A new comprehensive report by Treadstone 71, a cybersecurity company, on Iran’s disinformation campaign mainly against Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) underlines the mullahs’ fear and concern of their organized opposition.
The case study in the Treadstone 71 report is about the regime’s cyber mobilization in July 2020, simultaneous with the Iranian Resistance’s annual “Free Iran” conference, this time held online due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, over 30,000 locations were connected to Ashraf 3, MEK’s compound in Albania. The keynote speaker of this event was Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and the regime’s “primary hashtag… targeted Maryam Rajavi,” according to the report.
The regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Basij cyber teams led this campaign. Many of these accounts pretended to be dissidents or the regime’s critics, but they were operating from Iran and were IRGC fake accounts.
According to the report, these accounts, “most with high followership, portrayed themselves as ‘monarchist,’ ‘reformist,’ or ‘regime change advocates’ on various social media platforms. A significant feature of these accounts is young women’s personas disguising themselves while attracting and luring unsuspecting users for messaging expansion and potential collaboration.”
“The IRGC used a core team of proxy accounts, likely Basiji cyber teams, to trigger the messaging and lead the campaign. They developed accounts with large followership, usually using female personas that present themselves as critics of the government but more critical of the MEK,” the report adds.
In Iran, the regime has banned all social media platforms. While the regime and its operatives claimed to be Iranians opposing the MEK and Mrs. Rajavi, Treadstone 71 underlines: “Nearly 50% of accounts used in the campaign were low-follower, newly created, or dormant accounts, indicating that the campaign likely used bots to propagate the messaging along with zombie accounts.”
To make their hashtag a Twitter trend, the regime used its well-known websites and accounts. According to the report, “Websites driven from netajngo.org (A creation of the MOIS with a focus on demonizing and destroying MEK based in Albania) propagated messages using negative terms towards the MEK.”
The regime has long tried to discredit the Iranian Resistance whether online through fake accounts, or in the mainstream media. After failing to bomb the NCRI’s “Free Iran” gathering in 2018, the regime desperately tried to discredit its viable alternative by initiating an online campaign. But yet again it failed.
The Treadstone 71 report comes in the wake of the trial of Iran’s incarcerated diplomat-terrorist, Assadollah Assadi, and his three accomplices, in Belgium. Assadi and his operatives, Amir Sadouni his wife Nasmieh Naami, and Mehrdad Arefani, tried to bomb the “Free Iran” gathering in Paris in 2018. But all were arrested.
During the second session of their trial on December 3, in Antwerp Belgium, the regime’s terrorist, Arefani, who pretended for years of being an atheist poet, tried to deny his connection with Assadi, despite undeniable evidence. He presented himself as an intellectual, an atheist poet, who is against Islam, to infiltrate the MEK supporters and cast aside any thought that he is one of the regime’s agents.
Because at the first glance, one thinks that to be an operative of a so-called “Islamist” regime, they should be religious. Arefani tried to use this pretext in the court but to no avail.
The lawyer of the other terrorist, Nasimeh Naami, who was arrested in possession of 500 grams of TATP explosives, tried to present Naami as an innocent soul, whose family are “monarchists” and opposed to “veiling.”
The regime’s goal, despite its claims of being a religious state, is to preserve its rule at any cost and eliminate its viable alternative. In the 1980s, Ruhollah Khomeini, the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, ordered his torturers not to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, to be able to freely torture dissidents and MEK members.
Since the regime was not able to carry out a terrorist operation against the opposition, it turned to cyberterrorism, which according to Treadstone 71 “highly likely violated Twitter policies such as the Platform manipulation and spam policy, the Impersonation policy, and the Synthetic and manipulated media policy.”
The regime uses all the means to achieve its malign goal. This is the same regime which imposed an internet blackout during the November 2019 uprising to massacre protesters but uses social media to demonize its opposition.
Assadi also used his diplomatic privileges to transfer a bomb to Europe using a commercial flight, then handed it over to other terrorists.
The report, and the regime’s attempts to target the Iranian Resistance, also portrays the regime’s fear of its viable alternative, which the mullahs blame for the November uprising which rattled the regime’s foundation.
So, it is time for the international community to act firmly. The regime’s diplomatic missions and so-called cultural and religious centers must be shut down. Twitter and other social medial platforms should ban the regime’s accounts, who only spread hatred and pave the way for terrorism.