An alleged member of an Iranian influence operation met with high-level officials at Biden’s White House on at least five separate occasions, according to White House visitor logs.
Ali Vaez, senior advisor at the International Crisis Group and close aide to Biden administration Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, was reported last week to be a member of the Iranian Experts Initiative (IEI), a group created to bolster Tehran’s global image by recruiting Western scholars and experts to influence U.S. and European media and government. Vaez traveled to the White House on multiple occasions to meet with senior level officials in the Biden administration as recently as March, visitor logs reveal. (RELATED: Biden Admin Investigating Official Accused Of Being Iranian Spy After Previously Saying She Was ‘Properly Vetted’)
The Washington Free Beacon first reported Vaez’s White House meetings.
Vaez was recruited by the IEI years before President Joe Biden took office in 2021, according to Iran International. It is unclear whether the officials Vaez met with were aware of his ties to the IEI, though it’s entirely possible, according to Gabriel Noronha, former Special Advisor for the State Department.
“Typically the White House conducts a criminal background check to get into the building, but it’s incumbent on the political and national security staffers to be vetting the people they meet with for foreign influence issues,” Noronha told the DCNF. “In this case, they either ignored that influence, which has been quite evident to many observers and practitioners of Iran policy insiders for years, or they actually were interested in cultivating someone with ties to the regime.”
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Vaez visited the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building three times in one week in February of this year, months before the Biden administration announced a “ransom” deal to transfer $6 billion to Iran in exchange for five American prisoners, according to visitor logs. During those three visits, Vaez met with National Security Council (NSC) advisor Mark McGurk, the Biden administration’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.
During two other visits in 2022, Vaez met with Hazel Castillo and Kimberly Lang in the West Wing, both assistants to Biden’s top NSC advisor, Jake Sullivan; it is unclear whether Sullivan was present at the meetings.
Vaez was an ally to Malley, who was recently suspended from his high-level security role over questions about his handling of classified information and his ties to Iranian intelligence. Malley tapped Vaez to serve on his team in the State Department in 2021, but Vaez was denied security clearance and his appointment was canceled; Malley kept Vaez as a close confidant instead, according to Iran International.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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