Mohammad Sadat Khansari
The United States Department of Justice banned 27 additional domain names the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) unlawfully used to spread the regime’s disinformation and push the mullahs’ talking points.
The Department of Justice, in a statement on November 4, announced that “all 27 domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions targeting both the Government of Iran and the IRGC. Four of the domains purported to be genuine news outlets but were actually controlled by the IRGC and targeted audiences in the United States, to covertly influence United States policy and public opinion, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The remainder targeted audiences in other parts of the world. This seizure warrant follows an earlier seizure of 92 domains used by the IRGC for similar purposes.”
“Within the last month we have announced seizures of Iran’s weapons, fuel, and covert influence infrastructure,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “Today’s 29 seizures are another important step against Iran’s worldwide disinformation campaign,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “This work will continue. We cannot allow Iran’s attachment to fake news to overtake our commitment to the rule of law.”
As mentioned by the U.S. Attorney, the Iranian regime has been using fake websites to pursue its campaign of misinformation.
The main target of the regime’s misinformation campaign is the Iranian resistance movement, particularly the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Here is an example that can help in understanding how the regime uses its propaganda websites to demonize the MEK and spread false information:
American Herald Tribune
American Herald TribuneAmong the closed domains, there is a website called American Herald Tribune. This website, which had claimed to be a “genuinely independent online media outlet,” was founded in 2015, published in English, and paid Americans to write articles.
On January 24, 2020, CNN revealed how this website was pushing the Iranian regime’s false narratives.
“A Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business that company staff who looked into the website’s Facebook page say it was linked to Iranian state media. Facebook removed the page in 2018. FireEye, a top cybersecurity company, says it assessed with ‘moderate confidence’ that the website originates in Iran and is part of a much larger influence operation,” read the CNN report.
“The articles posted to the American Herald Tribune are largely in line with the views of Iran’s ruling establishment. It publishes stories criticizing American foreign policy and attacking President Donald Trump and Israel. Often the criticism is not unlike viewpoints expressed on authentic US-based independent websites, especially ones with an anti-establishment perspective.”
“Lee Foster, who leads the team at FireEye that first uncovered the network of sites, told CNN Business that ‘indicators, both technical and behavioral’ point to American Herald Tribune being linked to an operation run from Iran,” read the report.
This website had published numerous articles against the MEK, repeating the baseless allegations already rejected by high courts in the U.S. and Europe.
The regime’s Ministry of intelligence and Security (MOIS) has been using various covers to pursue its demonization campaign against the opposition, tarnishing the image of the mullahs’ only viable alternative.
The Iranian regime has been trying to push its talking points through various lobbyists. Many of the regime’s apologists are either working under the banner of “Iranian activists,” “Members of the Iranian community,” “journalists,” or “Iran experts.”
One example is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) which openly defends the religious fascism ruling Iran and its foreign policy. On January 14, 2020, U.S. senators, Mike Braun, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate NIAC.
These Senators in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General William Barr called for an investigation into NIAC and its sister organization, NIAC Action, for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
“FARA requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, to refrain from certain types of speech; rather, it helps guarantee transparency and accountability receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities. FARA does not compel any American in our political system,” read the Senators’ letter.
“NIAC’s relationship with the Iranian regime and its role amplifying regime propaganda in the United States have been the subject of discussion in Washington D.C. for years,” Senators added.
When the regime’s terror mastermind Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, NIAC along with other regime apologists condemned this action. Qassem Soleimani was responsible for killing thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in a report in January 2020, revealed NIAC’s origins and how it operates inside the U.S.
“NIAC has been the Iranian regime’s primary outlet in Washington. NIAC and its founder Trita Parsi have direct contacts with the clerical regime in Iran and have acted as the chief deal makers for Tehran in Washington,” read NCRI’s report.
Images of Trita Parsi with senior Iranian delegation
Images of Trita Parsi with senior Iranian delegation
“In direct coordination with the Iranian regime and while pursuing a specific policy path, Parsi has been attempting to justify the regime’s policies while at the same time urging the doling out of unilateral concessions by the U.S. to the regime, billing it as the only option capable of inducing a change of behavior by Tehran. Part and parcel of this approach has been the dissemination of lies and accusations against the Iranian Resistance and specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Parsi and NIAC have been trying to cement and buttress Tehran’s propaganda against the organized opposition, portraying them as facts and launching a demonizing campaign against the MEK. According to NIAC’s propaganda, the Iranian society’s main problem and the main obstacle to change in Iran has been the presence of the opposition MEK, and not the ruling regime in Iran,” the NCRI report added.
Ali Fallahian, the Iranian regime’s former Intelligence Minister on July 9, 2017 told state television: “The Ministry of Intelligence needs a cover to gather information, whether inside or outside the country. We do not send an intelligence officer to Germany or the United States to say that I am from the Ministry of Intelligence. A business or journalism cover is needed.”
Propaganda and terrorism by Iran’s regime go hand in hand
The world was shocked to hear that a so-called Iranian “diplomat” Assadollah Assadi and three other terrorists were arrested while trying to bomb an opposition rally in the heart of Europe in Paris in June 2018.
The “Free Iran,” rally, hosted annually by the NCRI, was attended by the NCRI’s President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi and hundreds of distinguished European and American personalities.
The motive of the regime’s demonization campaign against the MEK is to justify terrorism abroad and oppression inside Iran. Propagating the regime’s talking points and not countering them will only allow the regime to continue its killing spree both inside and outside of Iran.
In a nutshell, the regime’s terrorism and oppression go hand in hand with its misinformation campaign.
It is time for the international community to take decisive action against the regime and its agents by expelling them from their countries.