National Security

Iranian Gov’t Agents Have Provided ‘Financial Support’ To Gaza Protesters, US Intel Chief Says

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Iranian government agents have provided “financial support” to pro-Palestinian protesters across the U.S., the Biden administration’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

Pro-Palestinian protests and riots spread across the U.S. following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel, which killed roughly 1,200 people and sparked a regional war in Gaza. Iran is seeking to exploit these protests for its own purposes and is providing measures of support for the protesters, including funding, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in a statement on Tuesday. (RELATED: Biden Admin Slow Rolls Oil Sanctions Against Russia, Iran In Bid To Keep Gas Prices Down Ahead Of Election)

“Iran is becoming increasingly aggressive in their foreign influence efforts, seeking to stoke discord and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions, as we have seen them do in the past, including in prior election cycles,” Haines said. “In recent weeks, Iranian government actors have sought to opportunistically take advantage of ongoing protests regarding the war in Gaza, using a playbook we’ve seen other actors use over the years.”

“We have observed actors tied to Iran’s government posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protests, and even providing financial support to protesters.”

There are some protesters who express their views “in good faith,” Haines said, but it “is also important to warn of foreign actors who seek to exploit our debate for their own purposes.” Protesters who are interacting or getting support from Iran may not be aware of it, according to Haines.

Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and a vocal supporter of Hamas’ attacks against Israel and the Palestinian cause. Tehran considers the West an adversary and has made several efforts to try to undermine the U.S., including through cyber attacks, espionage efforts and threats, Haines said.

Iran has supported a network of terror groups in the Middle East, including the Houthis, a Yemeni-based terror group that has attempted to shut down shipping through the Red Sea by launching attacks against vessels. Iran directly engaged in conflict with Israel in April, but all of its attacks either missed or were intercepted by the U.S. and Israeli forces.

Several pro-Palestinian protests have turned into riots or violent displays, with protesters physically or verbally attacking Jewish people. Protesters at universities across the U.S. have sometimes barricaded themselves into buildings and gotten into large-scale confrontations with police officers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has been publicly supportive of the university and campus protests across the U.S.

“You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure—a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime,” Khameini wrote in an open letter.

A new president, Masoud Pezeshkian, will serve under Khameini after he was elected in presidential elections on Friday, according to CNBC. The sudden elections were called after former President Ibrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in May.

President Joe Biden has been under pressure from protesters and his voting base to secure a ceasefire deal in Gaza, but efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.

“Threatening people, intimidating people, instilling fear in people is not a peaceful protest.  It’s against the law,” Biden said in May. “Look, it’s basically a matter of fairness. It’s a matter of what’s right.  There’s the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos.”

The DNI declined to comment.

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