FDD Aligned with State Department to Attack Supporters of Iran Diplomacy

Home Depot co-founder and Republican megadonor Bernard Marcus

by Eli Clifton

On Friday, the State Department suspended its funding for a mysterious website and Twitter account, IranDisInfo.org and @IranDisInfo, after the project attacked human rights workers, journalists and academics, many of whom are based inside the U.S. But the role of the U.S. government in financing IranDisInfo’s criticisms of Human Rights Watch and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that has been outspoken in warning about the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive military posture towards Iran, appears to have been in collaboration with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

FDD pushes for military confrontation with Iran and has received funding from some of Trump and the GOP’s biggest campaign megadonors. While simultaneously denying their support for a war with Iran, FDD’s scholars have repeatedly urged U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic.

In 2011, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz revealed that regime change in Tehran was his organization’s real mission. “The best way [to end Iran’s nuclear program] is to work toward changing the regime,” he said. Dubowitz’s FDD colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht quipped, “I’ve written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran. Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.” Unsurprisingly, Dubowitz and his FDD colleagues have been advising the Trump White House on their regime change strategy in Iran.

FDD’s involvement with IranDisInfo was thinly concealed.  The website and Twitter account heavily promoted Mark Dubowitz and FDD advisor Saeed Ghasseminejad. Buried on FDD’s website is an “Iran Disinformation Project” that publishes the identical content from Ghasseminejad that was cross-posted on IranDisInfo’s website. And on at least five occasions FDD’s Twitter account promoted articles by Ghasseminejad “in @IranDisInfo.” Except the links didn’t send users to IranDisInfo’s website. Instead, the links were to FDD’s own “Iran Disinformation Project,” hosted on FDD’s website.

On Saturday, Dubowitz addressed the growing controversy over IranDisInfo, tweeting that “conspiracists” see “FDD’s hand in everything.” Ghasseminejad tweeted, “FDD is not involved in any way with the [Iran Disinformation Project].”

Dubowitz did not respond to a question about whether Ghasseminejad  was involved in operating IranDisInfo.

FDD would be a natural choice of partners for the Trump State Department. In 2017, FDD received $3.63 million from billionaire Bernard Marcus, which constituted over a quarter of FDD’s contributions that year. Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, is outspoken about his hatred of Iran, which he characterized as “the devil” in a 2015 Fox Business interview. Marcus is Trump’s second biggest campaign supporter, contributing $7 million to pro-Trump super PACs before the 2016 election.

Marcus, who sits on FDD’s board, is also a supporter of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton. He contributed $530,000 to Bolton’s super PAC over its lifetime.

And by the end of the 2011 tax year, Sheldon Adelson, who went on to become Trump’s single biggest campaign funder, the GOP’s biggest funder in the 2018 midterms, and personal advocate for Trump to take Bolton as his national security adviser, was FDD’s third biggest donor, contributing at least $1.5 million. (Dubowitz says Adelson no longer contributes to FDD.) In 2013, Adelson publicly proposed the U.S. launch a preventive nuclear attack on Iran, targeting the desert, and threaten to launch a second nuclear weapon at Tehran if Iran didn’t abandon its nuclear program.

The IranDisInfo project fits solidly within FDD’s modus-operandi of pushing for increasingly hawkish measures against Iran and working to undermine efforts, such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to constrain Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic measures. But the Trump administration’s decision to seemingly enter into a collaborative arrangement with FDD or Ghasseminejad, an FDD “adviser,” points to the State Department, under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s leadership, moving to increasingly align itself with organizations and individuals pushing the U.S. towards another war in the Middle East.

Trump and FDD’s overlapping billionaire donor base is a strong indication that the White House and FDD and are working towards a shared goal. Marcus and Adelson publicly endorse a militarist posture towards Iran and aren’t shy about writing big checks to politicians and organizations that share that mission. With Adelson and Marcus’s preferred national security adviser, John Bolton, evidently pushing the U.S. towards a military confrontation with Iran, it’s no wonder that FDD, possibly (until Friday) with the support of U.S.-taxpayer funding, is engaged in a public-diplomacy campaign against critics of Trump and Bolton’s Iran policy.

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Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. FDD, a mis-named propaganda outfit bankrolled by the billionaire promoters of Israel have been attacking Iran for years. Now it seems that in cahoots with the Trump regime they are running U.S. foreign policy.

    Corruption has always been part of the Washington “swamp”, but this is end-of-empire stuff.

  2. Presumably we don’t want to start any more wars that our son’s and daughters will die in for the sake of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Billionaires buying United States foreign policy. We want to live in peace.

  3. Thanks for the illuminating the mechanism of driving the horse (the US) with only a few pieces of hard sugar (the little but effective money from the respected democracy-loving donors). Each dollar of their ‘hard’ and ‘speechless’ and ‘sugar making’ paper votes matters much more than the opinion of a mass of people like us.

  4. Monty Ahwazi

    FDD is indicative of a much wider conviction in the minds Americans. It lies and it lies for a religious reason and that is the protection of Israel.

    US, under Truman, heavily lobbied UNSC for the creation of Israel.

    Truman was raised in a Protestant Fundamentalist millieu; he had imbibed the same non-sensical attachment to Old Testament as other Protestant Churches in US and UK.

    Marshall advised him against an action that would initiate decades of instability in the Middle East. Truman ignored Marshall.

    When Israelis attacked USS Liberty, Americans did exactly nothing. Johnson did nothing. It would have been a supremely sacrilegious act to retaliate against Israel, the Chosen people of Fundamentalist America.

    Later on, during the 1973 War, Americans put their nuclear weapons system on alert, risking WW3 for Israel.

    Even the Kissinger Shuttle diplomacy that resulted in Camp David Accords was at the Israeli initiative, it did not originate within US Goverment.

    Did anyone in US Government do anything in case of the muder of Racel Corey, in broad daylight?

    On the other hand, it is a rarity for a Jew in America to have enlisted in any branch of US Armed Forces over the last few decades; invariably most such young men had joined IDF. And no one questions even the possibility of divided loyalties.

    The wages of all of that is the religious war in which US has so far destroyed 2 enemies of Israel, was helped by the Ikhwan government of Turkey in trying to destroy Syria, is helping Saudi Arabia destroy enemies of Israel in Yemen, is waging an economic siege war to destroy Iran, all the while laying down the legal basis of war in the years to come.

    Regrettably, even if Americans were interested in ending this war between Jews and Muslims, they cannot do it, they cannot go against their folksy religion and they have burnt their bridges with the Muslim World.

    I suppose after a war in which major cities in Israel have been destroyed and damaged, Israelis might sue for Peace.

    Currently, the Catholic Church is the only conceivable mediator.

    At that time, Americans may be able to dismantle their own war against Iran and others and pack and go home.

    That is likely years or decades into the future.

  5. The modern animosity of the powerful with the less powerful or powerless follows the theory of the “survival of the fittest” and has nothing to do with religious and it has all to do with the economics! Some of the weaker governments using religious as a unification tool, which is undesirable to the imperialists, in some cases with success and others in failure. The imperialists are using religious as a cover for their actions and intentions to destroy those who are disobedient, attempting to protect their sovereignty, do NOT accept modern slavery, do not submit, don’t allow their resources to be stolen, attempting to disrupt flow of resources and finally attempting to control prices of their resources!

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