The administration of President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued its relentless “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions targeting Iran, blacklisting a foundation controlled by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over alleged human rights abuses.
Iran’s intelligence chief was also part of Wednesday’s blacklistings by the US Treasury Department.
In a statement on its website, the Treasury described the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation as “an immense conglomerate” with 160 holdings in key sectors of Iran’s economy covering finance, energy, construction and mining.
Treasury alleges that Foundation holdings earmarked to help the poor and oppressed are “expropriated from the Iranian people and are used by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to enrich his office, reward his political allies, and persecute the regime’s enemies”, according to a statement on the Treasury’s website.
Some 50 subsidiaries and 10 individuals associated with the Foundation were also sanctioned.
As part of Wednesday’s action, the US Treasury also blacklisted Mahmoud Alavi. He is the head of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which Treasury claims “has played a key role in the Iranian regime’s brutal human rights abuses against the Iranian people”, including beatings, sexual abuse, prolonged interrogations, and coerced confessions.
Firms, individuals and other entities targeted by US sanctions are subject to asset freezes and Americans are generally barred from doing business with them.
Trump, who is set to leave office on January 3 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, has taken a hardline stance against Iran throughout his presidency.
The Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal with world powers back in 2018 and has imposed round after round of sanctions geared towards crippling Iran’s economy and financially punishing its most powerful figures in an effort to force Tehran back to the nuclear negotiating table.
Protests swept Iran in November 2019 after the government announced a surprise petrol price increase to raise revenue to help the country’s poorest.
Iranian authorities responded with a violent crackdown that human rights group Amnesty International said killed more than 300 protesters, including 23 children.
Iran has disputed Amnesty’s figures.
The US State Department on Wednesday also blacklisted two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials over last year’s protests, accusing them of complicity in the killing of 148 civilians in the city of Mahshahr and imposing an internet blackout to conceal evidence of the crackdown.
The action bars the blacklisted individuals and members of their immediate families from entering the US.
“The Iranian regime maintains its grip on power through brute force, with no concern for the wellbeing of the Iranian people,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement on the department’s website. “The United States will continue to stand with the Iranian people and demand the regime treat its own people with the respect and dignity they deserve.”