Something has forced Iran’s mullahs to set aside their outdated policy of radio silence about the Iranian Resistance and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK).
That thing is the activities of the MEK’s ‘Resistance Units’ inside Iran and their reflection in the major protests by Iranians in global capitals and the five-day ‘Free Iran’ convention in Ashraf 3, Albania, with the presence of some 350 political personalities from 47 countries, which presented a new image of the Iranian Resistance before the world’s eyes.
On August 4, 2019, Ali Rabie, the regime’s government spokesperson and a founding member of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), complained that the White House’s discourse against the regime has become similar to that of the MEK.
Kayhan daily, affiliated to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote on August 8, the MEK “has penetrated deeply into our homes, and its impact is being felt.”
Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Assadollah Nasseh told state TV on July 28: “We must know that everything that takes place in the world against us is the result of the [MEK’s] lobbying effort somewhere, or a price that they have paid… On the issue of missiles, we witness that it was based on the information that they provided to the Americans. Regarding human rights, they make up dossiers and files and provide them to Europeans and they put pressure on us in this way. They use every leverage against us.”
Iranian regime officials are horrified at the specter of what they see as the warm welcome for the PMOI/MEK and the Iranian Resistance on social media networks. Top Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commanders are speaking out in chorus:
IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, who heads the regime’s civil defense forces, told the state-run ISNA news agency on July 29: “Our new war [with the PMOI/MEK] in cyberspace is more difficult than the Mersad operation.” (Mersad, or Operation Eternal Light, was a major offensive by the Iranian Resistance that penetrated 100 miles inside of Iran leading to the liberation of two cities in July 1988 that shook the regime to its foundations.) “The [MEK’s] fingerprint is on many of the controversies that we face. Many of the news cycles in cyberspace that are orientated against the state and the revolution are psychological warfare by [the MEK] against us… They [MEK] take advantage of some of the weak economic circumstances domestically and incite people to rise up.”
On July 29, Esmaeil Kowsari, the deputy commander of the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters, told state television: “Today the [MEK] have put all efforts into humiliating the holy system of the Islamic Republic in cyberspace.”
A founding IRGC figure, Brig. Gen. Abolghassem Forootan, told the state-run Mizan news agency, on August 2, the MEK “want to harm the values of our nation and system through the use of cyberspace and soft power.”
On July 29, MOIS operative Mohammad Javad Hasheminejad complained of the “presence of 1,500 [MEK] units in three shifts round the clock” on social media networks and their role in “the riots of 2018 in the country,” adding: “We need to know our enemy and know its objectives so we can counter it accordingly.”
Facing tough circumstances, the mullahs are resorting to silencing the voice of their opponents and blocking freedom of information on social media. The MOIS, IRGC, and Quds Force (IRGC-QF) have embarked on a futile campaign to counter the growing resistance to the regime via their propaganda and cyberwarfare machine.
Their known suppressive tactics against the Iranian Resistance include demonization campaigns, dissemination of false information and news, use of fraudulent emails and accounts, sending threatening emails, and injecting viruses and worms to hack the computers and email accounts of Iranian Resistance supporters.
A wave of virus-infected emails, attempts to hack opposition websites and social networks, widespread cases of identity theft and attempts to pollute the atmosphere using these stolen identities are part of the mullahs’ cyber campaign against the Iranian Resistance.
Still, state-run media speak of “inaction” by the state in responding to the Iranian Resistance’s growing influence and say “cultural officials are asleep.” Their implicit calls for further internet censorship goes to show that the regime’s actions thus far have been ineffective or at times had a reverse effect.