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US Treasury Designates 5 Iranian Entities As Trying To Interfere With US Elections

October 28th, 2020 13:32

The US Trea­sury Depart­ment has report­ed des­ig­nat­ing five Iran­ian enti­ties, said to have been involved in the Iran­ian regime’s attempts to influ­ence the forth­com­ing US elec­tions. Accord­ing to the press release:

Octo­ber 22,  2020 Today, the Depart­ment of the Treasury’s Office of For­eign Assets Con­trol (OFAC) des­ig­nat­ed five Iran­ian enti­ties for attempt­ing to influ­ence elec­tions in the Unit­ed States. The Iran­ian regime has tar­get­ed the Unit­ed States’ elec­toral process with brazen attempts to sow dis­cord among the vot­ing pop­u­lace by spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion online and exe­cut­ing malign influ­ence oper­a­tions aimed at mis­lead­ing U.S. vot­ers. Com­po­nents of the Gov­ern­ment of Iran, dis­guised as news orga­ni­za­tions or media out­lets, have tar­get­ed the Unit­ed States in order to sub­vert U.S. demo­c­ra­t­ic processes…The Iran­ian regime’s dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts have tar­get­ed a glob­al audi­ence through a vari­ety of covert media orga­ni­za­tions. Dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns run by the Iran­ian regime focus on sow­ing dis­cord among read­ers via social media plat­forms and mes­sag­ing appli­ca­tions, and fre­quent­ly involve mis­char­ac­ter­iz­ing information.

Read the rest here.

The five des­ig­nat­ed enti­ties are

  • The Islam­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Accord­ing to a BBC pro­file, the Islam­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC) was set up short­ly after the 1979 Iran­ian rev­o­lu­tion to defend the coun­try’s Islam­ic sys­tem, and to pro­vide a coun­ter­weight to the reg­u­lar armed forces. In April 2019, the U.S. State Depart­ment announced its inten­tion to des­ig­nate the IRGC in its entire­ty as a For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion (FTO). In May 2020, Brig. Gen. Moham­mad Hejazi was appoint­ed the new IRGC’s Quds Force deputy com­man­der after its for­mer head Gen­er­al Qassem Soleimani had been killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s inter­na­tion­al air­port. Since its foun­da­tion, the IRGC has become a major mil­i­tary, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic force in Iran. Reuters opined in 2019 that the IRGC, com­pris­ing an esti­mat­ed 125,000-strong mil­i­tary with army, navy, and air units, is more than a mil­i­tary force. “It is also an indus­tri­al empire with polit­i­cal clout and is loy­al to the supreme leader”.
  • The IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) – Also known as the IRGC-Quds Force, it is one of five branch­es of the Islam­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC) which spe­cial­izes in uncon­ven­tion­al war­fare and mil­i­tary intel­li­gence oper­a­tions. It was once described by the US Army’s Iraq War Gen­er­al Stan­ley McChrys­tal as “an orga­ni­za­tion rough­ly anal­o­gous to a com­bi­na­tion of the CIA and JSOC in the Unit­ed States”. Qassem Suleimani, a senior IRGC fig­ure who also served as the IRGC-QF’s com­man­der was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq in Jan­u­ary 2020. He was replaced by Esmail Ghaani, who has been sanc­tioned by US’s Office of For­eign Assets Con­trol (OFAC) as a Spe­cial­ly Des­ig­nat­ed Nation­als and Blocked Per­sons list (“SDN List”)
  • Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Insti­tute (Bayan Gostar) – said in the US Treasury’s press release to have been serv­ing as a ‘front com­pa­ny’ for IRGC-QF pro­pa­gan­da efforts since at least 2015. The press release adds that towards the US elec­tions, its per­son­nel have planned to influ­ence the elec­tion by exploit­ing social issues with­in the Unit­ed States, includ­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, and den­i­grat­ing U.S. polit­i­cal fig­ures. As recent­ly as sum­mer 2020, Bayan Gostar was pre­pared to exe­cute a series of influ­ence oper­a­tions direct­ed at the U.S. pop­u­lace ahead of the pres­i­den­tial election.
  • The Iran­ian Islam­ic Radio and Tele­vi­sion Union (IRTVU) – which on its web­site says it was estab­lished in 2007 in order to “cre­ate a strong and cohe­sive Islam­ic media bloc based on the teach­ings of Prophet Muham­mad (peace be upon him) and for the pur­pose of con­fronting false and mali­cious pro­pa­gan­da of ene­mies of Islam and dis­sem­i­na­tion of accu­rate and com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion.” IRTVU says that its main pur­pose is to use media to defend the “sanc­ti­ties and inter­ests of Islam­ic Ummah and sup­port the rights and fair demands of Islam­ic com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries and share pro­duc­tions and expe­ri­ences amongst the mem­bers”. IRTVU describes itself as “the largest Media Union in terms of mem­ber­ship, geo­graph­i­cal cov­er­age, reli­gious, polit­i­cal and lin­guis­tic diver­si­ty, and mem­ber­ship of radios, tele­vi­sions, media insti­tu­tions and news agen­cies”, hav­ing more than 210 mem­bers from 35 coun­tries and five continents.
  • Inter­na­tion­al Union of Vir­tu­al Media (IUVM) – which accord­ing to a 2018 Reuters report was part of a net­work that includ­ed anony­mous web­sites and social media accounts in 11 dif­fer­ent lan­guages tar­get­ing inter­net users world­wide, as part of a wide appar­ent Iran­ian influ­ence oper­a­tion.  Sev­er­al social media plat­forms such as Face­book Inc, Twit­ter Inc and Alpha­bet Inc, the par­ent com­pa­ny of Google, report­ed­ly shut down some accounts and sites relat­ed to this group back in 2018.

Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ing on Iran­ian efforts to inter­fere in the US elec­tions has also included:

  • A report on Microsoft-detect­ed cyber-attacks involv­ing an Iran­ian group iden­ti­fied as “Phos­pho­rus.”
  • A report on crim­i­nal charges raised against Iran­ian hack­ers includ­ing van­dal­ism of US websites.
  • A report on the lat­est DHS Home­land Threat Assess­ment that failed to iden­ti­fy Iran­ian efforts direct­ed at the elections.
  • A report that nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials have accused Iran of try­ing to inter­fere with the upcom­ing US elec­tions by send­ing vot­ers fake emails intend­ed to look like they had been sent by the Proud Boys, a far-right, pro-Trump group.
  • A report ear­li­er today that the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice had seized 92 inter­net domains said to be used by Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard as part of a glob­al dis­in­for­ma­tion campaign.