News of the agency’s seizures came in a press release on Tuesday, which said the department had taken control of 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, a group controlled by Tehran, as well as three sites run by Kata’ib Hezbollah, another name for the Iranian-backed militia, “in violation of US sanctions.”
The sites, some of which quickly relaunched under new domains after being phased out, had not acquired the licenses necessary to operate in the United States.
In addition, according to the agency, these sites, “disguised as news organizations or media, have targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malicious influence operations.”
The department said the move was a “response to the Iranian regime targeting the US electoral process with brazen attempts to sow discord among the electoral population by spreading disinformation online and carrying out malicious influence operations. aimed at deceiving American voters ”.
The DoJ’s move comes at a precarious time in US relations with Iran.
On Monday, Iran’s new president-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line judge elected last week, said he would not meet with President Biden and called Iran’s ballistic missile program “non-negotiable.”
“The United States is compelled to lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran,” Raisi said in his first televised press conference.
When asked if he would meet with the US president, Raisi replied, “No”.
On the nuclear deal, Raisi, a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the United States to “lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran.”
Achieving this goal, he added, was “at the heart of our foreign policy”.
The Obama administration negotiated the controversial Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. The agreement reduced sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country’s reduction in its stockpiles of enriched uranium needed to fuel its operations. nuclear weapons.
It also capped the purity to which Tehran could refine uranium at 3.67 percent, but did not include limitations on delivery systems and other controls on Iran’s ability to produce a bomb. nuclear when the agreement expires.
The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018, with the then commander-in-chief saying “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
Iran began breaking the deal soon after, as tensions escalated between Washington and Tehran.
Biden pledged he would reinstate the 2015 agreement “as a starting point for follow-up negotiations,” adding that he would only support doing so if Iran commits to following strict compliance measures.
After Biden’s election in November, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would fully implement the terms of the Obama-era deal if Biden lifted the Trump-era sanctions, arguing that this could be done with “three decrees”.
The administration refused and Tehran continued to violate the deal, enriching its uranium to more than 60% purity, its highest level ever.
While 60 percent enriched uranium does not reach the 90 percent level of purity required for viable nuclear weapons, it represents a step towards weaponry.