Iran announced plans Thursday to sanction nine U.S. individuals and companies in response to what it called an unacceptable, illegal decision by the United States to impose new sanctions in connection with Iran's ballistic missile program.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry statement said those sanctioned violated human rights through direct or indirect links to Israeli government crimes in Palestinian territories or by supporting terrorists. It said their names would be announced later.
The U.S. Treasury announced the new sanctions Wednesday on two Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company and members of a China-based network.
These sanctions target Iranian officials as well as a China-based network that are providing support to Syria and supplying items to further Iran's ballistic weapons program, said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. The United States will remain vigilant when it comes to Iran.
The top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Stuart Jones, said Iran's missile program is in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Iran continues to pursue missile-related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, Jones said.
Iran has insisted it was not working toward building nuclear weapons, and on Thursday reiterated its stance that its missile program is both legal and part of its right to self-defense.
The announcement of new U.S. sanctions came as President Donald Trump extended relief from sanctions linked to Iran's nuclear program, as part of the 2015 international agreement to limit Iranian nuclear activity.
Under that deal, sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program were waived in exchange for Iran's commitment to roll back its nuclear activity in ways that would ensure it could not develop nuclear weapons. The sanctions relief requires a waiver that must be renewed every six months.
Jones said the U.S. is still forming a comprehensive Iran policy,'' alluding to Trump's assertion that he may tear up the nuclear deal after he finishes reviewing it. In the meantime, Jones said, the U.S. will keep implementing the deal, including the sanctions relief.
The State Department also released a new report criticizing Iran for human rights abuses.
Jones said the U.S. will continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses with new actions.
Whether it is imprisoning people arbitrarily, inflicting physical abuse and torture, or executing juvenile offenders, the Iranian regime has for decades committed egregious human rights violations against its own people and foreign nations, and this pattern of behavior must come to an end, he said.
He also called on Iran to immediately release Americans detained in the country.
The announcements and the report come just days before Iran holds presidential elections that pit President Hassan Rouhani against several conservative opponents. It also comes ahead of Trump's five-day trip to the region.
Source: Voice of America