- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The U.S. on Wednesday announced sanctions against Iran’s interior minister, accusing him of “gross violations of human rights” against Iranians during widespread anti-government protests last year.

The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli authorized Iran’s law enforcement agencies to use lethal force on protesters in November, killing dozens of them, including 23 minors.

“The Iranian regime violently suppresses dissent of the Iranian people, including peaceful protests, through physical and psychological abuse,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. “The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people.”

The department also blacklisted seven senior Iranian law enforcement officials for their role in the protests, and a provincial commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The latest sanctions freeze all U.S.-held assets of those blacklisted and prohibit them from conducting business with an American company or person.

The move comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran that have steadily increased since a January U.S. airstrike killed Iran’s top general. Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq, and accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner departing Tehran, killing all 176 aboard.

More recently, the U.S. has threatened to use defensive action against Iranian ships that come within 100 meters of an American ship, after a handful of Iran’s IRGC boats made threatening approaches to U.S. warships conducting joint operations in international waters. Iran has said it will “destroy” American ships that threaten their own and will continue conducting operations in the Persian Gulf.

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