The US on Wednesday announced new sanctions on Iranian officials for their alleged role in cracking down on protesters inside Iran as demonstrations and violence continue across the country.
Announcing the sanctions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will “continue to find ways to support” protesters inside Iran. He said the measures target 14 individuals and three entities.
The new sanctions come as negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, have been stalled. US officials have said the JCPOA is not their “focus” now as they look for ways to support Iranian protesters. An Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that the US has soured on the possibility of resuming talks with Tehran.
The new sanctions hit members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iranians that work in the country’s prison system. The entities targeted by the sanctions are accused of participating in censorship and the surveillance of Iranians.
The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody, and Wednesday marked the 40th day since she died. Iran has accused the US and Israel of fomenting the protests, which Iranian officials have denounced as riots.
Iranian officials have said at least 30 security officials have been killed by demonstrators, including members of the IRGC. On Wednesday, Iranian media reported that an IRGC member was shot dead by “rioters” in the Iranian city of Malayer.
It’s not clear if the US and Israel are involved in the violence, but Israel does have a long history of carrying out covert attacks inside Iran, including assassinations. Back in May, Israel was said to be behind the killing of an IRGC colonel in Tehran and was suspected of involvement in a string of other mysterious deaths around the same time.
The US has signaled that it’s trying to give material support to the Iranian protesters by giving them better access to the internet, which has been restricted. When asked if the US was getting involved in the protests, CIA Director William Burns said, “All I can say is we are going to continue to be strongly supportive as a government in the free flow of information.”