ZOA Warnings on Iran Espionage Were Prescient; Administration Response Is Woefully Inadequate, Dangerous
Featured News Press Release
October 4, 2023

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and Government Relations Director Dan Pollak released the following statement:

ZOA commends Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and 30 of his Senate Republican colleagues for sending a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin demanding a full accounting of actions taken by a senior Pentagon official who has close links to the Iranian government. Ariane Tabatabai, the chief of staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, was reportedly engaged in an Iranian government-linked initiative to bolster the Iranian government’s image and reinforce Tehran’s national security views. Electronic communications released by veteran Wall Street Journal correspondent Jay Solomon, writing in Semafor and by Iran International, the London-based émigré opposition news outlet, were published last week. The emails were validated over months and so far, no one has questioned their authenticity.

The content of these emails is shocking. They show Robert Malley, the Biden Administration’s Iran Envoy (who is now suspended) funded, supported, and directed an Iranian intelligence operation which succeeded in influencing American foreign policy and impacted our allies as well. The lack of response by our media and the Biden administration is even more shocking.

Lee Smith, the well-known independent journalist, has written a summary of all of the facts in this case (https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/israel-middle-east/articles/iran-spy-ring-robert-malley-lee-smith). It is incredible that Ariane Tabatabai still has a top-secret security clearance, and that the State and Defense Departments, as well as Democratic lawmakers, are not getting involved in emergency reactive measures.

Among the people implicated in what Iran calls its Iran Experts Initiative (IEI) are Tabatabai, Ali Vaez, and Dina Esfandiary. Vaez and Esfandiary should be familiar to those engaged in the debate over the Iran Deal of 2015 (JCPOA) as the strongest supporters of the deal. The scheme dates to 2014, and as Lee Smith explains:

“The IEI, according to a 2014 email from one Iranian official to one of Iran’s lead nuclear negotiators, ‘consisted of a core group of 6-10 distinguished second-generation Iranians who have established affiliation with the leading international think-tanks and academic institutions, mainly in Europe and the US.’ The network was funded and supported by an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) official, Mostafa Zahrani, who was the point of contact between IEI operatives, and Iran’s then-Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.”

After being recruited by the Iranians, these second generation academics would meet abroad and receive instructions from Iranian regime officials. They pledged their personal loyalty to Iran, according to the released emails. One of the American participants wrote: “ … we are all very much willing to dedicate our capacities and resources to jointly working on the improvement of Iran’s foreign relations. Iran is our country, so we, too, feel the need and responsibility to contribute our share.”

Peter Theroux, a veteran a retired CIA officer said: “I know what a spy network looks like, …This is how recruited assets speak to their handling officers.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said:

“ZOA has been pointing out for years that Robert Malley was wrong for the job of Envoy to Iran. He has exhibited extreme hostility to Israel, sympathy for the Iranian regime, had contacts with Hamas, and many statements favoring appeasement of Iran. Malley even wrote anti-Israel screeds in his Yale college newspaper. (See “ZOA Opposes Robert Malley Serving As Special Envoy on Iran or Any Position,” and https://zoa.org/2021/02/10442411-zoa-urges-transparency-about-iran-envoy-malleys-secret-calls-with-chinese-vice-fm/)

“Former State Department advisor on Iran, Gabriel Noronha, pointed out that Ali Vaez, who was quoted in the released emails pledging allegiance to Iran’s Foreign Minster Javad Zarif, visited the White House five times in the past 20 months. There has been a successful penetration of our country’s foreign policy and defense policy infrastructure, and the Biden administration is not reacting appropriately.” Real harm is continuing to the national security of the United States.

“ZOA also demands that Robert Malley be prosecuted for his apparent betrayal of our country. We also call on Princeton University and Yale to suspend him from his high prestige posts at those institutions.”

ZOA Director of Government Relations Dan Pollak said:

“It is shocking and dangerous the way that the State Department reacted to this crisis. The spokesman rejected any characterization of the Iran Experts Initiative as a ‘spy ring,’ and defended appointing Ariane Tabatabai to the State and Defense Departments because of her expertise on nuclear and other foreign policy issues.” Amazingly, she has retained her Top Secret clearance and remains on the job even now, although her boss has announced he is reviewing her access to classified information. It is uncontested that Ms. Tabatabai sought the Iranian government’s input on a congressional briefing that she gave in 2014, and she literally asked Iranian permission to attend a conference in Israel, which her Iranian handlers did not approve.

“It is frightening to find Democratic leaders silent on the issue so far. The media response is also thoroughly inadequate considering the critical nature of the breech. ZOA urges a bipartisan drive to get to the bottom of this influence operation. It is also clear that all agreements with the Iranian regime need to be re-examined in light of these new revelations.”

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