U.S. designates Iranian company, employees for attempting to influence 2020 election

Sanctioned Iranians spread disinformation and threatening emails to sow discord and undermine faith in the electoral process

By JNS.org

The United States has placed sanctions on six Iranian individuals and one company for attempting to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

According to news releases from both the U.S. State and Treasury departments on Nov. 18, the company and the individuals, who were sponsored by the Iranian government, sought to sow discord and undermine voters’ faith in the electoral process by disseminating disinformation on social media, sending threatening emails and making a fake video.

The video implied that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots.

Implicated and sanctioned in a joint operation, including with the State and Treasury departments, as well as the FBI, are Iranian Cyber company Emennet Pasargad (formerly known as the sanctioned company Net Peygard Samavat), its manager, Mohammad Bagher Shirinkar; employees Seyyed Mohammad Hosein, Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian; and company board members Mostafa Sarmadi, Seyyed Mehdi Hashemi Toghroljerdi and Hosein Akbari Nodeh.

Between August and November of last year, the company and its associates executed an online operation to “intimidate and influence American voters, and to undermine voter confidence and sow discord, in connection with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

They are accused of obtaining or attempting to obtain voter information from U.S. state election websites and sending threatening emails to intimidate voters. They also illicitly accessed content management accounts of several American media outlets, giving them the ability to create and edit fraudulent content; however, actual use of this power was thwarted by the FBI.

Shirinkar, the head of the company, had previously been sanctioned in February 2019 for having materially assisted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Electronic Warfare and Cyber Defense Organization (IRGC-EWCD).

Concurrently, the U.S. Department of Justice has also unsealed a five-count indictment of Kazemi and Kashian. The State Department is also offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on or about Kazemi and Kashian’s activities.

Sanctions would require that all property and interest in property of the company and individuals involved that are under American jurisdiction are blocked and Americans are forbidden from engaging in transactions with them.

Additionally, any entity owned 50 percent or more by the designated persons is also blocked. Financial institutions and others engaged in transactions or activities with Emennet Pasargad or the designated individuals may expose themselves to sanctions and be subject to enforcement action.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) chairman former Sen. Joe Lieberman and CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace release a joint statement endorsing the Biden administration action.

“UANI applauds the Biden administration for defending the integrity of U.S. elections and protecting Americans from state-sponsored attempts at intimidation and manipulation coming out of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian regime has proven itself adept in carrying out sophisticated cyber attacks, but by imposing economic costs and criminal penalties on Iranian agents, the Biden administration is strengthening U.S. deterrence,” they said in a statement.

“It is essential that the U.S. continues to impose increasingly stringent penalties on the Iranian regime so that it ends its malicious attacks. Americans are no strangers to the Iranian threat. The U.S. has consistently and repeatedly sounded the alarm. Nevertheless, Iran has continued its attacks against a wide array of U.S.-based businesses, organizations and individuals,” they continued.

The statement added that “the importance of insisting upon an end to the Iranian regime’s malign behavior is clear, and changes in Iranian behavior should be a prerequisite to affording Iran any sanctions relief. UANI reiterates its call that the U.S. not sit down with Iran in negotiations to restart the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and instead develop a bipartisan strategy on Iran with Congress, and work with our allies in the Middle East and Europe on a shared policy toward Iran that reflects the realities of 2021 in Tehran and actually protects our security.”