The Biden administration on Friday leveled sanctions against four people the U.S. says are Iranian intelligence operatives who tried to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist in New York last year.
The move is likely to increase tensions between Washington and Tehran, which has called the kidnapping accusations “baseless.” It also comes at a time when Mr. Biden is seeking to re-engage diplomatically with Tehran over its suspect nuclear programs.
The State and Treasury Departments announced the sanctions against Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani, whom U.S. officials say is a senior Iran-based intelligence official; as well as Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori, whom U.S. officials identified as Iranian intelligence operatives.
“We will not tolerate efforts to intimidate independent journalists or silence their voices,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Friday. “We will hold those responsible to account. And we will not tolerate any attacks on U.S. citizens, here or abroad.”
“The United States remains aware of ongoing Iranian interest in targeting other American citizens, including current and former U.S. officials,” he said.
U.S. federal prosecutors in July charged that Iranian intelligence agents had plotted to abduct a New York-based Iranian-American journalist who was known to be critical of the government in Iran.
The charges named the same four individuals who were sanctioned Friday, but did not name the journalist. The Washington Times and other news outlets confirmed at the time that the targeted person was journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad.
Ms. Alinejad said in a video message posted online in July that she’d been informed by the FBI eight months ago that she had been targeted.
The sanctions block the four individuals identified as Iranian intelligence operatives from access to U.S. financial markets and give U.S. officials authority to seize any assets the individuals may have in those markets.