The current events in Israel are increasingly giving rise to consideration of the extent to which the mullahs’ regime in Iran is trying to massively influence the Western public and politics.
Research by an exiled Iranian platform now aims to prove which networks Tehran built in the West in order to influence public opinion in Europe and the US in its favor. In 2014, in a crucial phase of the negotiations for a nuclear agreement, Iran is said to have formed a network of Western scientists and political advisors in order to use their help to influence public opinion in favor of Iranian politics – including Iran experts, some of whom worked in important positions in the US government. In addition to the US, the puppet masters from Tehran are also said to have been successful with their tactics in Germany. The source of these allegations are thousands of emails from an Iranian diplomat and Revolutionary Guard officer that were leaked to journalists.
The main target in the US is said to be the US special representative for Iran, Robert Malley, who is currently on leave for unknown reasons. According to research, it all started in Germany in 2014 with the then head of IPIS, the research institute of the Tehran Foreign Ministry, at the Iranian embassy in Berlin. At that time, negotiations between the West and Iran on the nuclear program entered a decisive phase. The negotiations were quite controversial because some Western experts also considered the measures discussed to be not strict enough and instead called for more pressure on Tehran. The government of then US President Barack Obama, however, hoped that an agreement would strengthen the moderate forces in the Iranian elite, which included then President Ruhani, and also have a positive impact on other conflicts in the region. The dispute raged between these positions in the West.
This IPIS representative wrote an email with the proposal to push for the establishment of a network of Iranian-born employees of Western think tanks that would provide “political support” to Tehran. As a result, ten such think tankers are said to have been brought together in the so-called Iran Experts Initiative (IEI) – among them the current Iran expert at the renowned International Crisis Group (ICG) and the current chief of staff of an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the US Department of Defense Office manager of a top civil servant. In 2021 and 2022, the American with Iranian roots was an advisor to Washington’s Iran negotiator Robert Malley, who is now on leave.
These experts also exchanged views closely with Tehran outside of regular meetings with top Iranian representatives. Essays for Western publications are said to have been sent to Iranian representatives beforehand. It was also asked whether conferences in Israel and Saudi Arabia should be attended – countries that are critical or even hostile towards Iran.
The journalists also blame German Iran expert Adnan Tabatabai, managing director of the Bonn-based Middle East think tank Carpo, whose projects were until recently funded by the German Foreign Ministry, for particularly clearly crossing the boundaries between exchange and influence. The news site presented an email from Tabatabai to former Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, in which Tabatabai offered that members of the network could write articles that would then be published under the names of current or former Iranian officials. In this case, it would be a question of the experts directly contributing to Iran’s external image, especially under the pretense of false facts, namely false authorship.
When asked, Tabatabai explained, that this email would not exist. Neither as an individual nor on behalf of the group did he offer anything like this to Iran or any other negotiating party. Although the Iran Experts Initiative actually existed, it was “neither initiated, coordinated or financed by Iran” but was founded by the experts themselves.
The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the new allegations against Tabatabai. It apparently stopped its funding in May 2022 due to public pressure. For a long time now, Iranians in Germany and other European countries have accused him of abusing his expert status in the German and international media for narratives close to the regime. Several people, who wished to remain anonymous for their safety, reported that Tabatabai was spreading “flawless propaganda.” “You don’t have to interview him, you can just watch Iranian state television,” said an Iranian exile.
The employers of other experts named in the research, International Crisis Group and the European Council on Foreign Relations, also do not deny the existence of the IEI. When asked, they replied that it was an independent initiative by the experts.
Apart from Adnan Tabatabai, none of the accused speak of forgeries. But regardless of the authenticity of the material, the question arises as to the boundaries between independent experts and the subject of their expertise. What is certain is that the experts mentioned have spoken out in favor of a course of negotiations with Iran.
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