U.S. Sanctions 5 Iranian Entities for Work on Ballistic Missile Program, Signals More Measures

The U.S sanctioned five Iranian entities for their work on the nation’s ballistic missile program and signaled that more punitive measures lay ahead in response to the Islamic Republic’s suppression of anti-government protests, Time reports.

The sanctions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, targeted companies that are owned or controlled by the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity that already is under U.S. sanctions.  Last month, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, showed reporters fragments from missiles that had been launched by Yemeni rebels into Saudi Arabia. One shredded fragment had the Shahid Bakeri logo on it, seeming proof that it was manufactured in Iran.

“The United States will continue to decisively counter the Iranian regime’s malign activity, including additional sanctions targeting human rights abuses. We will not hesitate to call out the regime’s economic mismanagement, and diversion of significant resources to fund threatening missile systems at the expense of its citizenry,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

The sanctions announced Thursday target Shahid Kharrazi Industries, Shahid Sanikhani Industries, Shahid Moghaddam Industries, Shahid Eslami Research Center, and Shahid Shustari Industries, all linked to Shahid Bakeri according to a Treasury Department statement. Each produces a specific component of ballistic missiles, such as guidance and control systems, motor cases or fiber materials.

“These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, which the Iranian regime prioritizes over the economic well-being of the Iranian people. As the Iranian people suffer, their government and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] fund foreign militants, terrorist groups and human rights abuses,” said Mnuchin.

Under the new sanctions, any assets the firms hold in U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and U.S. citizens will be barred from doing business with the companies. Although the sanctions were not directly related to the anti-government protests that have erupted on the streets of Iran over the past week, Mnuchin said the authorities should spend more on public welfare than on banned weapons.

Trump faces a series of key decisions starting next week — foremost, whether to honor part the 2015 agreement that lifted restrictions on Iran’s banking, oil and shipping industries in return for curbs on its nuclear program. He could opt to re-impose the sanctions and risk collapse of the international accord, a move that could isolate the U.S.

The protests and crackdown give Trump an unexpected opportunity to turn sustained negative attention on the Iranian government. He could use the violence to pressure a divided Congress to back new sanctions legislation. He could also urge European allies to take tougher action on Iran along with the U.S., such as new measures targeting individuals or entities that censor or harm demonstrators.

In its January 4 announcement, the U.S. State Department also said it had added three individuals linked to Al-Qaeda to its global terrorist list. It identified the three as Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abukar Ali Adan, and Wanas al-Faqih, saying they were affiliated with either Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Shabaab, or Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

It added that Ghazali is a senior member of AQAP involved in internal security and the training of the group’s operatives. Ali Adan is deputy leader of Al-Shabaab, which is active in Africa; while Faqih is an AQIM associate who planned March 18, 2015, Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, Tunisia, that killed at least 20 people, it said.

The Trump administration asked the UN Human Rights Council to convene an emergency session on protests in Iran in which the U.S. believes at least 21 people have been killed and more than 1,000 arrested, U.S. officials have said.

Thousands of Iranians have taken part in unrest across the country that began Dec. 28 as protests in the holy city of Mashhad against the economic policies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who favors closer ties with the West. As the protests spread, crowds began targeting the broader religious and political establishment, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.