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Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the beneficiary of one ghostwritten column. Photo: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A prominent Iranian-born scholar arrested Monday was secretly paid to write columns favorable to Tehran and lobby at least one U.S. lawmaker on its behalf, federal prosecutors say.

Why it matters: Kaveh Afrasiabi’s writings showed up in prominent publications such as the New York Times and The Guardian as he drew regular payments from the Iranian government and communicated frequently with the country’s diplomatic staff, per the Justice Department. None of these professional or financial conflicts was disclosed.

What’s new: Federal officers charged Afrasiabi with acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

  • Prosecutors say Iran’s mission to the United Nations paid him more than $265,000 from July 2007 through November 2020. Many of the checks described payments to Afrasiabi as a “salary.”
  • Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also received health insurance benefits from the Iranian UN mission since 2011.

During that time, Afrasiabi made media appearances and published writings in major publications that described him as an independent scholar and expert on Iranian affairs.

  • Afrasiabi’s columns have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, and HuffPost. He’s also appeared on Chinese and Russian state media in the U.S.
  • His writings uniformly aligned with Tehran’s position on world affairs, and according to the indictment, were often written in consultation with Iranian diplomatic staff.
  • Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also helped craft an April 2015 column in the New York Times written by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Afrasiabi’s work also included direct communications with an unidentified member of Congress and his staff, prosecutors say.

  • According to the indictment, Afrasiabi helped write a December 2009 letter from the unnamed congressman to then-President Barack Obama regarding Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Be smart: DOJ’s indictment was unsealed on Tuesday, as the Trump administration unveils last-minute measures going after foreign powers it considers top U.S. adversaries.

Go deeper: U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

Go deeper

Updated 31 mins ago - Economy & Business

Student debt getting in the way of millennial homeownership

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millennial homeownership is on the rise — but student loan debt is still keeping millions of members of America's largest generation from owning a home.

Why it matters: Buying a house remains the No. 1 way to build wealth in the U.S.

Updated 32 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Most teachers are white. Most students aren't.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The nation's 6.6 million teacher workforce has grown more racially and ethnically diverse over the past three decades — but not nearly fast enough to keep pace with a student population that's nearing majority-minority in public schools, two new reports show.

Why it matters: The disparities are especially acute between Hispanic students and teachers, and in schools with 90% or higher non-white student populations.