Republican Senators urge Twitter to ban Khamenei, Zarif from the platform

A group of 4 Republican Senators sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to remove the twitter accounts of both Iran's supreme leader and their Foreign Minister

The ceremonial swearing in of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the Old Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol, January 3rd, 2019. (photo credit: JACK GRUBER-USA TODAY VIA REUTERS)
The ceremonial swearing in of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the Old Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol, January 3rd, 2019.
WASHINGTON – A group of four Republican senators sent a letter on Thursday to Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, urging him to remove the accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The letter was led by Sen.
Ted Cruz and co-signed by Tom Cotton, Marsha Blackburn and Marco Rubio.
In a copy of the letter seen by The Jerusalem Post, the senators made the case that blocking Khamenei, Zarif and other regime official accounts would be complying with Executive Order 13876 issued by US President Donald Trump in June 2019, which ordered blocking the property of Khamenei and the Iranian supreme leader’s office, as well as people who act on Khamenei’s behalf. Zarif was designated under the same executive order later in the year.
“All Americans – including you and T
witter – are prohibited from ‘the making of any contribution or provision of... goods or services’ to them,” the senators noted.
“While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans – and Twitter should not be censoring the political speech of Americans – the Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights,” the four wrote in their letter. “And, as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of US citizens – the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to US sanctions laws.”
The senators also added that while former president Barack Obama’s administration published General License (GL) D-1, “which created an exception for services and software incident to Internet-based communications,” it does not apply “to any Iranian government official designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for reasons other than being an Iranian government official.
“A Twitter account is a service,” the senators continued. “Neither GL D-1 nor any other authority exempts Twitter from American sanctions. We, therefore, call on you to comply with those sanctions by ceasing the provision of services to Khamenei, Zarif, and any other designated Iranian entity.”
“The Obama administration quietly gave the Iranian regime access to American social media – and unfortunately, the Trump administration has left many of those policies on the books,” an aide to one of the senators who signed the letter told the Post. “But the Trump team’s maximum pressure campaign does mean that at least sanctioned officials like Zarif and Khamenei have to be expelled, which is what this letter outlines.”
Last November, Twitter had suspended all Hamas-affiliated accounts and “most” accounts associated with Hezbollah. “There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organizations and violent extremist groups,” a company spokesperson told AFP.
The social media platform made the decision after a bipartisan group of US lawmakers accused it of violating American law by allowing content from US-designated terrorist groups to appear on the micro-blogging site. Congress called on Twitter to suspend all accounts affiliated with Hezbollah and Hamas by November 2.
“I was glad that they came to their senses about changing their policy and not supporting foreign terrorists,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) told the Post last November. “I am happy that they listened to our case and recognized that this was a violation of US law – and took steps to remedy it.”