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Updated Oct 18, 2023, 6:50am EDT
securityNorth America

Former Trump aides denounce ‘Iranian influence’

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The Scoop

Former top national security advisors to President Trump are demanding the U.S. government revoke any security clearances provided to American officials who pose a threat to national security “based on ties to or sympathy for” the Iranian government, according to a statement shared with Semafor. The signatories include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Pentagon chief Christopher Miller, and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliff.

The Biden administration’s special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, had his security clearance revoked last April and is currently being investigated by the FBI for allegedly mishandling classified information, according to U.S. officials. Semafor reported last month that Iran’s Foreign Ministry, beginning in 2014, backed a network of foreign academics to amplify Tehran’s positions on national security that included associates of Malley’s. One of them, Ariane Tabatabai, currently serves in the Pentagon with a high-level security clearance.

“As former senior officials in the United States Government we are very alarmed by the information contained in recent articles regarding Iranian influence operations targeting American citizens, especially US Government employees,” the statement reads. “We are jointly speaking out in this unprecedented manner because of the clear and present danger Iran and its covert operations of many types, including its influence operations, pose to U.S. National Security.”

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Malley hasn’t commented on his status since June when he issued a statement saying he expected “the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon.” Tabatabai has declined to comment through the Pentagon. But other academics who took part in the Iranian-backed program, called the Iran Experts Initiative, denied it was controlled by Tehran or focused on advancing the regime’s interests.

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Jay’s view

The four former Trump officials said in their statement that they weren’t jointly speaking out “for any political purpose or motive.” But Iran could emerge as a major foreign policy issue in next year’s presidential election, in which Donald Trump is currently the frontrunner to be the Republican Party nominee. Washington’s focus on Iran has intensified in recent weeks following the September 7 terrorist attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on southern Israel in which over 1,400 Israelis have been killed. Iran is Hamas’s primary funder and arms supplier.

Trump still bristles about the years-long FBI and U.S. Special Counsel investigation into his campaign’s suspected ties to the Russian government, which he refers to as the “Russia Hoax.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller ultimately cleared Trump and his team of conspiring with Moscow to influence the 2016 presidential election. But Mueller convicted a number of Trump aides of crimes related to tax evasion and false witness statements.

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Notable

  • Semafor reported in September the Iran Experts Initiative, which Tehran created in 2014 to promote its views on the nuclear negotiations in Western capitals.
  • The Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee is preparing to subpoena State Department documents and to call as a witness the Biden administration’s suspended special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, as part of a broad review of U.S. policy towards Tehran.
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