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.
The entities, none of which are publicly traded, are being designated for being owned or controlled by Iran’s Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, the Treasury Department said in a statement released Thursday.
“The United States will continue to decisively counter the Iranian regime’s malign activity, including additional sanctions targeting human rights abuses,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
The Trump administration plans to ask 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.
“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,” Mnuchin said.
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 sanctions announced Thursday target Shahid Kharrazi Industries, Shahid Sanikhani Industries, Shahid Moghaddam Industries, Shahid Eslami Research Center, and Shahid Shustari Industries, according to a Treasury Department statement.
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.