EXCLUSIVE: Lawmakers Demand ‘Answers, Accountability’ on State Dept. Appointee Tied to Iranian Regime

Ariane Tabatabai
Screenshot via YouTube

Several lawmakers who previously demanded the Biden administration revoke the security clearance of a high-level State Department appointee and conduct an investigation into her troubling ties to the hardline anti-American Iranian regime refused to back down, resolving to continue to “ring the bell” and demand real answers and accountability, after the Biden administration rebutted and stonewalled their demands while refusing to provide a serious explanation.

A letter spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) along with Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Yvette Herrell (R-NM) aiming to bring attention to the matter to the Biden administration was sent in late April.

In the letter, which is addressed to President Biden and provided in full to Breitbart News, the lawmakers expressed “serious concerns” over the Biden administration’s choosing to hire Ariane Tabatabai as a senior advisor to the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

“There is reason to believe that Ariane and her family have ties and allegiance to the Iranian Regime and pose a security threat to the United States, which is of great concern because she currently holds a security clearance in your administration,” the letter reads.

Tabatabai is then accused of defending the Iranian regime in her writings and public appearances.

“Tabatabai, in multiple public appearances, has echoed Iranian regime talking points and has made excuses for Iran’s oppressive government,” it continued. “She has downplayed the significance of dissatisfaction that Iranians have with their government, stating that protesting is a ‘feature in the Islamic Republic’ and is an ‘inherent part of Iranian public life.’” 

The letter also blasts Tabatabai for having argued that “the U.S. must acknowledge Iran’s presence in Syria and accept Iran’s support of militants” as well as having claimed that Iran has “affirmed its place as a significant regional force.”

Describing Iran as “one of American’s greatest adversaries” that poses a “significant threat” to the region and U.S. allies there, the letter goes on to blast Iran for its radical ideology and policies. 

“Iran is guilty of multiple human rights violations, denies its citizens basic rights, and has demonstrated a clear goal of harming the United States and our interests at any cost,” it continues. 

After demonstrating Iran’s clear determination to obtain nuclear weapons for non-peaceful purposes, the letter notes Tabatabai’s father’s role as a senior faculty member at the state-controlled University of Tehran as well as his alleged role in President Hassan Rouhani’s “inner circle.”

In addition, the letter describes Tabatabai’s father’s public appearances with President Rouhani as well as being photographed with the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder and leader of the 1979 revolution.

“The fact that Ariane’s family has direct connections to Regime officials who are known for demanding loyalty is deeply troubling, especially given that tensions between the United States and Iran are high,” the letter reads. 

The letter concludes with a request for a background check on the State Department appointee, a “full briefing” on her ties to Iran, and a security clearance revocation during the investigative period.

“As Members of Congress who take matters of national security very seriously, we respectfully ask for a full briefing on Ariane Tabatabai’s connection to the Iranian Regime, as well as an additional background check to closely examine her ties to it,” it reads. 

“Additionally, we request that her security clearance be temporarily revoked until a thorough investigation is completed,” the letter concludes. 

Response

Rep. Van Drew, who led the effort, told Breitbart News he was dissatisfied and disappointed with the weak response from the administration. 

“The response was basically, to paraphrase, you’re imagining it, there’s nothing here, everything has been done, there’s been good background checks, and this is just political rhetoric,” he said. 

“It was not a meaningful, thoughtful letter where they’re going to take a deep dive and see if they’ve made a big mistake here. Because they have,” he added.

However, Rep. Van Drew was adamant that the issue is not over.

We’re gonna keep an eye on it. We’re gonna ring the bell because if you don’t ring the bell and let people know what’s going on, they’re going to assume everything is okay,” he told Breitbart News. 

He also expressed amazement over why Tabatabai’s associations with people in the Iranian regime were being overlooked.

“She’s working for the Under Secretary of State. It’s a big deal,” he said. “It just concerns me.” 

He also stated that Iran’s status as a dangerous regime is not new.

“We’ve always known that Iran is a country that is a tremendous challenge to the United States, that they shouldn’t have nuclear weaponry, and that we should be monitoring them and being very careful,” he said. 

“Not giving them billions of dollars [and] having their people who don’t even like us say ‘death to America,’” he added. 

Rep. Herrell, who is also leading the effort to highlight Tabatabai’s ties to the Iranian regime, told Breitbart News that the president owes it to the congresspersons to meaningfully address the issue.

When asked about what message the Biden administration was sending by granting someone like Tabatabai high level security clearance at the State Department, Herrell noted several.

“The message they are sending to America, Iran, Israel and the world, is that they are fundamentally unserious about confronting Iran, preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and uninterested in halting Iranian terrorism across the region and the globe,” she said.

Regarding the Biden administration’s dismissiveness toward the allegations laid out in their letter, Rep. Herrell called for briefing Congress which she claimed was vital for “open and transparent” government.

“On an issue this important, President Biden owes us the information we requested. If this were the previous administration and similar Congressional demands were unmet, the mainstream media would be howling [and] rightfully so,” she said.

“We will continue to push for answers and accountability,” she added. “That is Congress’s job.”

Bryan Leib, the executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty — a bipartisan community of Iranian Americans working to aid those living under the oppressive Iranian regime — expressed support for the continuing efforts of the lawmakers.

“We applaud these members of Congress for sending a letter to President Biden demanding answers regarding Ms. Tabatabai’s alleged ties to the Iranian Regime through her father. We support the demands of these lawmakers for transparency on this issue,” he told Breitbart News.

Additional concerns

In addition to those noted above, Tabatabai has other concerning positions regarding Iran’s hardline theocratic regime.

While a fellow at the Belfer Center, Tabatabai wrote a piece in which she argues that a 2005 religious decree (fatwa) against nuclear weapons issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader can be used as a “confidence-building measure.”

Despite the validity of the decree being suspected by many, Tabatabai attempts to assuage suspicions.

“The fatwa can be an additional confidence-building measure,” she writes. “The decree and its reiteration by various Iranian religious authorities and policymakers have made it extremely difficult for Iran to overturn its position.”

She also states that the principles underlying the supreme leader and other clerics’ rulings are very similar to those in international law, adding that humane treatment during conflict is part of the “key notions” that shape Shia thinking on the matter.

“In Shia jurisprudence, like in international humanitarian law, there must be a distinction between combatants and non-combatants,” she writes. “Non-combatants, typically defined as women, children, the elderly, and those mentally unfit to fight, are not to be targeted.”

“The environment too must be protected,” she adds.

These positions run counter to the reality, though, where the Iran-backed Hamas terror organization — which is currently being rearmed by the Islamic regime — fired rockets from within Palestinian civilian areas and boasted of having aimed rockets at Israel’s heavily-populated civilian areas, naming it as the major achievement of the recent conflict.

Tabatabai also claims that Shia scholars who have addressed nuclear weapons “show consensus” and the few Grand Ayatollahs who have touched on the issue “believe weapons of mass destruction to be against the faith,” though she admits the scope of the prohibition is “unclear.”

Tabatabai is currently in Vienna conducting high-level negotiations with the Islamic regime as the Biden administration seeks to reenter the Iranian nuclear deal which would bolster the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, granting it billions of dollars in funds.

Just this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with inhibiting the use of nuclear energy for military purposes, reported on major breaches in Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was willing to create “friction” with President Biden. 

“With or without an agreement we will continue to do everything in our power to thwart Iran’s armament with nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons “is not an option.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein

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