The Iranian government is rejecting as "absurd" and "dangerous" U.S. intelligence officials' allegations Wednesday evening that Tehran was behind a torrent of threatening emails recently sent to registered Democratic voters and designed to appear as if they were sent by the Proud Boys, a violent pro-Trump group.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesperson for Iran's mission to the United Nations, said in a statement that the accusations—leveled by U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray during an unusual Wednesday night press conference—are "nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence in the security of the U.S. election."
"Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other countries' elections. The world has been witnessing the U.S.'s own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level," Miryousefi added, apparently referring to U.S. President Donald Trump's repeated attempts to preemptively sow doubt about the election's legitimacy. "Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome. The U.S. must end its malign and dangerous accusations against Iran."
"The Trump administration has eroded its credibility across the board on these issues, including by sowing doubt in our elections process, inviting foreign interference, and politicizing intelligence including on all things Iran."
—Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council
During their hastily arranged press conference at FBI headquarters late Wednesday, Ratcliffe and Wray alleged that both Iran and Russia obtained U.S. voter information and are attempting to use the data to disrupt the U.S. election, which is less than two weeks away. Russia also denied involvement in the alleged election interference scheme.
"These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," said Radcliffe, who claimed the spoofed emails were intended to "incite social unrest and damage President Trump."
But given the Trump administration's record of distorting intelligence, particularly when it comes to Iran—a nation that has long been in the crosshairs of the president and his hawkish advisers—outside observers said the allegations should be met with extreme skepticism.
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said in a statement that while the alleged election interference should be investigated, "we should be careful about drawing conclusions about the scale or the intent if these claims bear out."
"Regrettably, the Trump administration has eroded its credibility across the board on these issues, including by sowing doubt in our elections process, inviting foreign interference, and politicizing intelligence including on all things Iran," said Abdi. "The best way to counter illegitimate interference in our election, whether from at home or abroad, is to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to cast their ballot securely and for everyone to go vote."
Advocacy group Win Without War echoed Abdi's doubts about the veracity of the accusations, noting in a pair of tweets late Wednesday that "this is the same administration who has twice in the last 12 months nearly gone to war with Iran."
"We urge folks to be cautious about the news from the Trump administration this evening regarding election interference," the group said.
We urge folks to be cautious about the news from the Trump administration this evening regarding election interference. Note that this is the same administration who has twice in the last 12 mos. nearly gone to war with Iran. 1/
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) October 22, 2020
The sad truth is the repeated lies from this Admin and DNI Ratcliffe in particular make it impossible to believe their claims without further evidence. 2/
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— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) October 22, 2020
Citing an unnamed U.S. intelligence official, Reuters reported late Wednesday that "the emails are under investigation" and it is "still unclear who was behind them."
"Another government source said that U.S. officials are investigating whether people in Iran had hacked into a Proud Boys network or website to distribute threatening materials," according to Reuters. "This source said U.S. officials suspect the Iranian government was involved but that the evidence remains inconclusive."
One of the emails sent to Florida voters this week by "email@example.com" contains the subject line, "Vote for Trump or else!"
"You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you," the email reads.
CBS News reported that "while at first glance the email seems to come from an account under the domain of a website affiliated with The Proud Boys, a review of the source code embedded in seven emails... shows the message originated from IP addresses linked to servers located in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Estonia."
"The IP addresses don't establish that the senders are based in those countries," CBS added, "since the messages could have been routed through the servers from nearly anywhere."
NIAC research analyst Sina Toossi tweeted Thursday that "we should view the Trump administration's claims about #Iran with utmost scrutiny."
"In November 2017, senior Justice Department officials feared Trump wanted to publicize claims against Iran to increase conflict," Toossi noted. "And no evidence has been presented about last night's claims."