October 2, 2023

Young, Colleagues Demand Accountability on Iran-Linked DoD Official

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss), and a group of Senate Republican colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding a full accounting of actions taken by a senior Pentagon official who has close links to the Iranian government.

Ariane Tabatabai, the chief of staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, was reportedly formerly engaged in an Iranian government-linked initiative to bolster the Iranian government’s image and reinforce Tehran’s national security views. Leaked emails show Tabatabai asking the Iranian government for input on her speaking engagements and offering to consult with the Iranian government on a congressional briefing that she was invited to give.

In the letter, the senators suggested that it is “unconscionable” for Tabatabai to continue holding a sensitive national defense-related position and called for the immediate suspension of her security clearance, pending further investigation.

“Iran continues to threaten U.S. military personnel in the Middle East and remains intent on assassinating American citizens here in the United States. Given these facts, we find it simply unconscionable that a senior Department official would continue to hold a sensitive position despite her alleged participation in an Iranian government information operation,” the senators wrote. “While we note that Assistant Secretary of Defense for SOLIC Christopher Maier, who is Ms. Tabatabai’s current supervisor, testified before the House on Thursday that the Department is ‘actively looking into whether all law and policy was properly followed in granting my chief of staff top secret special compartmented information,’ we urge you to suspend Ms. Tabatabai’s security clearance immediately pending further review, as the State Department did with her former supervisor, Robert Malley.”

The senators also posed a range of questions related to the nature and extent of Tabatabai’s involvement with the Iran-backed initiative, demanding answers within a week of transmitting the letter.

In addition to Senators Young and Wicker, Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Kennedy (R-La.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) also signed the letter.

Full letter is available here.