US intelligence chief says Iran has sought to stoke Gaza protests to sow discord

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters block the parade route during the NYC Pride March, June 30, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters block the parade route during the NYC Pride March, June 30, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The US director of National Intelligence reveals that Iranian government actors in recent weeks have sought to take advantage of ongoing protests regarding the war in Gaza in order to stoke discord in the US.

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

“I want to be clear that I know Americans who participate in protests are, in good faith, expressing their views on the conflict in Gaza. This intelligence does not indicate otherwise… But it is also important to warn of foreign actors who seek to exploit our debate for their own purposes,” the US intel chief adds, urging Americans to remain vigilant when engaging with online actors they don’t know.

In May, Haines warned in congressional testimony that Iran is becoming increasingly aggressive in its efforts to undermine confidence in American democratic institutions, particularly in the lead-up to presidential and congressional elections.

“They continue to adapt their cyber and influence activities, using social media platforms and issuing threats. It is likely they will continue to rely on their intelligence services in these efforts, as well as Iran-based online influencers, to promote their narratives,” Haines says.

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