The United States on Thursday hit Iran’s police, Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia with sanctions for “serious” rights abuses, ratcheting up pressure on the regime amid upheaval in the Islamic world.
Slapping sanctions on three key pillars of the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus, as well as the head of the nation’s police force, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed out at the “hypocrisy” of Iran’s human rights rhetoric.
“While Iran’s leaders hypocritically applaud protesters abroad calling for self-determination, many of Iran’s own citizens… are being held as political prisoners merely for holding views contrary to Iran’s leaders,” Clinton said.
As popular uprisings continue to rock the Middle East and North Africa, Clinton also gave a message of support to Iranians longing for democracy.
“The United States stands with all Iranians who wish for a government that respects their human rights, their dignity and their freedom, and we call on the Iranian government to end its systematic human rights abuses and political hypocrisy,” said Clinton.
It is the latest in a series of measures against Tehran, following a crackdown in the wake of disputed 2009 presidential elections.
The sanctions freeze the assets of the three organizations in the United States and subjects them to a visa ban.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards are the spearhead of the Islamic republic’s armed forces, while the Basij (Mobilization) is a militia made up of volunteers fiercely loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The US had previously placed sanctions on Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the head of the powerful Basij militia.
The human rights-based sanctions are separate from a long series of Treasury sanctions on Iran linked to its suspected nuclear weapons program.
The United States and Iran have been fierce adversaries since the 1979 Islamic revolution.