Republican senators call on Twitter to suspend Iran’s Khamenei, Zarif

Greg Nash

A group of Republican senators lead by Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) sent a letter to Twitter on Thursday asking the platform to suspend the accounts of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to comply with U.S. sanction law.

The letter to CEO Jack Dorsey argues that an executive order from last summer imposing sanctions on Khamenei and those acting on his behalf prohibits Twitter from providing services to the two Iranian officials.

Multiple accounts in different languages claim to be associated with Khamenei while Zarif has a verified account. Twitter is blocked in Iran, although residents could theoretically use virtual private networks to access the site.

“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,” Cruz and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote.

“And, as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of U.S. citizens — the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. sanctions laws,” they added.

The letter was also shared with President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General William Barr and David Anderson, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, where Twitter’s headquarters are located.

Twitter declined to comment on the letter.

The platform removes accounts owned or directly affiliated with groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department, but does not have a similar policy for those sanctioned by the Treasury Department.

Twitter also reserves the right to delete accounts that break rules around inciting violence. As the senators noted in their letter, some tweets from accounts linked to Khamenei have been removed for doing so.

In 2018, the company said it would not remove accounts from world leaders.

”Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter wrote in a blog post. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

Tags Ali Khamenei Ali Khamenei Anti-Americanism Donald Trump Donald Trump Iran–United States relations Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Steven Mnuchin Ted Cruz Tom Cotton Twitter William Barr
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