‘Actors tied to Iran’s government’ helping finance anti-Israel protesters: US intel

The director of national intelligence warned Tuesday that “actors tied to Iran’s government” have “opportunistically” co-opted some anti-Israel protests in the U.S., supporting and financing some work.

Avril Haines said in the first of what she said will be consistent threat updates about Iran and other U.S. adversaries abroad that Iran is “becoming increasingly aggressive in their foreign influence efforts.”

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

Haines made clear that the anti-Israel protest movement is not created by Iran-linked actors, and much of the speech is authentic from Americans.

Protests against the Israeli government and the Biden administration response to the Israel-Hamas have become commonplace across the country in recent months. The movement has been most visible on college campuses, where thousands of students and activists took over campus areas to protest the war.

“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,” Haines said. “Moreover, the freedom to express diverse views, when done peacefully, is essential to our democracy, but it is also important to warn of foreign actors who seek to exploit our debate for their own purposes.”

“Furthermore, Americans who are being targeted by this Iranian campaign may not be aware that they are interacting with or receiving support from a foreign government,” she continued. “We urge all Americans to remain vigilant as they engage online with accounts and actors they do not personally know.”

The protests have mostly demanded Biden back a permanent cease-fire in the conflict and cease sending military aid to Israel. Negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a Biden-backed cease-fire proposal have restarted in recent days, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown reluctance to embrace a long-term pause in fighting.

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