The United States is taking a number of actions today that tighten sanctions on Iran’s access to its oil revenues and further expose the Iranian government’s continued abuse of human rights. Key provisions of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA) that go into effect today, expand the scope of sanctionable transactions with the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions by restricting Iran’s ability to use oil revenue held in foreign financial institutions as well as preventing repatriation of those funds to Iran. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, also designated one individual and four entities for their involvement in the Iranian government’s censorship activities. These censorship activities restrict the free flow of information in Iran and punish Iranian citizens who are attempting to exercise freedom of assembly and expression.
“Our policy is clear – so long as Iran continues to fail to address the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, the U.S. will impose tighter sanctions and intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We will also target those in Iran who are responsible for human right abuses, especially those who deny the Iranian people their basic freedoms of expression, assembly and speech.”
Today marks 180 days since the President signed the TRA. Section 504 of the TRA amends existing sanctions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) that target the Central Bank of Iran, designated Iranian financial institutions and Iran’s energy sector. At the 180-day mark, section 504 narrows the exception for countries that have significantly reduced their purchases of Iranian crude oil so that the exception now only applies to financial transactions that facilitate bilateral trade between the country granted the exception and Iran. For the exception to apply to a financial transaction, funds owed to Iran as a result of such bilateral trade will now have to be credited to an account located in the country granted the exception and may not be repatriated to Iran.
This provision will significantly increase economic pressure on Iran by restricting Iran’s repatriation of oil revenue. In addition to effectively “locking up” Iranian oil revenue overseas, this provision sharply restricts Iran’s use of this revenue for bilateral trade and severely limits Iran’s ability to move funds across jurisdictions.
The increased restrictions, however, do not apply to the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is issuing guidance today to make it clear that such humanitarian trade with Iran is neither subject to these sanctions nor to sanctions previously imposed on Iran.
Sanctions Linked to Censorship in Iran
In addition to increasing economic pressure on Iran, the Treasury Department, in consultation with the State Department, designated the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and its director, as well as three other entities in Iran, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13628, which implements the TRA by giving the Treasury Department the authority to designate those in Iran who restrict or deny the free flow of information to or from the Iranian people.
Any property or interests in property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the designated entities or individuals have an interest are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and Ezzatollah Zarghami
IRIB was established as the main governmental agency in charge of the broadcasting policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is responsible for producing numerous national and international television and radio channels. Ezzatollah Zarghami is the director and head of IRIB. He was appointed as the Director in May 2004, and reappointed in November 2009. Since his reappointment, Zarghami has pursued a policy of modernization in form but restriction in content.
According to human rights groups, Iran is using state-media transmissions to trample dissent. They point to distorted or false IRIB news reports and the broadcasting of forced confessions of political detainees, such as one involving Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who was forced to give a false confession in front of state media outlets while jailed in 2009. In March 2012, the European Union placed individual sanctions on Zarghami for authorizing, as head of IRIB, the broadcast in August 2009 and December 2011 of forced confessions of detainees and “show trials” that constituted a clear violation of international provisions on fair trial and the right to due process. Additionally, Iran is engaged in a campaign to filter out unwanted TV content and broadcast its own propaganda.
After the 2009 presidential election in Iran, jamming of foreign channels, particularly the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), increased in intensity. Then, in the wake of the Arab Spring movements, Iran increased its jamming of the BBC, VOA, and other Western networks with Persian-language news channels. The move was intended to prevent Iranian audiences from seeing foreign broadcasts that the Iranian government found objectionable. Zarghami has admitted using such tactics, according to Iranian state media reports.
Iranian Cyber Police
The Iranian Cyber Police was formed in 2009, and has worked with other Iranian cyber units to filter websites, monitor Internet behavior, and hack email accounts related to political action on the Internet. The Iranian Cyber Police has made arrangements to increase filtering on Facebook and block content on social networking websites that the Iranian government finds objectionable. On December 22, 2011, the Law Enforcement Forces of Iran publically announced that the Iranian Cyber Police was monitoring all suspicious Internet activity, emails, and text messages. The Iranian Cyber Police published a detailed list of rules and regulations corresponding to its increased monitoring and scrutiny of the Internet. In 2012, the Iranian Cyber Police ordered the deletion of Iranian blogs and brought charges against some people connected with the blogs. On October 30, 2012, the Iranian Cyber Police arrested blogger Sattar Beheshti, reportedly for anti-government comments he posted online. Beheshti, who was kept in detention without a warrant, died in custody in early November, allegedly during interrogation.
Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA)
The CRA enforces Iranian government requirements to filter Internet content. The CRA has implemented Iranian government-mandated lawful intercept requirements for Iranian telecommunications companies. Following post-election unrest on June 13, 2009, the CRA ordered hundreds of websites blocked for nearly a week. Additionally, in early June 2009, the CRA ordered the blockage of hundreds of public Internet websites in anticipation of the June 12 presidential election in Iran. This large-scale effort was focused on blocking access to English and Farsi versions of foreign news agencies, social networking sites, blogs, and other such public forums.
Iran Electronics Industries (IEI)
IEI was previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in September 2008, for its connections to Iran’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program and Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). According to its website, IEI is a major producer of electronic systems and products in Iran. IEI offers a number of goods and services related to jamming, monitoring, and eavesdropping.
Satellite jamming is a pervasive reality in Iran. It is used to censor free speech and prohibit access to information through deliberate interference for the express purpose of preventing access to specific content. Orbital and terrestrial jamming is frequently used in Iran to prevent access to specific news and information broadcast from abroad. Jamming devices are radio frequency transmitters that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with communications such as cell phone calls, text messages, GPS systems, and Wi-Fi networks.
As of 2011, the Iranian government has been able to monitor text-messaging services via a monitoring system installed by IEI.
In the context of their use by the Government of Iran, monitoring and eavesdropping form an integral part of the Iranian regime’s effort to control and limit content and suppress speech. Iran is investing in improving its technical capacity to extensively monitor the behavior of its citizens on the Internet. The Iranian authorities routinely use surveillance to round up and interrogate political activists. The government’s use of sophisticated monitoring technology, including that which targets text messages, has helped the Iranian authorities crush activism in Iran.
Name: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
AKA: Islamic Republic of Iran BroadCasting Org.
AKA: National Iranian Radio and Television
Registration #: 1792
Alt. Website: http://iransat.irib.ir
Address: Jamejam Street, Valiasr Avenue, Tehran, Iran
Alt. Address: Satellite Department, IRIB, Jame Jam St., Tehran, Iran
Alt. Address: Department of IT-IRIB, P.O. Box 19395-333, Jaame Jam. St, Valiasr Ave,
Alt. Address: IT Department, Fanni Building No 3, Jame jam, Valiasr St., Tehran, IR
Alt. Address: 200 Mosaddegh Avenue, Jaame Jam Street, Vali Asr Ave, P.O. Box 1333, Tehran 193933333, Iran
Alt. Address: Fatemi Building P.O. Box 15875 / 4333 Tehran
Name: Ezzatollah Zarghami
Title: Director, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
POB: Dezful, Khuzentan Province, Iran
DOB: Circa 1959
Name: Iranian Cyber Police
AKA: FATA Police
Name: Iranian Communications Regulatory Authority
AKA: Sazman-E Tanzim Moghararat
Address: Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, P.O. Box 15598-4415, 1631713761, Tehran, Iran
Name: Iran Electronics Industries
AKA: Sanaye Electronic Iran
AKA: Sanad Iran Electronics Industries
AKA: Sherkat Sanayeh Electronics Iran
Address: P.O. Box 19575-365, Shahied Langari Street, Noboniad Sq, Pasdaran Ave, Saltanad Abad, Tehran, Iran;
Alt. Address: P.O. Box 71365-1174, Hossain Abad/Ardakan Road, Shiraz, Iran
Alt. Address: Hossein Abad/Ardakan Road, P.O. Box 555, Shiraz 71365/1174, Iran
Alt. Address: Shahid Langari Street, Nobonyad Square, Tehran, Iran
Alt. Website: http://www.ieicorp.com