Tehran has warned that the latest move by the US Department of Justine to seize over 30 websites run by Iranian state-linked media, including most notably PressTV’s English-language website, could be detrimental to the Biden White House’s desire to negotiate a restored nuclear deal in Vienna.
Starting Tuesday websites across the Middle East began showing messages where their homepages once were of “This website has been seized” for violating laws related to sanctions on US foreign enemies (as they were hosted on US-owned domains). This included Iranian, Palestinian, Yemeni, Iraqi news channels – with 33 websites being deemed controlled or at least closely associated with the Islamic Republic.
The Iranian presidency’s office slammed the drastic action as “not constructive” to the ongoing nuclear dialogue in Vienna, suggesting it could put a finalized deal in doubt – also at a sensitive moment that a new hardline president was just elected, set to take office at the start of August.
“We are using all international and legal means to… condemn… this mistaken policy of the United States,” the Chief of Staff of the President of Iran, Mahmoud Vaezi, told reporters. “It appears not constructive when talks for a deal on the nuclear issue are under way.”
AFP describes further of Tehran’s response: “Iran’s state broadcaster accused the US of repressing freedom of expression, while the president’s office questioned the timing of the move as talks on bringing Washington back into the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and major powers are reportedly making headway.”
And here’s more on the IRGC links to many of the outlets, which reportedly made them a target for the US domain seizures:
The 33 websites were held by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), itself controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC).
Both the IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries.
Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group which owned three sites that were seized, is a hardline military faction with close ties to Tehran that Washington has formally designated a terror group.
In recent years there’s been notable instances of the federal government actually charging individuals on US soil for providing access to Lebanese Hezbollah’s television network.
However, this week’s action appears to the most far-reaching crackdown effort yet on Iranian-linked media. Likely many of the websites will simply migrate over to a .ir domain in order to evade the DOJ order.