NIAC Responds to State Department’s Decision to Suspend Funding to Grantee Using Funds to Attack U.S. Civil Society

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 31, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington D.C. – Today, the State Department announced that it is suspending funding to a grantee of the department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), the Iran Disinformation Project (Iran Disinfo), after it was revealed that the group was using funds to attack journalists, analysts, and American civil society organizations, like NIAC, online. The suspension of IranDisinfo follows a major astroturf campaign against NIAC last weekend involving hawkish pro-war organizations like Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and radical diaspora groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – which operates a social media “troll farm” in Albania.

NIAC President Jamal Abdi said in response to these developments:

“Suspending funding for this organization is a fine start. But the American people deserve to know if this is part of a larger conspiracy funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. We need answers as to whether any member of the Trump Administration or U.S. government agency has been involved in guiding, coordinating, or encouraging attacks and propaganda against critics or political opponents of the Trump Administration.”

Abdi elaborated on the links between the groups in question and the Trump Administration:

“There are close ties between officials in the Trump Administration organizations involved in these attacks. We know that the President’s National Security Advisor John Bolton is fond of the MEK, has advocated publicly for the group, and has likely received payment in the form of speaking fees from this former terrorist organization. We also know that former senior FDD officials now sit in John Bolton’s National Security Council and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – while he was the CIA Director – took the highly unusual step of declassifying documents and providing them exclusively to FDD to make the case for military action against Iran.”

Abdi continued:

“If the Trump Administration is funneling funds or coordinating with the perpetrators of this campaign, it is incumbent on Congress to get to the bottom of it. We look forward to working to uncover the truth behind these attacks and any involvement by the U.S. government as well as foreign state sponsored actors. We will not let anyone silence our voices and create a chilling effect meant to deter political engagement within our community.”

BACKGROUND

In last week’s online propaganda campaign, IranDisinfo along with FDD and MEK attempted to spread the outrageously false claim that NIAC and any Iranian American journalist, academic, or political candidate who has spoken out against Donald Trump’s Iran policies or opposed war against Iran are supporters of, or even supported by, the Iranian government.

The attacks utilized an army of bots and inauthentic social media accounts to launch hundreds of thousands of tweets intended to create a false narrative that Iranians and Iranian Americans support the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” and push for war with Iran. The coordinated assault also aimed to discredit pro-peace Iranian Americans by claiming they are supportive of or even supported by the Islamic Republic.

FDD analyst Saeed Ghasseminejad is the main research contributor to IranDisinfo and FDD operates an identical “IranDisinfo” section on its own website. IranDisinfo’s website is also hosted by Tavanna, another organization that is funded by the State Department, and its Executive Director lists IranDisinfo among her affiliations.

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