The United States on Wednesday imposed a slew of new sanctions against Iranian officials involved in the ongoing crackdown on nationwide protests in Iran – the latest US response to Tehran’s efforts to quash outrage after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
“It has been 40 days since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’ and we join her family and the Iranian people for a day of mourning and reflection,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“The United States is committed to supporting the Iranian people and ensuring that those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the ongoing nationwide protests in Iran are held accountable,” Blinken said. “Today, we are announcing a joint action between the State and Treasury Departments designating 14 individuals and three entities using five different authorities, demonstrating our commitment to use all appropriate tools to hold all levels of the Iranian government to account.”
Wednesday’s Treasury Department sanctions target the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ intelligence organization and the IRGC’s deputy commander for operations, as well as two officials in the Sistan and Baluchistan province, “site of some of the worst violence in the latest round of protests,” the agency said in a separate sanction.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned numerous Iranian prison officials, including Hedayat Farzadi, the warden of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
In addition to the sanctions related to crackdowns on protesters, the Treasury Department also designated two Iranians and the school they founded – Ravin Academy – which “trains individuals in cyber security and hacking,” as well as Samane Gostar Sahab Pardaz Private Limited Company, “one of the main operators of social media filtering services in Iran,” the Treasury Department said.
“Hackers trained at the Ravin Academy have been involved in directly disrupting the communication of those protesting against the Iranian regime,” Blinken said.
The State Department sanctioned “Iranian commander and chief of police in Isfahan Province, Mohammed Reza Mirheydary … for his involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of peaceful protestors during the November 2021 protests in Isfahan, Iran,” Blinken said. “As a result of today’s action, Mirheydary is ineligible for entry into the United States.”
The top US diplomat also announced the US is imposing sanctions “on two individuals and one entity implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in Iran” – Bushehr Prison, which has “reportedly been the site of several human rights abuses,” Mohammed Reza Ostad, “the warden of that facility while gross violations of human rights occurred there;” and Mohammed Reza Mirheydary, “the commander and chief of the police force in Isfahan Province.”
The Biden administration has unveiled a series of measures aimed at punishing the regime for its repression of the Iranian people and to try to support the protesters.
In late September, the US announced sanctions on Iran’s morality police following the death of Amini in their custody.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department said it was sanctioning the morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
Shortly thereafter, amid internet shutdowns by the Iranian government in the face of widespread protests over Amini’s death, the US government took a step meant to allow technology firms to help the people of Iran access information online.
In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson last week, Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley emphasized that the US policy on Iran “is not one of regime change instigated from Washington.”
“Our policy is to defend and support the fundamental rights of Iranian citizens just as we want to support the fundamental rights of citizens across the globe,” he said.
“Form of government in Iran will be up to the Iranians to decide. Our position, which is very clear, is we support the fundamental human rights of ordinary Iranian women and men and that is our policy,” Malley added.
Malley said “there’s no doubt” about which side of the widespread protests the United States is supporting: the protesters.
“We’re on the side of those fundamental rights and of those fundamental rights being respected,” he said.
US officials, including Malley, have said supporting the protesters – not the Iran nuclear deal – are their focus right now, as efforts to restore the nuclear agreement have hit yet another impasse.
The Biden administration’s punitive measures on Iran for its crackdowns on protesters comes as the US and Europe work to counter Iran and Russia’s growing cooperation on the war in Ukraine. Russian forces have in recent weeks pummeled Ukrainian cities with Iranian drones. State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said last week that the “deepening” of relations between Moscow and Tehran should be seen as “a profound threat.”
Patel said that the United States would “continue to take practical, aggressive steps to make these weapons sales harder, including sanctions, export control actions against any entities involved.”
“We have extensive tools available at our arsenal to disrupt not just Iranian arms transfers, but also to continue to hold Russia accountable for their preposterous acts in Ukraine as well,” Patel said at a department briefing last Tuesday.