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Why the US Imposed New Sanctions Against Iranian Groups
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Photo: Elizabeth Brockway

Why the US Imposed New Sanctions Against Iranian Groups

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WASHINGTON - February 15, 2019

The Department of Justice and law enforcement announced the indictment of a former counterintelligence agent on charges of helping Iran conduct cyber attacks on her former colleagues.

The indictment also referred to the four citizens of Iran who supposedly committed illegal computer crimes: Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar. According to prosecutors’ data, they've been charged with conspiracy, attempted computer intrusion, and aggravated identity theft for cyber attacks against Witt's former colleagues and other US intelligence personnel in 2014 and 2015. The four are said to have worked on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Among other things, they reportedly recorded webcams and other surveillance applications. The links and attachments they allegedly sent were intended to hijack recipients' devices.

The accused counterintelligence agentis former US Air Force intelligence agent Monica Elfriede Witt, 39. She also allegedly repeatedly provided Iranian intelligence with classified information and reported on US intelligence agents to facilitate online attacks against them.

"This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement.

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He concluded: "When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers."

Sanctions Implications

In addition, along with the indictment, two Iranian companies, New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company, came under the sanctions of the US Treasury Department.

"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)," said an official statement.

OFAC designated Iran-based New Horizon Organization pursuant to an Executive Order (E.O.). The sanctions limit the ability of named organizations and individuals to conduct certain financial transactions.

Witt's indictment also describes her defection to Iran, her revelation of the name of a US operative conducting counterintelligence against an undisclosed target, and her efforts involving multiple fake accounts on Facebook to compile data on members of the US intelligence community for the benefit of Iranian operations.

Among the attempted attack techniques, according to the indictment, was the creation of an imposter Facebook account using the photo of an intelligence agent from a legitimate Facebook account. The fake account was used to establish friend connections with actual intelligence agents and induce them to click on shared links with malicious files.

Through friend requests, the fake Facebook account managed to befriend several actual US intelligence agents. But beyond that, the indictment makes no mention of whether the attackers managed to compromise any targeted systems; the charges describe attempted but not successful computer crimes.

One message cited in the indictment, sent to induce a US intelligence agent to click on a malicious link, shows no suspicious signs in its text. As it turned out later, the social network moved the messages to unwanted for security reasons.

"I'll send you a file including my photos but u should deactivate your antivirus to open it because i designed my photos with a photo album software, I hope you enjoy the photos i designed for the new year, they should be opened in your computer honey," read the message.

The Justice Department intends to continue the search for the accused by messaging them about an inheritance fortune waiting for them in the US.

The response from the Iranian side was immediate. In particular, the Chairman of the New Horizon Conference Nader Talebzadeh noted officially that this is not the first time that the FBI is trying to prevent the organization of activities in the United States and on the free site of the forum.

"The disturbing point is that there has been a long history of this in the past 7 years but has reached an apex in the last two weeks. We will not allow intimidation for an esteemed guest who has attended along with hundreds of others to a free forum for conversation, exchange of ideas and expression of what is going on the world," the statement said.

As an example, the organization cited the detention of the famous Iranian Press TV journalist Marzia Hashemi during her trip to the United States.

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The journalist was not formally charged but she has to testify as a witness in a case regarding Islamic Republic's media activities in the United States. She and was released 11 days later. The Iranian authorities were extremely surprised by the FBI's mistreatment of a citizen of another state.

In particular, it became known later that "despite her (Hashemi) objections, they removed her hijab, chained her hands and legs and treated her like a criminal. Furthermore, Hashemi has been offered only pork as a meal, which is forbidden under Islamic law and even denied other halal food after refusing to consume the pork meat."

As Talebzadeh said, the case of Hashemi is not the first in recent years. "It has come to our attention that in the past few days the FBI has contacted and in one case has physically appeared at the doorsteps of our dear guests. This has happened immediately during and after the detention of Ms. Marzia Hashemi. The latest more disturbing case was when they appeared at dawn without a formal call at the house of one former government official and cross-examined him about his attendance at the NHC," said the statement.

Nader Talebzadeh Ordoubadi, New Horizon Organization’s Chairman, and Zeinab Mehanna Talebzadeh, who serves as the Chairman's special assistant, have facilitated New Horizon Conferences.

"This is the second time the US and its allies attack me. I was deported from the UAE and all my money and property confiscated," Talebzadeh commented specifically for USA Really.

Speaking earlier on Iranian TV, she said the sanctions will not affect the continuation of the organization's activities. "The routine will always continue to work," she said.

Talebzadeh stressed that in May 2019, the Organization will hold a conference that will last another four months, and our international guests will be invited and invited to participate in the conference. In addition, it was also said that the organization is not going to stop working despite incessant pressure from law enforcement agencies and ministries in the United States.

Why does the United States use a political move like sanctions?

First of all, they try to show the world their power and might. The United States is the leader of the free world, they think, including its allies and satellites. This is the second reason. It is not only about the allies mood but also the intention to force others to play US games on the template.

By the way, the European Union has also joined the sanctions against certain countries, including Iran. This also includes New Zealand, Australia and the new world countries. And most importantly, the United States understands that no country has a decent answer.

Another reason is that sanctions are a convenient tool of the Trump administration that immediately comes into force and doesn't require judicial red tape and other bureaucratic procedures.

In principle, the White House doesn't hide it. One of the State Department senior officials, who requested anonymity, said earlier that there are only the United States’ interests in the world, and while the country has opportunities and working tools  to defend these interests.

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The head of the US Treasury under the Obama administration, Jack Lew said that the more often sanctions are used as restrictive measures, the less their effectiveness will be. That, in turn, will lead to global big business distrusting the US financial system and may well put an end to the global dollar dominance.

Does Iran at the head of sanctions?

The sanctions that the Trump administration is waving over the world and the thoughtlessness of their use are damaging throughout the world. In the long run, they could lead to the dollar’s collapse and the United States’ financial system in general. It has become obvious even for American experts.

Washington Post journalist Carol Morello believes that the main harm for the United States will be the loss of authority among allies and partners, which will eventually result in distrust of the dollar and lead to its weakening.

Despite the Trump administration's statements about the "strategic and thoughtful" use of sanctions, the statistics stubbornly say the opposite.

According to a study conducted by Gibson Dunn, Trump has long surpassed the amount of sanctions under his predecessor. Last year had a record number of persons and companies sanctioned by the US.

Continuing his article, Morello concludes that the main disappointment of the US’s allies was Washington's position on Iran, where Trump, ignoring the multilateral consensus, unilaterally imposed sanctions not only against Iran but also against European companies that cooperate with him.

Such actions will sooner or later prompt some states to search for an alternative to the dollar, experts say.

In summary, one might say that Washington's hopes to solve all its problems by sanctions can lead the US to the loss of its allies and the weakening of the dollar.

Author: USA Really