Forget Russia; Beware of the Iranian Regime Meddling in the 2020 Elections

By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board

If there is one thing the Iranian regime has mastered in 40 years of existence, it is propaganda. The Islamist Revolution was built upon propaganda and it continues to thrive on it. The ideological rhetoric and disinformation were initially generated for domestic consumption. Once the mullahs realized the extent their survival is dependent upon international relations, world order, and global affairs, they decided to export this propaganda. And nowhere in the world they could find a more vulnerable and credulous audience than the US.

With the attention focused on Russia’s potential interference in the 2020 presidential election, the American people are unaware of a devious wave of propaganda emanating from the mullahs in Iran. Unfortunately, there are media outlets and organizations in the US that readily amplify and disseminate this propaganda. Social media platforms provide another unbridled arena for promulgation of the regime’s hogwash. For instance, on July 3, 2019, Hesameddin Ashena, an advisor to President Hassan Rouhani and the head of an Iranian thinktank 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. Or he could listen to Tucker Carlson and we might have a different ball game.”

Ashena is likely referring to the presidency of Jimmy Carter, which was reduced to a single term presumably and in part due to his poor handling of the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran. Carter’s incompetence in crisis management and foreign affairs notwithstanding, the “we have” and “we can” in Ashena’s tweet are peculiarly unsettling.

Image result for hesameddin ashena
Hesameddin Ashena

Other media outlets controlled by the regime use the open, uninhibited realm of social media and target the American society, which remains uncomfortably susceptible. Iranian state-controlled Press TV, which is a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has also been quite active weighing in on the US elections and openly divulging who the regime’s desired candidates are. The following tweets are from Press TV spanning over just one week.

What business does the Iranian regime have opining on US presidential candidates (and their family members) with such frank partiality? Simple, the mullah’s are trying to influence US voters. While this propaganda flows through social media and occupies the headlines of our Google searches, US-based organizations sympathetic to the regime echo the same rhetoric. Groups such as the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) replicate the regime’s narrative verbatim, especially those expressed by the regime’s chief propagandist, Javad Zarif. Playing the role of the Iranian foreign minister, Zarif’s mission in life has become derailing President Trump’s re-election. He uses his Twitter account deliriously to disparage Trump, while IRIB highlights and promotes candidates whom the mullahs believe are sympathetic to their cause.

The Iranian regime’s infiltration of the American society is mushrooming, and this is not limited to mullahs’ media campaigns publishing disinformation. Recently, the launching of a thinktank collaboratively funded by George Soros and the Koch bothers was announced. There is little doubt that under the pretext of promoting a non-interventional US foreign policy, this thinktank’s intent is to prevent Trump’s re-election. The strongest testament to this is the designation of Trita Parsi as the thinktank’s director. Parsi, a dubious extremist with strong ties to the Iranian regime, is the founder of NIAC, the regime’s lobby in the Washington. He is a fierce Trump antagonist who is closely connected to Zarif.

In an effort to prevent contamination of the 2020 elections by malign elements of the Iranian regime, the US can and must take some pre-emptive actions. Sanctions should be placed on IRIB (and its affiliate, Press TV) depriving it of satellite broadcasting services. Social media platforms such as Twitter should be held accountable for allowing the dissemination of toxic propaganda. American social media should refrain from furnishing proxies of a hostile regime, such as Press TV or Ashena, a podium to broadcast their nefarious rhetoric. Protecting our democracy from inimical intrusion is a serious matter. While the Russia probe and conspiracy theories about collusion dominate our news headlines, we are unconsciously ignoring a more insidious and organizing undercurrent, the Iranian regime.


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