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US imposes sanctions on Iranian and Syrian officers, citing rights abuses

Treasury blacklists five Syrian officers, the special units of Iran's law enforcement forces and counter-terror forces, and two Iranian prisons
Last month, the Treasury blacklisted six Iranian nationals and an Iranian cyber company for "attempting to influence" the US presidential elections in 2020.
Last month, the US Treasury blacklisted six Iranian nationals and an Iranian cyber company for "attempting to influence" the US presidential elections in 2020 (AFP/File photo)

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on several people and entities in Iran and Syria, accusing them of being connected to serious human rights abuses and repressive acts.

The Treasury Department blacklisted two senior Syrian Air Force officers it accused of being responsible for chemical weapons attacks, as well as three senior officers in Syria's security and intelligence apparatus.

The department said the individuals and their organisations "have imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians who peacefully called for change".

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Washington also sanctioned specialist units of Iran's law enforcement agencies and counter-terror forces, as well as several of their officials, and Gholamreza Soleimani, who commands Iran's Basij militia.

Two prisons - Zahedan Prison and Isfahan Central Prison - and a prison director were also blacklisted over events that reportedly took place in them.

"Treasury will continue to defend against authoritarianism, promoting accountability for violent repression of people seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms," Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in the statement announcing the moves.

The action freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

Last month, the Treasury Department announced sanctions on six Iranian nationals and an Iranian cyber company for "attempting to influence" the US presidential elections in 2020.

Tehran criticised Washington for imposing new sanctions just as talks resumed in Vienna on rescuing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear programme in return for relief from economic sanctions.

"Even amid #ViennaTalks, US cannot stop imposing sanctions against Iran," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. "Doubling down on sanctions won't create leverage - and is anything but seriousness & goodwill."

The seventh round of nuclear talks in Vienna ended on Friday, and Iran's chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told Middle East Eye "the ball is in the court of the Americans".

Iran has repeatedly demanded the US lift all sanctions on Iran while Washington has said that it is ready to lift sanctions inconsistent with the nuclear deal. However, any sanctions unrelated to the deal would not be lifted.