In early 2021, Ariane Tabatabai joined the U.S. State Department alongside her colleague Rob Malley, who had been appointed as Joe Biden’s Iran envoy. However, certain members of the Republican Party in Congress expressed strong opposition due to Tabatabai’s affiliations with the Iran Experts Initiative (IEI), an organization suspected of being linked to Iranian intelligence, as well as her familial connections to the Iranian government.
The administration, along with several mainstream media outlets, disregarded the valid concerns expressed by many individuals, dismissing them as manifestations of anti-Islamic prejudice.
When Ariane Tabatabai obtained a sensitive post at @StateDept, many #Iranian-Americans warned the Biden administration that her father Javad Tabatabai appeared to be close to the Islamic Republic. Biden officials such as @nedprice called these #Iranian-Americans “racists.” pic.twitter.com/OTj1e6P588
— Alireza Nader علیرضا نادر (@AlirezaNader) October 5, 2023
Subsequently, Tabatabai was reassigned to a distinct position in the Pentagon, which presumably offered greater benefits, assuming a role as the chief of staff for Christopher Maier, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.
The office of Maier is responsible for the supervision of various activities pertaining to counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, civil affairs, information operations, psychological operations, and counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
This work is facilitated by three Deputy Assistant Defense Secretaries: the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats.
In light of recent global events, the potential presence of an individual whose allegiance may lean more towards Tehran rather than the United States could be a concern.
In the event that one has not been apprised of the aforementioned narratives, it is pertinent to note that Rob Malley, an associate of Tabatabai, has been the subject of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) since about April 2023. This inquiry stems from claims pertaining to the improper handling of classified material. In late September, Malley was identified as the primary orchestrator of a cohort of Iranian operatives, all of whom maintain affiliations with the IEI, and are strategically positioned within prominent policy and government roles in the United States.
Tabatabai is purportedly the individual occupying the most prominent position inside the suspected espionage network. The State Department and Department of Defense contest the aforementioned categorization, as is customary in such cases. The intelligence obtained from various sources, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, would have been presented to Tabatabai for review before being forwarded to higher levels of authority, such as the Secretary of Defense.
Following the events in September, congressional committees in both the House and Senate expressed their need for additional information from the State Department regarding the ongoing inquiry of Malley, as well as from the Department of Defense regarding Tabatabai.
In a recent development, Representative James Comer, a member of the Republican Party from Kentucky, formally requested Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who shares a longstanding acquaintance with Malley dating back to their high school years, to furnish the House Oversight Committee with any pertinent documentation pertaining to Tabatabai’s security clearance as well as records of her conversations during her tenure at the Department of State.
Given the aforementioned information, what factors contribute to Ariane Tabatabai’s continued employment? It is understood that the Pentagon is currently engaged in efforts to rescue hostages who have been captured by Hamas in the midst of their strikes in Israel.
It is evident that U.S. Special Forces, a unit falling under the jurisdiction of Tabatabai’s superior, are actively participating in these operations. Given the considerable level of suspicion surrounding Rob Malley’s management of secret documents, resulting in his placement on leave and suspension of his security clearance, it is reasonable to question why Tabatabai, who shares a close association with Malley, has not been similarly subjected to a leave of absence and exclusion from pertinent deliberations until the matter is resolved.
Although the proposed course of action appears to be rational, it is worth noting that on Wednesday, the Department of Defense asserted that Tabatabai is deemed suitable for the task. In correspondence dated October 13th addressed to Senator Joni Ernst, the Department of Defense’s Legislative Affairs personnel assert:
“We have confirmed that Ms. Tabatabai’s employment and clearance processes were carried out in accordance with all appropriate laws and policies. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency has enrolled all Defense Department service members, civilians, and contractors with a security clearance in its continuous vetting program, which is a process that involves regularly reviewing a cleared individual’s background to ensure they continue to meet security clearance requirements and may continue to hold positions of trust.”
Ernst provided a reaction to the aforementioned letter, expressing her thoughts to the Washington Free Beacon.
“The Biden administration is compromised, but they continue to shamelessly defend allowing an Iranian spy to infiltrate and work at the Pentagon, likely allowing the regime access to highly sensitive information. By continuing to brush this offense under the rug instead of taking this national security threat seriously by suspending Tabatabai’s security clearance, the Biden administration doubles down on its appeasement strategy that has already emboldened Iran and its terrorist proxies.”
Despite the Department of Defense’s assertion that its examination confirmed the adherence to procedural norms in Tabatabai’s clearance process, Blinken is obligated to furnish documentation pertaining to the State Department’s procedures by October 25th.
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