A Letter to Iranian People: My Latest Rights Abuse in America
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
Whereas over the past 13 years I have acted as a consultant on international affairs for Iran's Mission at the United Nations without ever encountering any problem, suddenly on January 18th, two days before the inauguration of Joe Biden, my home was raided by two dozen FBI agents at early morning hours, arresting me pursuant to an arrest warrant issued in New York that accuses me of working "secretly" for Iran in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Since then, the US media has been awash with incessant attacks on me, in effect pre-judging me as guilty as charged without an iota of doubt. Inevitably, it reminds me of the dark McCarthyite era, when anyone accused of being a communist faced a lynching mob in the mainstream media. One would think that we have come a long way since then, sadly my situation shows that is not the case.
Once there is a media consensus in the United States, it is firmly cemented in popular consciousness and it is rather futile to try to set the record straight, the only listening is for calls for punishment. It is therefore wishful thinking that future jurors in my case would be immune from the avalanche of negative commentaries and name-callings and act fairly and without bias and prejudice against me. In a word, my fate is pretty much sealed and I am not vesting much hope in the forthcoming trial, where I have to defend myself against the power attorneys of the US Justice Department.
There is, however, the court of world opinion and the scales of history, that doubtless will judge harshly those who have distorted my record and sought to criminalize dissent under the guise of law. For it is abundantly clear that had I not been a vocal critic of US foreign policy toward Iran, I would not be in the present dire predicament. For the fact of the matter is that I have done absolutely nothing wrong, I did not engage in any conspiracy or "secret" work, my consulting role was both legal and transparent. The core problem is "Iran exceptionalism," for otherwise why would all the other countries using outside consultants for their UN missions can go about their work but Iran is targeted for discrimination and legal coercion? Hasn't the time come for the US government to stop this discriminatory behavior toward Iran, a cradle of world civilizations, and to refrain from demonizing those who dare to cooperate with it within the purview of UN norms and principles?
Not only that, the government has accused me of resorting to "propaganda disguised as objective analysis." Their complaint does not cite one example however, and it is a case of blanket condemnation that ought to give George Orwell shivers in his grave. Again, it is futile to cite glowing reviews of my books in academic journals, such as Foreign Affairs, Middle East Journal, International Journal of Middle East, etc., or challenge the accusations by citing my several dozen oped articles in prestigious newspapers around the world. The government has spoken and they have the seal of authority, to stamp out my credibility without any moral qualm. Such is the sad state of affairs that speaks volumes about the repression and abuse of my human rights I have suffered without having done anything wrong -- I never engaged in any lobbying in US and therefore never thought that I need to register as a lobbyist, although I now realize that the archaic 1938 law hurled at me has fine sub-prints that require close scrutiny. There is a growing call in the US to revise or repeal this law, which is used as a baton to hammer this author's head today.
I hereby appeal to the Iranian people for moral support. I have never threatened anyone, never posed a national security threat to any government including the US, have a long record in Track II diplomacy, once collaborated with Ashton Carter, the former defense secretary, on a joint proposal to US and Iran on "incident at sea agreement," just as I wrote many articles and books in defense of the Iran nuclear deal, like so many other experts, none of whom are accused of being Iran's "secret agent" for espousing similar views. Clearly, my criticisms of the Trump administration was misconstrued as being anti-American, which would not have happened if I wrote under an American pseudo-name. But, life is about distinctions and we must steer clear of simplistic or reductionist generalizations. My ordeal is at roots born of Iranophobia in US, which reached new heights under Trump and is now breathing on lease through my legal case threatening my freedom in my retirement age.