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Top Iranian Pentagon aide keeps security clearance despite being accused of ‘spying for Tehran’

An Iranian-born Pentagon official is to keep her top-level security clearance despite being named as part of a covert influence campaign run by Tehran — and being called a “spy” by Republicans.

Ariane Tabatabai appeared to be a willing recruit in the covert influence operation run by Tehran’s Foreign Ministry, according to a trove of leaked files revealed last month by Semafor.

She was previously a key aide to the suspended Iran envoy Robert Malley whose secret ties to Tehran sparked congressional uproar. Since early 2022 Tabatabai has been chief of staff to the Pentagon’s assistant secretory of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, Christopher P. Maier.

Malley was quietly placed on unpaid leave in June for his alleged mishandling of “protected material.”

But the Pentagon will let Tabatabai, 38, keep her $153,434-a-year job, along with her top secret security clearance, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

“Ms. Tabatabai’s employment and clearance processes were carried out in accordance with all appropriate laws and policies,” Pentagon official Rheanne E. Wirkkala wrote to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) last week.

Republicans reacted with fury to news that Tabatabai will keep her job – and her access to the Pentagon’s most sensitive secrets — and called her an Iranian “spy.”

“Biden’s DoD is REFUSING to revoke the security clearance of an Iranian spy working at the Pentagon,” Sen. Ernst wrote on X. “More of POTUS’s appeasement strategy that has emboldened [Iran] & its proxies, like Hamas, & threatened our nat’l security.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said that he may subpoena Tabatabai as part of his committee’s probe into Malley.

A Pentagon official told The Post: “The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency has enrolled all Defense Department service members, civilians, and contractors with a security clearance in its continuous vetting program, which is a process that involves regularly reviewing a cleared individual’s background to ensure they continue to meet security clearance requirements and may continue to hold positions of trust.”

Tabatabai, 38, who was brought up in Tehran as the daughter of one of the country’s leading political thinkers, has openly argued that Iran is “too powerful to contain” – and has urged the United States to align with the Islamic republic and break its ties with Israel and the Gulf states, for America’s own good.

Her background and writings cast doubt on the wisdom of the Pentagon’s defense of the Iranian-born Tabatabai, whose Pentagon perch gives her access to America’s critical military intelligence.

Tabatabai, a US citizen born in Tehran, recalled Iran as “a country where one learns about hating ‘Zionists’ before being able to spell the word” in a 2014 Tumblr post, although she also claimed to not “want to have anything to do with any of that.”

Her background and writings cast doubt on the wisdom of the Pentagon’s defense of the Iranian-born Tabatabai, whose Pentagon perch gives her access to America’s critical military intelligence.

Her father, political philosopher Javad Tabatabai, was one of Iran’s most celebrated thinkers before his death in February.

“My childhood… was dominated by politics,” she wrote.

A one-time officer in the Iranian military’s propaganda corps, Javad Tabatabai studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he developed a theory of Iranian supremacy and became deputy dean of the state-run Tehran University Law School after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

When he was ousted in 1993, Tabatabai followed her father as he served as a visiting scholar in Germany, France, and the US.

After graduating from SUNY Stony Brook in 2008, she returned to Iran, where her father had been inching back into the regime’s good graces. He became an adviser to President Muhammad Khatami and was apparently close to President Hassan Rouhani, who presented him with an award in 2019.

In 2014, less than a year into Rouhani’s first term, Tabatabai was one of three Western-based academics quietly invited by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to help form a secret influence group, the Iran Experts Initiative, the leaked documents said.

The IEI, organized by Mostafa Zahrani, head of the Iranian foreign ministry’s main think tank, aimed to boost public acceptance of then-president Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), via an aggressive media campaign.

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