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July 7, 2016

The Iran Nuclear Deal: One Year Later

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

As we approach the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) it is an appropriate time to reassess the merits of the deal. ADL was among the nuclear deal’s critics.

Beyond the nuclear restraints it would impose on Iran, our concern it is that it would normalize an expansionist, militant regime whose unrepentant and fundamentalist ideology was not tamed by the deal.

Unlike previous major arms control treaties in our country’s past that signaled a strategic turn in relation with historic adversaries, the Iran nuclear deal promised no such realignment. That is why we felt the sunset of the JCPOA’s most important constraints posed such a troubling problem. That is ultimately why we could not abide by it.

Iran Deal-condensed

During the past year, Iran has taken key steps outlined in the JCPOA to limit its nuclear program, including shipping the vast majority of its enriched uranium out of the country and dismantling centrifuges. In this sense, the Administration has delivered on its immediate term objectives of significantly lengthening the breakout time for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the international community successfully has implemented a far reaching verification system across the entire supply chain of the production of uranium, making it far less likely for Iran to successfully maintain a covert uranium enrichment capacity. Indeed, as retired Israeli general and former director of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin has pointed out, if Iran remains fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA, the deal will significantly reduce the immediate threat of a nuclear conflict in the Middle East.

Any reasonable observers must acknowledge this important reduction of nuclear risk in the short term. However, it would be foolish not to consider the wider effects of the JCPOA in the region — as well the challenges the deal will present over the long term. Iran reached an accommodation with the international community due to the tremendous economic damage it suffered under the unprecedented sanctions regime. Together with the precipitous drop in oil prices, the Islamic Republic of Iran essentially made a deal to postpone its nuclear options for 10–15 years.

But even before Iran is — under the terms of the deal — allowed to engage in research and development on advanced centrifuges, we can evaluate its behavior to determine whether early compliance was a good measure of the long term effectiveness of the JCPOA in terms of helping to facilitate Iran’s reentry into the community of nations. Theoretically there is much we can learn by looking at the early warning signs rather than waiting for a decade to determine progress. Indeed, in that timeframe, when sanctions are only a distant memory and with business and foreign investment likely flowing, a regime still committed to hostility could try to violate aspects of the agreement, testing the international communities’ willingness to enforce its provisions. Perhaps at first, these violations will not be egregious. But, slowly, an unrepentant Iran is likely to test the limits of enforcement.

So is Iran normalizing? Does the JCPOA herald a new era in its relations with the West? The early signs are not encouraging.

“Today the most impor­tant point for the Islamic world is unity against Israel and who­ever breaks this unity would be a trai­tor. Peo­ple of Iran never aban­don their goal. I hope that a third intifada will lead to the destruc­tion of Israel.”

— Grand Aya­tol­lah Hos­sein Nouri Hamadani

Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles while not included in the terms of the JCPOA, continues in clear violation of existing UN Security Council Resolutions. So far it has faced few consequences.

It maintains the unenviable title of the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism” in the world.

As manifested in recent Quds Day demonstrations, its continued genocidal rantings toward Israel — including threats by Iran’s Supreme Leader that “God willing, there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists,” — are far outside the pale, indicative of its role as leading fomenter of regional instability.

Indeed, in the eyes of its neighbors, the Iranian threat has grown, not diminished since the deal was signed. More troubling is that few countries have confidence that Iranian expansionism will be contained by reliable American leadership are low. Reports indicate that it is increasing its funding for the Lebanese terror militia Hezbollah whose leader recently admitted that for his group, “its budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Beyond Lebanon, Iran works to spread its revolutionary ideology in order to destabilize other countries throughout the region including IraqBahrain,Yemen and others. The noted Syrian-Palestinian activist Kassem Eid publicly described the Islamic Republic as “a religious dictatorship, the Shia face of ISIS” that “uses its resources to establish a sectarian empire across the Islamic world.”

Iran’s record on human rights at home is deplorable. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, recently reported that there “is an alarming surge in the rate of unlawful executions in the country, and ongoing arbitrary arrests, detentions and prosecutions of individual for the exercise of their fundamental rights.” Ethnic and religious minorities including Baha’i,Christians, and Sunni Muslims continue to suffer the cruel whims of the regime. Similar sorry fate is what is faced by juveniles and journalists targeted by the regime.

One year after it signed the supposedly historic agreement with the United States and its partners in the P5+1, the Islamic Republic remains the leading exporter of deadly conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. In recent months we have seen a revival of their notorious Holocaust cartoon contest, which encourages Holocaust revisionism and outright denial. The regime is a font of global anti-Semitism. Wild accusations of Zionist plots abound, such as blaming imports of genetically modified products to infect Iranians with diseases on the Zionistsor accusing “Jewish actors” of conspiring Saudis to spread Wahhabism. In the last few days when the rest of the world has mourned the loss of noted peace activist Elie Weisel, Iran opted to slander the Nobel Laureate as a “criminal Zionist and fake witness of Holocaust.”

And while the lifting of sanctions was the trade-off in the deal, it is still troubling to see the Islamic Republic land large contracts with venerated Western firms, such as Boeing’s $25 billion deal with Iran to build up its air fleet. Not only might some of the planes be used for Iranian military activities, this sends an unambiguous message that Iran has become a fully-accepted member of the international community, a viable partner for business, without changing its extremist course.

All of these signs speak to a reality that Iran remains a belligerent actor whose norms and rhetoric do not line up with those of other nations, save perhaps North Korea. Despite the early benefits of the JCPOA, the regime appears more interested in hostility than normalcy. It is clear, given its regional behavior, that Iran does not sufficiently fear consequences for its actions. In short, it is undeterred. This is all the more alarming because as the robustness of the provisions restricting Iran’s nuclear ambitions wane towards the end of the life of the deal, credible deterrence will be the only force keeping it from crossing the hair-thin threshold to nuclear weapons.

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May 20, 2016

ADL Alerts Service Providers to Hezbollah Presence on Their Platforms

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, speaking on al-Manar television

Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, speaking on al-Manar television

UPDATE: 5/20/16 – Facebook & Instagram have removed the accounts identified in this blog.

Al-Manar, the media wing of Hezbollah, has long broadcast terrorist propaganda disguised as news to the Arab speaking world. After being dropped by two of the largest satellite providers in the Arabic speaking world, ArabSat (which dropped the channel in December 2015) and NileSat (which dropped the channel in April 2016), Hezbollah is relying increasingly on online platforms to maintain its viewer base. As a result, removal of al-Manar presence from online platforms at this time has the potential to significantly disrupt the group’s reach and impact.

Al-Manar, designated by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, currently has official presence on a number of U.S.-based social media and web platforms, most of which are linked from al-Manar’s official website. ADL has alerted the companies to the group’s presence.

ADL regularly alerts Internet companies to terrorist exploitation of their services, and most companies quickly remove the content when alerted. We have informed the relevant companies of these examples of Hezbollah use of their platforms and anticipate that they will remove the content once again.

Twitter

Al-Manar has an official Twitter handle, @almanarnews, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The account appears to have been created in July 2010, and has upwards of 334,000 followers. According to the page description, “Al-Manar website News and programs. Al-Manar TV is considered the television of the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli occupation.” The description also includes a link to live streaming of al-Manar broadcasts on the al-Manar website.

Most of the Tweets on the al-Manar Twitter feed include statements promoting violence against the U.S., Israel, and other entities Hezbollah considers to be its enemies. It also features statements and speeches of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah.

Specific examples of Tweets include one Tweet from May 18, 2016 that stated,“The American presence is an occupation that must be fought against,” one Tweet from October 8, 2015 with an image showing a stabbed Israeli civilian and a misleading caption that reads: “an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem;” and a link to an article that praises stabbing attacks against Israelis. Another Tweet from January 28, 2016 states, “The missiles of the Resistance (Hezbollah) disturb Washington…[because] Israel’s safety comes first [for the U.S.].

 

An al-Manar Tweet showing a stabbed Israeli civilian. The caption reads, "an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem"

An al-Manar Tweet showing a stabbed Israeli civilian. The caption reads, “an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem”

Facebook

Al-Manar has an official Facebook page titled al-Manar Channel – the Official Page (in Arabic). The page can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website and has over 4,000 followers. The page displays al-Manar’s official log and posts news about Hezbollah and links to live streaming of al-Manar television.

As on the Twitter feed, most of the posts on the al-Manar Facebook page include statements promoting violence against the U.S., Israel, and other entities Hezbollah considers to be its enemies, as well as Islamic extremist views and statements and speeches by Hassan Nasrallah.

Specific examples of posts include a cartoon posted on May 18, 2016 depicting an American soldier supporting ISIS and a post encouraging stabbing terrorist attacks in Israel with an image of a knife covered with the Palestinian flag with the Arabic text stating, “stab it in the heart of your enemy.”

A cartoon posted on al-Manar's Facebook page depicting a U.S. soldier supporting ISIS.

A cartoon posted on al-Manar’s Facebook page depicting a U.S. soldier supporting ISIS.

One of the posts, also dated May 18, 2016, includes an admission of the group’s violation of Facebook’s terms of service. It reads, “To our honorable and beloved page visitors, no matter how many pages they shut down. We will always be the voice of resistance which doesn’t know defeat or submission.  We invite you, oh you who love resistance, resistance fighters, and the leader of the resistance to stand right in the face of falsehood to call upon relatives and friends to actively participate in this page, which thanks to God and thanks to your efforts you will continue and win.”

Instagram 

Al-Manar has an official Instagram page called almanarnews. The page has 873 followers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The page’s Arabic-language description states, “Al-Manar website News and programs,  al-Manar TV is considered the television of the Lebanese resistance against the  Israeli occupation.” The description also provides a link for users to “watch the TV channel broadcast.”

The Instagram page displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to live streaming of the terrorist entity’s TV broadcast.

YouTube

Al-Manar has an official YouTube page called Al Manar Channel 3. The page has 9,669 followers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The page description calls it, “The official page of the Lebanese Media Group al-Manar channel-Lebanon.”

The YouTube page displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to media materials produced by al-Manar. The channel also has a live stream of the al-Manar TV station and includes posts and videos featuring Hezbollah’s military operations.

WhatsApp

Al-Manar has an official WhatsApp service called Al-Manar channel WhatsApp service, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The al-Manar WhatsApp service page also links to other al-Manar social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The service provides subscription options for groups of five or more people, or for individuals.

The al-Manar WhatsApp service

The al-Manar WhatsApp service

ADL previously exposed Hezbollah use of WhatsApp in 2014, including attempts by the group to interest WorldCup supporters in its services via WhatsApp.

Telegram

Al-Manar has an official Telegram channel called almanarnews, which has 17,538 followers and is accessible via direct link from the al-Manar website. The channel description states that it is “The official account of al-Manar channel on Telegram” and provides a link for users to “watch the TV channel broadcast” on the al-Manar website.

The channel displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to posts and videos from the satellite station.

Posts on the channel include extensive news about terror attacks in Israel, including posts that read, “Occupied Palestine: The martyrdom of the one who executed the stabbing operation in Jerusalem,” and “The enemy’s media: an Israeli attacked in a stabbing operation in Israel.”

On May 20, AlManar also launched two additional Telegram channels, called Almanarnewsbot and Almanarnews_bot, presumably as backup channels in case their original channel is removed from the platform. They have already begun to post news from the Almanarnewsbot channel, but the Almanarnews_bot channel is inactive as of this posting.

Apps for mobile devices

In the past two weeks, ADL has discovered and alerted platforms to the development of new apps that enable al-Manar streaming for mobile phones. These included an app on iTunes, which iTunes has since removed, and an app on Google Play. Al-manar subsequently posted a statement on Twitter recommending that its Apple users use Telegram to get news and alerts, rather than iTunes. There is reason to assume that Hezbollah will continue attempting to create new apps, as it has done multiple times in the past.

Al-Manar's Tweet advising Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

Al-Manar’s Tweet advising Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

ADL has consistently documented Hezbollah’s creation of apps for mobile devices and alerted platforms to their existence each time. Information on each of these instances is available at the following links:

Hezbollah on Your IPhone: There’s an App for That (2012)

Hezbollah Re-Launches Apps; Blames ADL For Failure Of Previous Effort (2012)

Hezbollah Military Branch Offers Free Podcasts On iTunes (2013)

Hezbollah Is Still Trying To Broadcast Messages To Your Handheld (2014)

Hezbollah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time (2014)

ADL also regularly monitors online presence and propaganda by other terrorist organizations, including Hamas, ISIS and al Qaeda.

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May 13, 2016

New ISIS App One of Many Efforts to Indoctrinate Children

A screenshot from the ISIS app with the letter Ba for Bunduqiya, meaning rifle

A screenshot from the ISIS app with the letter Ba for Bunduqiya, meaning rifle

Update – 9/27/16: In September 2016, ISIS released an updated version of the app, along with an accompanying workbook. The app and workbook were announced on Twitter and Telegram and were downloadable from file sharing sites.

ISIS has released a mobile app designed to teach young children the Arabic alphabet while simultaneously indoctrinating them with militant ideology. The app was shared via ISIS channels on the chat application Telegram and made available on file sharing sites, many of which have since deleted the link.

Featuring brightly colored, cheerful graphics, the appoffers educational content for learning letters, such as songs designed for enabling memorization. However, the songs are filled with extremist rhetoric, and words that begin with the letters shown include gun, tank, rocket and bullet.

This is not the first instance of ISIS propaganda featuring or targeting children. The group has released multiple videos containing acts of violence committed or incited by children as young as toddlers, as well as videos featuring children engaged in combat training. Many of the group’s more positively themed videos, designed to suggest that ISIS is creating a utopian community, have shown children playing, singing, and enjoying ice cream and other treats. ISIS propaganda videos are not only exported to extremists outside ISIS territory but also are regularly broadcast inside areas the group controls. Reports have indicated that children within ISIS territory are regularly forced to watch the violent propaganda videos.

A young child in an ISIS propaganda video

A young child in an ISIS propaganda video

But ISIS is not the only terrorist organization to directly target children. ADL has documented several militant online video games created for children by Hezbollah, which Hezbollah claimed were designed “to strengthen the cul­ture of resistance” – meaning, to indoctrinate children.

ISIS, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations have also created other mobile apps aimed at adult audiences, with the goal of spreading their propaganda on as many platforms as

Children eating ice cream in an ISIS propaganda video

Children eating ice cream in an ISIS propaganda video

possible. ADL has just exposed a new app created to broadcast Hezbollah’s al-Manar news outlet, which was made available for download on iTunes.ISIS has also created several iterations of news apps. Currently active channels are featured on the mobile chat app Telegram and contain backup mechanisms so that if the initial channel is shut down, users are automatically added to a newly created channel and can continue receiving ISIS news and propaganda directly onto their mobile phones.

Children in military training in an ISIS propaganda video

Children in military training in an ISIS propaganda video

Furthermore, ISIS’s sleek and sophisticated propaganda is regularly aimed at audiences not considered traditional demographics for extremist recruitment. For example, the group also has a propaganda wing that specifically targets women and has put significant efforts into recruiting female members.

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