Washington, DC — In light of growing anti-regime protests across Iran and the Islamic Republic’s intensifying jamming of international satellite transmissions, NUFDI is calling on the State Department to revoke the current waiver of secondary sanctions relating to dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

The letter reads, in part: “At a time when the Iranian people are reminding us, with extraordinary valor and at great risk, of their deep yearning for systemic change in Iran, as Iranian-Americans we feel that it is more important than ever to identify and eliminate the ways in which U.S. government policy may be strengthening the hand of their oppressors.” 

NUFDI asserts that such an action will: (i) impair or end IRIB’s operations domestically and abroad, thereby striking an important blow to its ability to participate in and facilitate human rights violations and propaganda operations; and (ii) send a strong message of support for the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy; and (iii) enhance U.S. and international leverage against the Regime relating to its satellite-related activities.”

Read the full letter, below. For press inquiries contact press@nufdiran.org.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

The National Union for Democracy in Iran (“NUFDI”) calls upon the Biden Administration (the “Administration”) to take prompt action in response to the urgent matter of renewed and ongoing orbital jamming of foreign satellite transmissions by the Islamic Republic of Iran (the “Islamic Republic” or “Regime”) and, specifically, to revoke the current U.S. government waiver of secondary sanctions relating to dealings with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (“IRIB”). 

Throughout the Regime’s history, as during this recent period of intensifying anti-Regime protests by the Iranian people, the Islamic Republic has used various tools of repression to stamp out democratic opposition and to preserve its stranglehold on power.  As has been widely reported and documented by Iranian citizens, human rights and democracy activists, non-governmental organizations and media sources, during the ongoing wave of protests in Iran, the Regime has defamed, arrested, intimidated, brutalized, tortured and killed countless innocent Iranians, including many peaceful protestors, for their rejection of the Regime or any its many unjust or corrupt laws and practices.  Moreover, in order to impede the free flow of information to, within and from Iran, the Islamic Republic has systematically limited and occasionally terminated Internet and cellular connectivity services across the country and, most recently, engaged in orbital jamming of the transmissions of foreign satellites delivering news to the people of Iran.  We call upon the Administration to respond to these significant developments by revoking promptly the Temporary Sanctions Relief (the “Waiver”) issued by the U.S. government with respect to sanctions imposed against IRIB pursuant to the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (“IFCA”), as set forth below.

We understand that the Waiver resulted from an understanding reached with the Regime in 2013 under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (the “ITSO”), whereby the Islamic Republic agreed to ensure that harmful interference does not emanate from its territory (the “ITSO Agreement”).  The ITSO is an intergovernmental organization (IGO) whose mandate is limited to overseeing the public service obligations of Intelsat, a onetime IGO but today a private satellite operator.  The Waiver does not track the limited extent of the ITSO’s mandate; instead, it operates to waive the imposition of secondary sanctions-based penalties on the provision to IRIB of satellite communications capacity or certain related services by any non-U.S. person satellite operator or services provider.  By perpetrating orbital jamming of foreign satellite transmissions, the Regime has now violated both international law and the ITSO Agreement.   

In support of the request made hereby, we note specifically that:

  1. IFCA directs the imposition of sanctions against IRIB due to its role in human rights violations.  IRIB has played, and continues to play, a central role in the human rights abuses perpetrated in Iran through its suppression of accurate and complete information regarding developments in the country and its dissemination of Regime propaganda, including the forced confessions of detained and tortured Iranian citizens and the defamation of Iranian protestors and activists as criminals and foreign agents.  IRIB has also sought to support the Regime’s violent repression of peaceful protests by televising images of protesters and requesting viewers to identify them for security forces.
  2. In addition to its renewed practice of orbital jamming, the Regime has historically engaged and continues to engage in the practice of terrestrial jamming as a separate method of interfering with satellite broadcasting into Iran.  Such terrestrial jamming represents a separate violation of the ITSO Agreement by the Regime.  It is also a hazardous practice because it exposes millions of Iranians to harmful radiation that causes cancer, even according to the public statements of Regime officials.
  3. Iranians inside and outside Iran have consistently criticized IRIB for its coverage and modus operandi and historically expressed vocal support for the imposition of sanctions-related pressure on IRIB, including through a recent social media campaign whereby Iranians used the #BanIRIB hashtag to call for the imposition and enforcement of sanctions against IRIB.  
  4. The Islamic Republic uses IRIB not only to disseminate propaganda and advance repression within Iran, but also to promote and achieve its political objectives abroad, including destabilization of the Middle East and cultivation of non-state paramilitary and terrorist organizations. IRIB-affiliated TV/radio channels, including a number of international channels in Arabic (e.g., Al-Alam and Al-Kawthar), operate as propaganda arms, while other IRIB resources are deployed to support the media activities of the Regime’s various Middle Eastern proxy groups. Therefore, IRIB works against U.S. national security and foreign policy interests internationally, not just in Iran.  

If implemented, revocation of the Waiver would: (i) impair or end IRIB’s operations domestically and abroad, thereby striking an important blow to its ability to participate in and facilitate human rights violations and propaganda operations; and (ii) send a strong message of support for the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy; and (iii) enhance U.S. and international leverage against the Regime relating to its satellite-related activities.  

A secular democratic government in Iran would be a representative government and therefore very unlikely to use national resources to engage in the jamming of foreign satellite operations or the airing of propaganda, such as false confessions induced under torture.  At a time when the Iranian people are reminding us, with extraordinary valor and at great risk, of their deep yearning for systemic change in Iran, as Iranian-Americans we feel that it is more important than ever to identify and eliminate the ways in which U.S. government policy may be strengthening the hand of their oppressors.  Therefore, we call upon the Administration to revoke the Waiver promptly, with immediate effect.

Sincerely, 

Cameron Khansarinia

NUFDI Policy Director

 

CC: The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States; Mr. Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser

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