Press releases

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and several other Republican colleagues in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling on him to suspend the security clearance of a senior Defense Department official who allegedly participated in an information operation on behalf of the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

“We are concerned that an individual who previously served as part of an Iranian Foreign Ministry information operation is currently serving in a senior Department of Defense position. We urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the Department has not been compromised,” the senators wrote.

The senators cited a recent report from Semafor that revealed that Ariane Tabatabai, a senior adviser in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the Department of Defense, participated in an Iranian government-linked initiative to improve Iran’s image on global security issues, including its nuclear program, in 2014. The senators questioned why the Biden administration dismissed concerns about Tabatabai’s ties to Iran as “smears and slander” when appointing her to work within the Defense Department.

“The fact that the Department initially responded to these latest allegations by rushing a full-throated defense of Ms. Tabatabai, rather than taking the time to ensure that our national security has not been compromised, suggests that you are protecting hiring missteps rather than prioritizing national security,” said the senators. 

Kennedy and his colleagues requested more information on the Defense Department’s process of vetting Tabatabai, including whether she disclosed her ties to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other prominent Iranian officials in her security clearance disclosures.

In addition to Kennedy and Wicker, Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), 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.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) signed the letter.

Read the letter here.