US Sanctions Five Iranian Entities and Watchlists of Cyber Actors for Interfering in US Elections

Posted by on October 25, 2020 12:04 am
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Categories: NATIONAL HEADLINES

Iran and Russia have both obtained American voter registration data, top national security officials announced late on Wednesday, providing the first concrete evidence that the two countries are stepping in to try to influence the presidential election as it enters its final two weeks.

BACKGROUND:

The Following are press statements by the Department of the State and the Department of Treasury on the matter:

MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE

OCTOBER 23, 2020

The United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections. The whole of the U.S. government is using all the tools at our disposal to target those who attempt to interfere in our democratic process. Yesterday’s action sanctions five Iranian entities pursuant to Executive Order 13848 for their efforts to spread disinformation and undermine our elections. We are also adding several cyber actors to our terrorist watch list and databases for their known association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which will effectively prevent those individuals and their families from traveling to the United States.

For far too long, the Iranian regime has used its state propaganda machine to lie to the Iranian people and fan the flames of hatred against the United States. Iran has now deployed some of the same propaganda and media infrastructure in an attempt to undermine elections in the United States. The five entities designated – the IRGC, the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), and International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) – have engaged directly or indirectly in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in, foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, or are owned or controlled by entities engaged in such activity.

Through covert media operations, including targeted disinformation efforts directed at U.S. voters, the Iranian regime has demonstrated its intent is to undermine American elections. Over the past few months, Bayan Gostar, a front company for IRGC-QF propaganda efforts, has actively planned influence operations involving U.S. elections. IRTVU and IUVM appear to be propaganda arms of the Iranian regime that assisted in these efforts.

The individuals added to the terrorist watchlist are known members of the IRGC’s cyber operations unit. Those with the technical and educational skills required to carry out malicious cyber acts should take note; we will hold accountable those who join the IRGC and carry out malicious cyber activities. Talented Iranians should use their skills to promote peace and foster prosperity for their families, not assist the Islamic Republic in conducting its oppression at home and spreading terror abroad.

MORE INFORMATION:

WASHINGTON – 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 uses false narratives and other misleading content to attempt to influence U.S. elections,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “This Administration is committed to ensuring the integrity of the U.S. election system and will continue to counter efforts from any foreign actor that threatens our electoral processes.”

Treasury designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute (Bayan Gostar) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13848 for having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) were designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for being owned or controlled by the IRGC-QF. The IRGC, including the IRGC-QF, has been designated under multiple authorities since 2007.

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.

Since at least 2015, Bayan Gostar has served as a front company for IRGC-QF propaganda efforts. In the months leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Bayan Gostar 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.

IRGC-QF INFLUENCE OPERATIONS

IRTVU, a propaganda arm of the IRGC-QF, and IUVM aided Bayan Gostar in efforts to reach U.S. audiences. In addition, IRGC-QF outlets amplified false narratives in English, and posted disparaging propaganda articles and other U.S.-oriented content with the intent to sow discord among U.S. audiences. IUVM also posted conspiracy theories and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Treasury Department encourages the American people to confirm information received via social media intelligently by going to multiple trusted sources for news and information, particularly when the source or suspected source of the information is from outside the United States. More guidance specific to the U.S. 2020 election and disinformation campaigns can be found here: https://www.cisa.gov/rumorcontrol

As a result of today’s designations, all property and interests in property of the persons designated today subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. In addition, foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the persons designated today risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction. Additionally, any entities 50 percent or more owned by one or more designated persons are also blocked.

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