Iran accuses US think tank of 'economic terrorism,' threatens action by 'security apparatuses'

The Iranian government said Saturday that it had imposed sanctions in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based think tank that has led criticism of the 2015 nuclear deal.

A statement from Tehran's foreign ministry published in Iranian media, including the semi-official Fars news agency, accused the FDD and its CEO Mark Dubowitz of "economic terrorism ... including spreading lies, lobbyism, propaganda against Iran," because of the group's mission to expose human rights violations by the Tehran regime and advocate for harsher sanctions by the U.S. against the Middle Eastern nation.

This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry shows Iran-made Bavar-373 air-defense missile system. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry shows Iran-made Bavar-373 air-defense missile system. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP) (AP)

The State-run Mehr news agency wrote that the sanctions against the FDD were in line with an Iranian law enacted in 2017. The sanctions have little effect unless the target of the punishment actively uses the Iranian financial system.

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"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," the agency wrote.

The FDD defended their organization's work and condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran in a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday

“FDD conducts independent research and analysis on national security issues," the think tank said on Twitter Saturday. "The Islamic Republic prohibits such freedoms at home, and would like to do so abroad as well.

"The Islamic Republic, which has occupied the great nation of Iran for four decades, continues to brutally repress the peoples of Iran, stealing their wealth and creating destruction and chaos in the Middle East. FDD considers its inclusion on any list put out by the regime as a badge of honor and looks forward to the day when Americans and others can visit a free and democratic Iran.”

State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus condemned Iran and stated that the FDD had the full support and protection of the U.S. government.

"The outlaw regime in Iran issued a threat today against @FDD, an American think tank, and its CEO. The U.S. takes the regime’s threats seriously. We intend to hold Iran responsible for directly or indirectly compromising the safety of any American," Ortagus said on Twitter.

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Tensions between the U.S. and Tehran have grown after President Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal last year over concerns about Iran's ballistic missile program and regional influence, which has severely crippled Iran's economy. The U.S. has also re-imposed and created sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude oil aboard, a crucial source of hard currency for the regime.

Iran has continued to sponsor and support terrorist activities in the Middle East and abroad through its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.