A longtime State Department official has been removed from office and reassigned after her loyalty to President Donald Trump was questioned by right-wing media outlets.
Politico.com reported on Friday that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh — a civil service officer and co-architect of the Iran nuclear deal — had been working since July of 2016 on the Secretary of State’s policy team as an advisor and strategist in matters pertaining to the Iran and other Persian Gulf nations.
Nowrouzzadeh’s assignment was slated to last a year, but after attacks on her appeared at the Conservative Review and “alt-right” white nationalist hub Breitbart.com, she was abruptly reassigned.
An anonymous State Department official who spoke to Politico about the matter said that Nowrouzzadeh did not want to be reassigned, but was forced to accept a demotion back to the Office of Iranian Affairs.
The Department acknowledged the reassignment to Politico, but would not explain why or offer any information about the title or duties of Nowrouzzadeh’s new position.
In a statement, the agency said that Nowrouzzadeh “has an outstanding reputation in the department and we expect her to continue to do valuable work in furtherance of U.S. national security. We’ll decline additional comment on the internal [human resources] matters of career employees.”
Nowrouzzadeh is an American, born in the U.S. to parents of Iranian descent. She joined the government in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration. However, in recent weeks she has come under attack from right-wing publications which accuse her of being a loyalist to former President Barack Obama and ultimately to the theocratic regime controlling Iran.
Nowrouzzadeh interned at the NIAC as a college undergraduate during a time when the organization took no organizational positions on Iran policy. The group has become more politically active in recent years, but during Nowrouzzadeh’s time the group maintained a neutral stance.
Conspiracy-prone conservatives believe that the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) is secretly controlled from overseas by Ayatollah Khamenei, the top cleric in Iran’s regime.
“In general, U.S. law is supposed to protect career government employees from politically motivated firings and other retaliation not related to work performance,” Politico said. “However, the political appointees of incoming administrations have wide latitude in terms of where to assign people or who gets promotions, so it’s possible to shuffle people around without breaching their legal protections.”
Philip Gordon, a former State Department official in the Obama administration said that these attacks from far-right media are attempts to steer the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda from the outside.
“If people writing these pieces are not happy with the Trump foreign policy that may be because the president and vice president and Cabinet officers decided not to do things that are not in their interest,” Gordon told Politico. “If Donald Trump hasn’t torn up the Iran nuclear deal, it may be because he realized that would be a bad idea. And it’s not because one of his policy planning staffers has a family of Iranian origin.”