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IRGC-linked news agency calls for ‘punishing’ Iranian members of US-based think tank

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An Iranian news agency affiliated with the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards has called for “punishing” the Iranian members of the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

In an article published earlier this month, Iran’s Fars news agency urged the country’s authorities to target Alireza Nader, Saeed Ghasseminejad, and Behnam Ben Taleblu – three Iranian members of FDD.

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Nader and Ben Taleblu are senior fellows at FDD, while Ghasseminejad is a senior Iran and financial economics advisor at the think tank. FDD describes itself as a Washington-based “non-partisan research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security.”

The Iranian foreign ministry has already sanctioned FDD, its Chief Executive Mark Dubowitz and senior advisor Richard Goldberg, but the article argues that sanctioning the think tank’s non-Iranian members is pointless, as they do not own any property in Iran that authorities could confiscate.

Iran should therefore “prioritize” targeting FDD’s Iranian members, the article said, adding that “sanctioning and threatening” the Iranians at the think tank “can have more psychological effects.”

The article accused Nader, Ben Taleblu, and Ghasseminejad of harming Iranians economically “through economic advice to the Trump administration.”

“Just as [Ruhollah] Zam and [Jamshid] Sharmahd are currently waiting to be brought to justice,” Nader, Ben Taleblu and Ghasseminejad “should not be immune from sanctions and punishment,” the article said.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) senior fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu poses for a photo following an interview with the Associated Press in Washington. (AP)
Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) senior fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu poses for a photo following an interview with the Associated Press in Washington. (AP)

Zam is an Iranian journalist who was arrested by Iranian forces in October 2019 and later sentenced to death in June. Sharmahd is an opposition figure Iran said it arrested earlier this month.

Iran has a long history of targeting dissidents abroad. Supporters of the Iranian regime recently launched a campaign on social media against US-based Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad threatening to abduct and bring her back to Iran.

Read more:

Iran to release sanction list of FDD ‘collaborators’

Iran will be held accountable for actions harming FDD

State Dept says Iran imposing sanctions on US think tank a ‘threat’

“The regime’s Fars News has threatened to sanction & harm my Iranian American colleagues & me. To the evil Islamic Republic: much more pressure & punishment is in store for you. More than you could ever imagine,” Nader tweeted in response to the article on Monday.

Tehran has accused FDD of “seriously and actively trying to harm the Iranian people’s security and vital interests” and alleged that the think tank was “fabricating and spreading lies, encouraging, providing consultations, lobbying, and launching a smear campaign” against Iran.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran in 2018 as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.