July 26, 2018 | The Cipher Brief

U.S. Should Sanction Iran’s ICT Minister

In his recent op-ed for The Cipher Brief, FDD's Tzvi Kahn recommends that the United States designate Iran's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry, its leader Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TIC). By doing so, the United States would express solidarity with the Iranian people and demonstrate that the U.S. will continue to challenge the legitimacy of a regime that systematically quashes dissenting voices.

An excerpt from the op-ed follows:

Jahromi secured his appointment as ICT minister in August 2017 after serving four years as deputy ICT minister. From 2002 to 2009, Jahromi worked in the security division of Iran’s brutal Intelligence Ministry, which has violently neutralized countless regime opponents since the 1980s. From 2009 to 2013, he helped develop the Intelligence Ministry’s online surveillance infrastructure. In 2009, he reportedly assisted security forces in detaining and harshly interrogating Iranians who participated in nationwide protests. In 2016, he became the CEO of the TIC, giving him a leading role in developing the NIN.

Jahromi has expressed no regrets for his previous career. “I worked in the Intelligence Ministry,” he said, “but unfortunately there’s this approach that whoever works in that ministry is bad. If the ministry is bad, then why has it been created?” In fact, he declared, he considered it “an honor” to work there. Before Jahromi’s appointment, one anxious Iranian lawmaker warned that the incoming minister could transform the ICT Ministry into a “second Intelligence Ministry.”

These words of caution may prove prescient. To this day, Tehran’s cyber repression shows little sign of abating. In late April, the regime, upon the directive of the SCC, banned Telegram once again. And while Jahromi condemned the decision, he subsequently moved to block online circumvention tools aimed at bypassing regime censorship, contending that they “have anti-security characteristics.” Previously, in October 2017, he vowed to block “anti-revolutionary channels” on Telegram. In this sense, Jahromi’s contradictory rhetoric resembles the broken promises of President Rouhani, who has repeatedly pledged – and failed – to advance internet freedom in Iran.

Read the full piece from The Cipher Brief here

Tzvi Kahn is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @TzviKahn.

Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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