The mullahs are interfering in the election
A statement by a top U.S. intelligence official indicated that China, Russia, and Iran are trying to meddle in U.S. presidential elections. William Evanina claimed that the Iranian regime "seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran's efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content."
If there is one thing the Iranian regime has mastered in its 41-year existence, it is propaganda. The 1979 Islamic Revolution began with propaganda, and the ensuing regime was built and continues to thrive on it. The ideological rhetoric and disinformation were initially generated for domestic consumption. Once the mullahs realized that their survival is dependent upon international relations and global affairs, they decided to export their propaganda. Nowhere in the world they could find a more vulnerable and credulous audience than the U.S.
With attention focused on Russia's potential interference in the 2020 election, the American people are unaware of a devious wave of propaganda emanating from the Iranian regime and its surrogates. Unfortunately, there are media outlets in the U.S. that willingly amplify and disseminate this propaganda. Social media platforms provide an open, unbridled arena for promulgation of the regime's anti-American hogwash. For instance, on July 3, 2019, Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani and the head of an Iranian think-tank on strategy, sent an ominous tweet saying, "We have unseated an American President in the past. We can do it again. Trump can listen to Pompeo and we'll make sure he stays a one-term President."
Other media outlets controlled by the regime use the open, uninhibited realm of social media and target American society, which remains uncomfortably susceptible. Iranian state-controlled Press TV, which is a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has a history of weighing in on U.S. elections and openly divulging who the regime's desired candidates are.
The mullahs are trying to influence voters by targeting vulnerabilities of American society. While this propaganda flows through social media and occupies the headlines of our Google searches, U.S.-based organizations sympathetic to the regime echo this rhetoric. Groups such as the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) replicate the regime's narrative verbatim, especially those expressed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, notorious for using his Twitter account to disparage Trump and his administration.
The Iranian regime's infiltration of the American society is mushrooming, and this is not limited to the mullahs' media campaigns of disinformation. In September 2019, a policy think-tank jointly funded by George Soros and Charles Koch was launched. On the pretense of promoting a non-interventional U.S. foreign policy approach, the Quincy Institute's intent is perhaps more pernicious. The testament to this is the appointment of Trita Parsi as the think-tank's executive vice president. Parsi, the founder of NIAC, has suspected ties to the Iranian regime. An outspoken opponent of Trump (and perhaps even Biden's), Parsi has admitted in the past that he is in intimate communication with Zarif.
In an effort to prevent contamination of the 2020 elections by malign elements of the Iranian regime, the U.S. can and must take some preemptive actions. Sanctions should be placed on IRIB (and its affiliate, Press TV) depriving it of satellite broadcasting services and capabilities. Social media platforms such as Twitter should be held accountable for allowing the dissemination of toxic propaganda that could influence our elections. American social media should refrain from furnishing agents of a hostile regime, such as Press TV and Ashena, a podium to transmit their nefarious rhetoric. Protecting our democracy from inimical intrusion is a serious matter. While the Russia probe and conspiracy theories about collusion continue to dominate our news headlines, we are ignoring — consciously or not — a more insidious undercurrent: the Iranian regime.
Reza Behrouz is a physician and medical researcher based in Texas. He is on the advisory board for Iranian Americans for Liberty. Shervan Fashandi is a banking expert and political analyst based in New York. He is the co-founder and vice president of Iranian Americans for Liberty.