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Continuing concerns

Senate Republicans urge Pentagon official’s security clearance be suspended for alleged Iran ties

Ariane Tabatabai, a Defense Department official, was named in recent reporting on alleged Iranian influence operations

Jeon Heon-Kyun - Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (not pictured) at the Defense Ministry on January 31, 2023, in Seoul, South Korea.

More than 30 Senate Republicans called on the Defense Department on Friday to suspend the security clearance of Ariane Tabatabai, a Defense Department official linked to an alleged Iranian influence operation outlined in media reporting last week.

“The latest allegations reported in Semafor… indicate that Ms. Tabatabai may have been engaged in a relationship with the Iranian regime well beyond what even her strongest critics alleged,” the senators’ letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reads

The lawmakers also criticized the Defense Department for its defense of Tabatabai following the new reporting.

“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,” the lawmakers wrote.

Tabatabai serves as chief of staff to Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Maier testified last week that the Pentagon is reviewing Tabatabai’s background check and security clearance investigation.

The lawmakers asked that the Pentagon inform them by Oct. 6 about the vetting process Tabatabai underwent, her access to highly secretive programs and the Defense Department’s awareness of the alleged influence network.

The letter was signed by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rick Scott (R-FL), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Ted Budd (R-NC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Katie Britt (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Kennedy (R-LA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), and John Thune (R-SD).

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