The Iranian regime, which was the subject of an American-led investigation into its alleged cyberattacks on the US in 2017, has been heavily funding pro-Trump political groups in Europe, according to an exclusive report by BuzzFeed News and The Washington Post.
According to BuzzFeed News, which obtained an internal email obtained by The Washington Free Beacon, Iranian-backed groups have spent thousands of dollars on political ads in European countries like Germany, France, Austria, and Denmark, as well as on the election campaigns of candidates in Hungary, Latvia, and the Czech Republic.
BuzzFeed News reported that, on October 12, 2017, Iranian authorities paid for the ads in four countries, as part of a massive political campaign by Iranian-funded groups in the US, including in Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
In addition to European funding, Iranian government-backed Iranian media outlets have been heavily promoting anti-Trump and pro-US political messages on social media, BuzzFeed News said.
One ad featured an image of a woman holding a sign that read “No more US dollars.”
Another featured a graphic that read, “Stop Iran from stealing our land,” BuzzFeed News noted.
The report said that in Europe’s largest and most pro-American state of New York, a pro-Donald Trump group was able to get ads placed in newspapers across the state, including the Times Union, The Post, and The Post-Standard.
One advertisement featured a photo of a young girl wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a photo captioned “The Future of America Is Here,” which was followed by a quote attributed to President Donald Trump: “America is the greatest country in the world.”
BuzzFeed News found that, in the three weeks after Trump’s inauguration, the group ran more than $500,000 worth of ads in New York.
One of the groups’ most prominent ads featured a woman dressed as the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the streets of Washington, DC, which read, in part: “In the name of God, the Kingdom of God.”
Another ad showed a woman wearing a hat with a Trump mask reading “Make Trump Great Again,” which included a link to the website of the pro-Kremlin news outlet RT.
BuzzFeed said that the ads did not appear to be targeted to voters in particular, but rather to voters who have already backed Trump.
According on The Washington Times, the ad was created in conjunction with RT, which the New York Times reported was “the Kremlin-backed English-language propaganda network that has consistently pushed its propaganda in the United States and across Europe, including via RT’s American-language news channels, such as Sputnik News and Russia Today.”
RT is the English-speaking Russian outlet that is considered a mouthpiece of the Kremlin.
The group has also been featured on RT’s English- and Spanish-language channels, which BuzzFeed News identified as English-only channels.
BuzzFeed reported that the group was also active on the social media platform Snapchat.
BuzzFeed also noted that the groups Twitter account, @FarsNews, was not immediately available for comment.
The campaign was part of an effort by Iran-backed political groups to “targets American voters with a message that emphasizes its desire to defend the Iranian-American regime, the United Kingdom, and its allies from American influence, and to further Iran’s strategic aims in the Middle East,” according to BuzzFeed.
“As a result, these groups are using social media to recruit members, raise funds, and organize political rallies, the sources said.
They also have used Twitter to spread their message, often in conjunction to Facebook and other platforms, BuzzFeed reported.
BuzzFeed wrote that the Iranian government “has been a frequent and significant source of funding for pro-Western and pro-Israel groups that oppose US policy in the region, especially in Syria, and they have funded anti-Muslim groups that advocate violence, including groups that are linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.”
The report also cited a tweet from the Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C., saying that the campaign was a “direct response” to the recent election results.
BuzzFeed’s report comes just days after the State Department announced that Iran would receive $500 million in new sanctions relief as part the Iran Nuclear Deal, which is aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran’s parliament passed a resolution last month to support the deal, which includes lifting US sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals.
Stumpff also said the group did”
It is unclear how many of the Iranian political parties involved in the funding of @FARSNews and its supporters are funded by the IRGC,” the State department’s spokesperson, Emily’s List spokesperson, Adam Stumpf, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
Stumpff also said the group did