US slaps new sanctions on Iran groups for election interference
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Washington (AFP) –
The US Treasury on Thursday slapped new sanctions on five Iranian entities for what it called "brazen attempts" to interfere with the US election and US voters.
The Treasury named the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force, the Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and International Union of Virtual Media as key actors in an effort to spread disinformation ahead of the November 3 US presidential election.
The groups have worked to "sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading US voters," the Treasury said.
Bayan Gostar, which the Treasury called an IRGC-Qods Force "front company" for propaganda, took the lead in the activities, it said.
Ahead of the 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 US political figures," it said.
"As recently as summer 2020, Bayan Gostar was prepared to execute a series of influence operations directed at the US populace ahead of the presidential election."
The two media groups were part of that operation.
The Treasury gave no specific details on what the Iranians had done, but US social media companies have blocked accounts and postings they determined were part of Iranian government-backed influence efforts related to the election and social issues.
The sanctions, which forbid Americans and US entities from doing business with the Iranian groups, likely have little real impact, as the IRGC and IRGC-Qods Force are already subject to other sweeping sanctions.
The announcement came one day after the US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe fingered Iran as behind recent emails addressed to US voters threatening them to support President Donald Trump and his Republican Party.
The emails appeared to have been sent by a right-wing US militia group, the Proud Boys, but Ratcliffe said Iran was behind them.
© 2020 AFP