American Jews Express Concern After Iran threatens Washington Think Tank

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks to the media at a joint press conference in Tehran. (Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Iran threatened a leading Washington think tank with sanctions and “other unspecified measures.” The neo-conservative think tank, The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which counsels hawkish policies toward Iran, said that it has contacted law enforcement over the threats.

The Mehr News Agency, a semi-official Iranian news channel, quoted the Iranian Foreign Ministry as saying it would take sanction against the foundation under a 2017 Iranian law.

“Accordingly, taking any actions by the judicial and security apparatuses against the FDD and their Iranian and non-Iranian accomplices will be considered legitimate as their actions are against the Iran’s national security and the interests of Iranian people and government,” Mehr said.

The veiled threat in the words “taking any actions by the judicial and security apparatuses”
was unclear, but Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, suggested that “Tehran has detained a growing number of foreign nationals on bogus charges, including several academics. Given these risks and today’s threats aimed at a U.S. NGO and its staff, all academic and research organizations should seriously reassess their engagement with Iranian government institutions.”

Despite the recent focus on the danger from white supremacists in the wake of the deadly attacks in El Paso and Pittsburgh, security officials are also taking a close look at Iran and Hezbollah as possible sources of homeland terror.

“We’re constantly monitoring and evaluating with our government partners the situations with recent activity and increased tensions, both in the rhetoric and activities in the Strait of Hormuz,” Michael Masters, the CEO of the Secure Community Network, the security arm of national Jewish organizations, said in an interview.

Several weeks ago, SCN convened a meeting for Jewish security officials across the country with officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Counterterrorism Center to discuss the potential threat from Iran and Hezbollah.

The focus of the briefing, according to Masters, was on physical and cyber threats, areas in which Iran and its proxies have carried out successful attacks.

Masters noted the indictment last year of two Iranian citizens caught surveilling the Rohr Chabad House in Chicago, as well as repeated suspected cyber-hacking attempts on Jewish institutions.

“We’re reminding people to be vigilant about access control” to computers and computer networks, he said.

“We’re working to protect the whole community,” he added.

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