Protesting Iranian woman Square

Iran’s web of intrigue and propaganda exposed

IN SEPTEMBER this year, the London-based TV station ‘Iran International’ and the news website ‘Semafor’, sent shockwaves through Europe and America when they revealed that an influential organization known as the Iran Experts Initiative (IEI), which had consistently lobbied and advised EU governments, the European Parliament, the US Congress and others, was in fact fashioned and directed by Tehran, stirring profound implications for global diplomacy and security.

Based on an avalanche of leaked emails, the two news organizations showed how the IEI had been created by the mullahs’ regime in 2014 “to improve Tehran’s image abroad”. So called ‘experts’ from the IEI had consistently peddled a misleading narrative designed by the mullahs, while also demonizing the main democratic opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its main component the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The leaked emails exposed how the theocratic regime sought to use the IEI to build international ties with influential academics and researchers, penetrating governments, think tanks and advisory groups at the highest level and spreading the regime’s propaganda in the Western media. They revealed the disturbing fact that European governments and institutions were relying on analyses and recommendations for their policy on Iran provided by these IEI experts.

The emails unmasked the Iranian regime’s covert initiative to advance Tehran’s interests, including its nuclear programme, while diverting attention from its repugnant human rights record. The IEI experts listed in the emails were astounding. Emails dating back to the formation of the IEI in 2014 showed how Saeed Khatibzadeh, a senior advisor to former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, worked to meticulously cultivate relationships with overseas academics, scholars and researchers.

Khatibzadeh wrote to Zarif, mentioning that he had secured backing for the IEI from two young academics, Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary, subsequent to a meeting with them in Prague. “We three agreed to be the core group of the IEI,” he added in the communication. Based on their alleged ‘expertise’ on Iran, Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary went on to occupy senior posts within the US government and civil society.

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, while Esfandiary is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group, a global non-profit organization that conducts research and analysis on global crises. She works with Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director and Senior Adviser to the President. Vaez, in an email to Javad Zarif on October 2, 2014, expressed his commitment to help advancing the regime’s narrative. He wrote “As an Iranian, based on my national and patriotic duty, I have not hesitated to help you in any way; from proposing to Your Excellency a public campaign against the notion of [nuclear] breakout, to assisting your team in preparing reports on practical needs of Iran.”

Vaez played a key role in negotiations to create President Obama’s beleaguered 2015 nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which President Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018, describing it as “the worst deal in American history”.

Vaez, Tabatabai and Esfandiary also worked closely with Robert Malley, President Biden’s special envoy on Iran in the US State Department.  Malley was placed on leave without pay earlier this year after his security clearance was suspended amid an investigation into his handling of classified material. Tabatabai worked as a diplomat on Robert Malley’s JCPOA negotiating team subsequent to the inauguration of the Biden administration in 2021.

Detailed examination of the leaked emails has further revealed how the IEI members were also vigorously engaged in attacking the Iranian opposition NCRI and MEK, claiming that they have no support within Iran and slandering the movement with a range of absurd allegations originating from Tehran. They parroted the traditional rhetoric from the mullahs arguing that the NCRI and MEK should not be seen as a viable democratic alternative to the current regime in Iran, declaring that the only realistic way forward was to resurrect the nuclear deal, lift sanctions and maintain dialogue and diplomacy with the mullahs’ regime.

The leaked emails also sensationally revealed the names of prominent academics and researchers in European think tanks and institutions, who were frequent guest speakers on Iran in the European Parliament and other international fora and were the authors of repeated op-eds in the media, while covertly taking their instructions and pay cheques from Tehran. Indeed, in response to these developments, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament suspended one of its most senior political advisers, Eldar Mamedov, and referred him to the Belgian authorities.

Mamedov, a Latvian national, had been serving as an S&D adviser to the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee for more than a decade. In his interactions with members of Parliament, Mamedov routinely echoed Tehran’s anti-MEK propaganda and authored numerous articles demonizing the MEK while downplaying the regime’s crimes and aggressive, warmongering regional conduct. He consistently adopted pro-Iranian regime positions, raising suspicions that he was an alleged clandestine spokesman for the mullahs. His case is now under investigation by the Belgian police.

For decades, Iran has been engaged in an intricate powerplay, using undercover means to shape policies in both Europe and the United States. The recent exposé of the IEI project is just a fragment of the wider web of influence woven by the Iranian regime.

Through massive financial investments and the strategic cultivation of influential lobbies, Iran has persistently sought to sway the decision-making processes of Western institutions and governments. This relentless pursuit has been further facilitated by a longstanding policy of appeasement, revealing the deep extent of Iran’s influence over key Western policies. Now the facts are known and the crooked experts exposed, the West must end appeasement and crackdown on the regime. It is time for the UN, US, EU and UK to open negotiations with the Iranian opposition NCRI and MEK and to back the Iranian people in their desire to overthrow the theocratic dictatorship – and restore, peace, justice, democracy and human rights to their nation.

If you appreciated this article please share and follow us on Twitter here – and like and comment on facebook here. Help support ThinkScotland publishing these articles by making a donation here.

Photo of an Iranian female protester holding a hijab in her hand by Oleksandr from Adobe Stock


Weekly Trending

Scroll to Top