From the Iran file

The State Department informed Congress late yesterday that it would waive sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade so that the regime can access frozen funds from South Korea and Japan. The Washington Free Beacon story on the waiver is here and it is worth reading.

The appeasement goes on, we learned yesterday (as the also Beacon notes), even though four Iranian intelligence officials were indicted on charges of conspiring to kidnap an unnamed Brooklyn-based journalist. The charges are set forth in a just-unsealed 38-page superseding indictment and the related Department of Justice press release. The journalist has been identified separately as Masih Alinejad, an American citizen of Iranian origin.

The Iranian government directed the officials to plot the kidnapping and conduct surveillance on American soil with the intention of kidnapping Alinejad and removing her to Iran. The press release summarizes the charge that these four defendants planned to kidnap Alinejad “for mobilizing public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices.” A fifth defendant lives in California and is alleged to have provided financial services supporting the plot. The four Iranian officials won’t be around for any trial, but the California resident should be avoilable.

Here is Politico’s summary:

Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori are each charged with conspiring to kidnap, conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and sanctions against the government of Iran, conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud, and conspiring to launder money.

Farahani is an intelligence official who lives in Iran, and whom the other three defendants work under. His intelligence network has been plotting to kidnap the U.S. journalist since at least June 2020 in an attempt to further the Iranian government’s efforts to silence the journalist’s criticisms of it, the release states.

Farahani and his network are accused of employing private investigators to surveil their intended victim and the victim’s household members, procuring days’ worth of surveillance of the journalist’s home and surrounding area. The network procured services from the private investigators by misrepresenting their identities and the purpose of the surveillance, and laundering money to the U.S. to pay for the services, according to the Justice Department.

The Politico story is here. Reuters has more here.

Students of ancient history may recall various Iranian plots uncovered during the Obama administration, such as the planned assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. The case was charged in 2011. A Texas used car salesman with dual Iranian/American citizenship pleaded guilty the following year.

Jay Solomon’s 2016 book The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East remains a most useful guide to the underlying story. Solomon’s book was reviewed in the Jewish Review of Books. Jordan Chandler Hirsch opened his review:

In April 2009, a young Iranian, Shahram Amiri, disappeared in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly there to perform the hajj, Amiri had in fact brokered a deal with the CIA to provide information on Iran’s nuclear program. Leaving his wife and child behind in Iran and a shaving kit in an empty Saudi hotel room, Amiri fled to America, received asylum, pocketed $5 million, and resettled in Arizona. Formerly a scientist at Malek Ashtar University, one of several institutes harboring Iran’s nuclear endeavors, Amiri conveyed the structure of the program and intelligence about a number of key research sites, including the secret facility at Fordow.

The story might have ended there. But according to Jay Solomon, [then] chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and author of The Iran Wars, what happened next “emerged as one of the strangest episodes in modern American espionage.” A year after Amiri defected, he appeared on YouTube, claiming that the CIA had drugged and kidnapped him. In fact, Iranian intelligence had begun threatening his family through their intelligence assets in the United States [Ed. note: Solomon reports in the book that Iranian threats against Amiri’s wife and son left in Iran had been conveyed to Amiri through “a sophisticated network of assets maintained in the” United States]. Buckling under that pressure, Amiri demanded to re-defect. In July 2010, he returned to a raucous welcome in Tehran, claimed he had been working for Iran all along, and reunited with his son. Of course this was not the end of the story. Amiri soon disappeared, and in August 2016, shortly after Solomon’s book was published, he was hanged.

Solomon reported on Amiri for the Journal in a 2010 article that is accessible online here. David Sanger reported on Amiri’s execution for the New York Times in “How an Iranian’s spy saga ends, 6 years later: He’s executed.”

Hey, let’s do what we can to send lawyers, guns, and money to support the Iranian regime.

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