A professor at the University of Denver suggested that Israel could be responsible for the near-fatal attack on author Salman Rushdie earlier this month.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Nader Hashemi, director of the school's Center for Middle East Studies, said during a podcast this week that Hadi Matar, Rushdie's alleged assailant, might have been encouraged to carry out the attack by Mossad agents posing as members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was reportedly communicating with Matar prior to the attack.
Mossad is Israel's secret security service.
Hashemi said it was "much more likely" that Matar's alleged contact "with someone online who claimed to be an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps supporter" factored into his decision to attack the writer.
"And that so-called person online claiming to be affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran could have been a Mossad operative, Hashemi said.
Experts on Iran and those following the case said the professor's comments sought to absolve the Iranian regime of any wrongdoing.
"Having followed Iran's politics and the regime's soft power for many years, I can say that one of the patterns among regime sympathizers in the West is that they usually try to downplay the regime's guilt when grappling with a scandal," Navid Mohebbi, advocacy director for the National Union for Democracy in Iran, told the Free Beacon.
"Instead, they propagate the probability that the regime's foes, such as Israel, might have something to do with it to make the regime look bad," Mohebbi continued. "They often use dog whistles and other softer means. However, this time, it seems Mr. Hashemi slipped and said the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory part out loud."
Hashemi proposed his theory about Mossad's alleged involvement in the attack on The Iran Podcast, which is hosted by Iran analyst Negar Mortazavi, who has previously written for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. The institute is an isolationist think tank funded by Charles Koch and George Soros, according to the Free Beacon.
Israel could have organized the attack as part of a larger plan to derail negotiations on a new nuclear deal between the Biden administration and Iran, Hashemi speculated on the podcast.
The Jewish state "has taken a very strong position against reviving the Iran nuclear agreement," the professor said. "We were in very sensitive negotiations, it looked like an agreement was imminent, and then the attack on Salman Rushdie takes place. I think that's one possible interpretation and scenario that could explain the timing of this, at this moment, during these sensitive political discussions."
While the university has distanced itself from Hashemi, it has thus far not taken any disciplinary action, citing free speech protections, according to the Free Beacon.
"Professor Hashemi spoke as an individual faculty member and does not speak for the university," a University of Denver spokesman told the Free Beacon.