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Iranian Influence Campaigns Targeting US Elections Promote Iran’s Broad Interests

March 24th, 2021 14:27

A US law­fare blog has pub­lished an analy­sis of Iran­ian influ­ence strate­gies cen­tered on cam­paigns tar­get­ing US elec­tions. As the report explains:

Feb­ru­ary 19, 2021 In the past few years, Iran has become increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed and active in online com­mu­ni­ties tar­get­ing the Amer­i­can pub­lic. And its brazen tac­tics lead­ing up to the elec­tion could mark a shift in the country’s influ­ence strat­e­gy toward the Unit­ed States. Accord­ing to the pub­lic record, this is the first time that Iran­ian actors have engaged in an elec­tion inter­fer­ence cam­paign tar­get­ing the Unit­ed States uti­liz­ing stolen vot­er infor­ma­tion in influ­ence operations.

How­ev­er, the report goes on to note that these Iran­ian cam­paigns tar­get­ing US elec­tions are aimed at pro­mot­ing Iran’s broad inter­ests as opposed to secur­ing a par­tic­u­lar result:

But to the extent that Iran tar­gets U.S. audi­ences in sus­tained dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, it still typ­i­cal­ly aims to broad­ly pro­mote Iran­ian interests—such as den­i­grat­ing sanc­tions against the coun­try and bol­ster­ing their moral stand­ing com­pared to the U.S.—rather than attempt­ing to induce a spe­cif­ic result in Amer­i­can domes­tic affairs. More impor­tant­ly, Iran is almost cer­tain­ly expend­ing far more of its resources on its geopo­lit­i­cal sphere of influ­ence in the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

To prove this point, the analy­sis lists a series of expo­sures of inau­then­tic news out­lets, which con­cealed their ties to Iran, and which appro­pri­at­ed news from legit­i­mate sites in order to help them look authen­tic. These were aimed to spread sto­ries that uplift Iran­ian cul­ture and the Iran­ian regime and gen­er­al­ly den­i­grate Sau­di Ara­bia, Israel and the Unit­ed States. It also points to Iran­ian out­lets aimed at Mid­dle East­ern audi­ence and to media pres­ence in oth­er countries.

Read the entire report here.

Recent Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) cov­er­age of Iran­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions has included:

  • A Jan­u­ary 2021 report on Iran­ian linked indi­vid­u­als who plant­ed dozens of fake arti­cles in Ara­bic media out­lets, as part of a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign pro­mot­ing “pro-Iran­ian” narratives.
  • A Jan­u­ary 2021 reportthat accord­ing to the FBI, Iran­ian “cyber actors” were most like­ly behind the cre­ation of a web­site that con­tained death threats aimed at US elec­tion officials.
  • A Jan­u­ary 2021 report on the charg­ing of an Iran­ian US res­i­dent who was pos­ing as a “neu­tral and objec­tive expert on Iran” while actu­al­ly being paid by Iran to spread Iran­ian propaganda.
  • A March 2021 report Twit­ter has removed more Iran­ian accounts linked to inter­fer­ence in the US elections