A recent classified letter by Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), to the regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, starkly exposes the regime’s deep-seated security challenges and its unnerving apprehension towards social media platforms. This leaked correspondence, obtained by the GhiyamtaSarnegouni dissident group, once again lays bare the tyrannical nature of Iran’s ruling regime, highlighting its vehement opposition to freedom and illuminating its profound vulnerability in the face of an unrelenting flow of information that ruthlessly exposes its grave human rights violations. Moreover, this letter elucidates how these online platforms serve as vital tools for people to organize themselves, amplifying the regime’s trepidation and exacerbating its faltering grip on power.
The first document below is Salami’s letter, and the second is by Raisi’s chief of staff urging other regime top security officials to implement what Salami said.
Islamic Republic of Iran
His Excellency Mr. Dr. Ebrahim Raisi
Honorable Chairman of the Supreme National Security Council
I hope this message finds you well. As you know, our beloved country has recently experienced disturbances and security challenges, leading to the blocking of foreign media and social networks by order of the Supreme National Security Council. However, there have been discussions among officials regarding the reopening of access to these platforms. Therefore, I would like to bring the following points to your attention:
- Most of those arrested during the recent riots are teenagers and young individuals who have been deceived. Their perception of reality is greatly influenced by social media networks. For instance, the murderer of two Basiji youths in Mashhad confessed that he was previously an active member of the congregation and the mosque, adhering to the recommended practices of prayer. However, his views changed over time due to the influence of social media networks, ultimately leading to his tragic actions. In my opinion, it is crucial for the Islamic Republic not only to seek justice for the two Basiji martyrs but also to address the plight of this misled young man caused by the enemies of the revolution. As a first step, we must permanently block the entrance of this toxic atmosphere into the minds of our fellow countrymen.
- Some individuals consider the blocking of foreign virtual networks as a temporary and tactical measure. However, the recent disturbances are a consequence of various factors, with the most important being our neglect of domestic cyberspace over the years. This is a complex social issue that cannot be resolved within a few months. The migration towards domestic software has already begun due to the blocking of external networks, and it is crucial to maintain this momentum for a few years. By doing so, we can strengthen our domestic platforms and ensure a complete transition. After this transitional period, we can cautiously allow controlled access to foreign networks, fostering a competitive environment through appropriate policies. Until then, given the system’s limited control and relative independence in cyberspace, we cannot subject our vulnerable youth to the influence of foreign tech giants.
- One advantage our sworn enemies gain from virtual space is the collection and analysis of mass data from users. Some officials believe that if a foreign online platform adheres to the content policies of the Islamic Republic, it fulfills our objectives. However, this is only one aspect of the issue. The data generated by our people in virtual spaces should remain within our national borders and inaccessible to foreign entities. This principle should be upheld uniformly, without distinction between Western and Eastern countries. No foreign nation should have access to Iranian citizens’ data, as advanced technologies like artificial intelligence can manipulate and shape the values and preferences of foreign populations based on this massive data collection, identifying individual weaknesses and tailoring their actions accordingly.
- Certain reports suggest that, due to a slowdown in the migration from foreign to domestic cyberspace networks, it may be appropriate to open up foreign networks again. In response to this concern, it is essential to express our gratitude that, within a mere three months, nearly half of the users successfully migrated to domestic software without any significant issues, demonstrating the capacity of our internal platforms to meet this demand. It is worth noting that these users were recruited by foreign networks over several years, not within the past three months. Furthermore, we must expedite the migration process through governmental protective measures and stricter filtering mechanism enforcement. Although this migration is ongoing, users still have partial access to foreign networks, with approximately a 50% reduction in bandwidth. Further technical measures can be implemented to decrease this access.
- During the recent riots, young Basiji individuals who sympathized with the revolution endured high costs while defending its principles. The responsibility of maintaining order on the streets primarily fell upon the armed forces, who, despite being denied permission to use firearms, courageously confronted the attacks of the revolution’s adversaries, resulting in numerous martyrs and thousands of wounded. These innocent lives were sacrificed due to past authorities’ negligence in addressing the challenges posed by cyberspace. As devoted followers of Islam and the supreme leader, they laid down their lives due to the failure of previous administrations to heed the repeated warnings of the Supreme Leader. We firmly believe that not a single injury, physical or psychological, to any of our compatriots, is acceptable to Your Excellency, myself, or any other officials in our system. We are duty-bound to protect and safeguard the brave Basiji forces under our command, ensuring that they are not left to bear the burden of future misguided decisions in cyberspace at the cost of their bloodshed.
In conclusion, I pray for the success of our nation in asserting its independence from foreign influence in the virtual realm, similar to what was achieved in the physical space during the year 1979. I kindly request that the relevant authorities take the necessary measures to facilitate the complete migration of users from foreign to domestic networks.
With utmost respect,
IRGC Major General Hossein Salami
Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Chief of Staff
Islamic Republic of Iran
Office of the President
In the Name of God
Date: December 27, 2022
Classification: Top Secret
Mr. Shamkhani, Honorable Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council,
Dr. Zarepour, Honorable Minister of Information and Communications Technology,
Dr. Firouzabadi, Honorable Secretary of the Cyberspace Council,
I hope this message finds you well. I would like to bring your attention to the attached document, which is a copy of the letter with reference number 6100-1/Sat, dated December 22, 2022, from the Honorable Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The letter discusses “points about the message of the media and foreign social networks and taking the necessary measures to complete the migration of users from foreign cyberspace networks.” It has been forwarded for your follow-up, as per the opinion of the Honorable President.