by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
An alleged member of a secret Iranian government influence network visited the Biden White House at least five times for high-level meetings with senior U.S. officials, according to visitor logs.
Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group, was outed last week as an alleged member of a vast Iranian-government-controlled propaganda network that helped push Tehran’s talking points in Washington, D.C., and influence policy, according to Semafor. Vaez reportedly communicated with senior Iranian government associates as part of the Iran Experts Initiative, an influence operation run by Iran’s foreign ministry.
The meetings are raising questions about whether the Biden administration was aware of Vaez’s alleged participation in the Iranian influence operation and may have given him insider information about the administration’s diplomacy with Tehran. Another alleged member of the Iran Experts Initiative, Ariane Tabatabai, serves as a senior Pentagon official and holds a security clearance, prompting Republican lawmakers to demand her top secret access be revoked.
Vaez is a close associate of U.S. Iran envoy Robert Malley, who was removed from his post earlier this year and stripped of his security clearance amid an investigation into his alleged mishandling of classified information.
Vaez took at least five meetings at the White House between 2022 and 2023, as the Biden administration was engaged in diplomacy with Iran that resulted in a hostage deal last month that freed up some $6 billion in revenue for the hardline regime.
Vaez’s meetings appear to have been with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk, the administration’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. Both Sullivan and McGurk played critical roles in reopening diplomacy with Iran and engaging in talks that led to the $6 billion ransom payment and release of five wrongfully imprisoned Americans.