Iran launched an operation against the West this month, but not by menacing an oil tanker or targeting a U.S. drone.
In a social media gambit, the regime tried to stoke confusion. It stole the identity of a French diplomat in Jerusalem and had him tweet that Maryam Rajavi, head of the biggest Iranian dissident group, had visited archenemy Israel to set anti-Iran strategy.
Overall, Iran practices two-front cyberwarfare — hacking and trolling — just like U.S. adversaries Russia and China. In recent months, Tehran has stepped up attacks on U.S. computer networks to steal information and disable networks, officials say.
The cyberwarfare operations were launched as Iran is being boxed in by the Trump administration and its renewed economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Ms. Rajavi’s group, held its annual “Free Iran” conference earlier this month in Albania, its home base. The group and its affiliated People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) are Iran’s most dangerous internal threats.
The ruling mullahs in Tehran often vow to destroy Israel. They calculate that a trending fake tweet will divert a resistive public’s attention away from Iran’s underperforming economy while undercutting the resistance’s appeal.
“Inside of Iran, the most senior officials of the regime keep publicly warning on the surge in the youth support for the MEK and the activities of the MEK resistance units,” Shahin Gobadi, an MEK spokesman, told The Washington Times.
“The need of the regime to resort to such a ploy could be better realized in the context of the regime’s overall state of affairs,” Mr. Gobadi said. “It is facing an explosive society, a crumbling economy and growing international isolation. In this situation, the mullahs’ only solution is resorting to stepping up suppression, more arrests, more terrorism abroad and intensifying the disinformation campaign against the resistance.”
The Twitter caper began July 23, when Fars News Agency, a mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Pierre Cochard, the French consul in Jerusalem, sent five tweets claiming Ms. Rajavi had visited Israel.
Within hours, Iranian operatives in Europe were retweeting the supposed Cochard posts.