The U.S. Department of Justice and Commerce have seized about three dozen websites, many of which are linked to Iranian disinformation activities, U.S. government sources told Reuters and the Associated Press news agencies on Tuesday.
An official announcement from the US government is expected later.
The sites appear to include Iranian state media Press TV, the Yemeni Houthi-run satellite news channel Al Masirah, and the Arabic-language channel of Iranian state television, Al-Alam.
In what appears to be coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks, claiming that the domains of the websites have been “seized by the United States government.” pic.twitter.com/JloU56LvpL
– Press TV (@PressTV) June 22, 2021
The site visit produced an alert from the US government on Tuesday. The notice says the websites were seized “in connection with law enforcement action” by the US Bureau of Industry and Safety, the Office of Export Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The US government also took over the domain name of the Palestine Today news site, which reflects the views of Gaza-based groups. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same notice.
Last October, the Justice Department announced that it had taken down nearly 100 websites linked to powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The United States said the sites, operating under the guise of actual news organizations, were waging a “global campaign of disinformation” to influence US policy and push Iranian propaganda around the world.
This decision comes just days after the electoral victory of the extremist Iranian justice chief, Ibrahim Raisi, known for its hostility towards Western countries.
Raisi’s election is seen as a blow to efforts to resurrect Tehran’s 2015 tattered nuclear deal, including the former US President Donald Trump has stepped down in 2017.
Raisi took an uncompromising stance during his first press conference. He ruled out the possibility of meeting with US President Joe Biden or negotiating Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support for regional militias – concerns the Biden administration wants to address in future talks.
The move saw Iran, over time, gradually drop all limits on uranium enrichment even as it continued negotiations with European countries trying to salvage the deal.
The country is now uranium enrichment at 60 percent, its highest level ever, though still below weapon grade levels.
US and EU partners participated in six rounds of informal discussions in Vienna in recent weeks. Iranian and American officials have not met in person. Diplomats said on June 20 that talks had progressed and that a decision now rested with the governments concerned.
Perhaps the best known of the seized sites is Press TV, launched in June 2007. This is the English-language service of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRIB) run by the state.
There is no private television or radio in Iran. Satellite dishes, although widespread, are also illegal. This leaves the IRIB with the monopoly of national airwaves.
Marzieh Hachemi, a prominent Press TV presenter who in 2019 was arrested as a key witness in an unspecified criminal case and appeared before a grand jury in Washington, told The Associated Press the channel was struggling to “Understand the reasons” for the seizure. .
When broadcasting in Iran, Press TV mainly focuses on international affairs through the prism of how Iranian leaders view the world. Fierce criticism of the British, the United States and Israeli foreign policy is common. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the IRIB has been in the hands of hard-line supporters who support the Iranian government.
Supporters of Press TV see the site’s editorial line as anti-Zionist, but the outlet has already had problems with Western authorities over its reporting. The Anti-Defamation League criticized the channel as “one of the world’s leading distributors of conspiratorial anti-Semitism in English”.