(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions on five senior Iranian security officials, including one who uses Twitter to disseminate regime propaganda, even as he oversees regime efforts to restrict Iranians’ online activity, including access to Twitter.
Moslem Moein is a senior official in the Basij, the notorious volunteer militia controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has playing a key role in the regime’s deadly crackdown on protests that have swept the country since September.
Moein heads the Basij Cyberspace Headquarters, which according to the Treasury Department “oversees efforts to control and censor Iranians’ online activities.”
“He has spoken publicly about the Basij’s priority to monitor Iranians’ use of the internet,” it said. “Additionally, Moein has advocated for the development of Iran’s national intranet, which could allow the regime to disconnect Iran from the global internet.”
Even as he carries out these duties, Moein is himself an active user of Twitter, one of many senior regime officials – from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei down – who regularly use the platform.
Moein has posted almost 3,000 tweets, in the Farsi language, since joining in January 2020. As of Thursday he had 32,400 followers. In his Twitter bio he describes himself as “Ali Khamenei’s soldier.”
Recent tweets include one in which he accused the British and French embassies in Tehran of organizing riots, and another deriding a group of Iranian celebrities as the “soft branch of the ‘American Zionist’ terrorist operation against Iran.”
Commenting on photos of the British ambassador and volunteers painting the walls of the embassy compound, which pro-regime Iranians had defaced with anti-Western slogans, Moein tweeted sarcastically, “The wall of the British Embassy should be clean and pure, unlike the other walls of the city, which should be smeared stealthily by harlots and incited by the British media.”
Another recent tweet complained about Twitter and Instagram “censoring the image of a national hero for Iranians” – the latter apparently a reference to the IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, killed in a U.S. drone strike ordered by President Trump in 2020
(Ironically, Moein himself posted on Twitter a eulogistic image of Soleimani as recently as last week, accompanied by the slogan “He fought valiantly who was cowardly martyred.” Trump called Soleimani “the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher” and “the world’s top terrorist.”)
On Wednesday Moein tweeted, in apparent reference to the U.S. Treasury sanctions announcement, “Where should I go for Christmas with this ban?”
The other Iranian officials sanctioned on Wednesday were regime prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, two IRGC commanders and another senior Basiji. The Treasury Department also designated an Iranian company that makes armored vehicles, tactical gear, and other materials used by security forces to suppress protests.
All are sanctioned pursuant to an executive order (13553) that authorizes measures in response to serious human rights abuses by the Iranian regime.
Moein is not alone among senior regime figures with an active Twitter presence.
Most notably, Khamenei has Twitter accounts in at least 11 languages, with a combined following exceeding two million.
The most popular, in English, has 951,100 followers, a number that has grown by some 60,000 since before the protests began in September. The next largest following is for his Farsi account – 609,000 followers, up from 441,000 earlier this year.
Khamenei also has accounts in Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Hindi, Italian, German, and Urdu, which together reach 457,000 users.
President Ebrahim Raisi’s Twitter account has 211,100 followers, up from 199,300 in November and 107,000 last February.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has 159,300 Twitter followers, up from 146,500 last month and 86,000 in February. His predecessor, Javad Zarif, has 1.6 million followers.
In her recent “Twitter files” thread on the decision by the platform, pre-Musk, to suspend Trump’s account in January last year, journalist Bari Weiss contrasted its treatment of the then president with how it dealt with other heads of state.
“In June 2018, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted, ‘#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.’” Weiss recalled. “Twitter neither deleted the tweet nor banned the Ayatollah.”
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