the pardon, Biden warned. However, even those conditions may not be sufficient to satisfy critics of the prisoner swap deal with Iran. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), for example, wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arguing he should “reverse” the deal, which “encourages Iran to take more hostages and gifts the regime billions of dollars.
If the deal isn’t reversed, you should at a minimum remove all Iranian agents from American soil.”
In a time when American citizens are being persecuted over exercising their right to free speech, a presidential pardon of a foreign agent is disturbing to say the least. But, an additional and connected scandal is errupting.
The undisclosed Iranian influence in American media and universities is being uncovered, and it seems Afrasiabi, the very man pardoned, is participating in that as well.
The frequent New York Times contributor pardoned by US President Joe Biden after being charged as a paid foreign agent of Iran says he’s planning to return to teaching.
“I am planning to resume teaching American politics and international relations as I did most recently in 2022 at Umass Boston,” Afrasiabi told The Algemeiner by email.
So the charged foreign agent not only is not facing those charges, but will now be paid to teach American politics in the UNited States.
There is, at least, somewhat of an addressing of the situation by the Times.
In a New York Times column published on Tuesday, Bret Stephens described “a high-level informal influence operation, involving a handful of scholars of Iranian descent, that was conceived and manipulated by the Iranian regime.”
Stephens added: “Over several years, the trio wrote guest essays (including in the Times) and gave scores of interviews to major Western media outlets, making them unusually influential in the debates about Iran.” That’s more candor than the Times has had with its readers about Afrasiabi, who, unlike the trio mentioned by Stephens, faced federal criminal charges and acknowledged being paid by the Iranian UN mission, Algemeiner notes.
In Facebook posts, Afrasiabi has offered a mixed reaction to the latest flap, which involves Ali Vaez, Dina Esfandiary, and Ariane Tabatabai and surfaced in a report by Semafor. “I never took these mediocre academics seriously, can’t figure out why US does?” Afrasiabi wrote. In a follow-up post, he added, “I am horrified at the McCarthyite witch hunt against three young Iran experts.”
In a thread on X/Twitter, Esfandiary insisted, “The Iranian government never directed any of my work or articles.” She also said, “The Iranian government never paid for me or any of my colleagues to meet with them.
Universities have always been a haven for liberal ideals and counter-culture thoughts, but the idea of having paid or unpaid foreign agents using their jobs as teachers to promote the enemies of the United States and Israel, one of our allies, in wartime is suspect at best.
Especially given the persecution of and attacks on Biden’s political opposition, the pardoning of foreign agents is alarming.
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