A group of activists are leading a drive to ban Iranian companies involved in the country’s nuclear program from accessing the Internet — a move that would essentially cut them off from the global information network.
The activists, from a bipartisan group called United Against Nuclear Iran, have appealed to the international providers of Internet domains to deny sanctioned individuals and organizations the right to connect to the Web. Thus far, the companies have not been responsive.
But these attempts could prove superfluous, as Tehran itself has embarked on a move to shut off Internet access and revert to an internal Web that can be accessed only in Iran.
UANI has strong ties to the Jewish community and is supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The anti-Iran group’s co-founders include Dennis Ross, the former presidential Middle East adviser who is now co-chair of a think tank in Jerusalem sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
In two separate letters, dated September 7, UANI demanded that the two major suppliers of Internet domain names in the United States and in Europe immediately stop providing services to Iranian entities subject to sanctions by the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, or by the European Union. The appeals were addressed to the Netherlands-based Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre, known as RIPE NCC, and to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN/IANA and based in Los Angeles.
Mark Wallace, UANI’s CEO and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, argued in the letters that the services provided by these companies “are misused by the sanction-designated Iranian entities and persons to facilitate their illicit operations, activities and communications, including support for Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism around the world and the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown against its own people.” Copies of the letters were sent to the State Department and the Treasury, the two government agencies in charge of sanctions against Iran. The letters also noted that Iran has used its power to block Internet access to others in order to prevent opposition rallies and to monitor the activities of dissidents.
The move would target dozens of Iranian entities that currently have an Internet presence through the country and use the suffix of .ir. These include not just companies owned and operated directly by the Iranian government, but also entities such as Iranian banks now under sanctions as part of an international effort to block Tehran’s access to international trade.
Other websites that would be affected by the move include the Malek Ashtar University), which has been identified in the West as a leading source for training and educating experts for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and Khatam al-Anbiya, a construction company sanctioned by the Treasury Department for serving as an engineering arm for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.