Iran sanctions, condemns dozens of US officials over Biden threat to nuclear project

Tehran has responded to Joe Biden’s threat to end its nuclear programme by force if necessary to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon and sanctioned dozens of current and former US officials.

The move, which is almost entirely symbolic and will have little to no effect given that no one targeted by the sanctions has assets in Iran or does business with entities that do, is nevertheless a sign that Iranian officials were watching when the US president told an Israeli news channel that he would use military force as a “last resort” to stop the development of a nuclear missile by Iran.

According to Iran’s foreign ministry, the named US lawmakers have participated in the “deliberate support of the [MEK] through participation in the terrorist group’s gathering, acknowledging their terrorist acts and causes as well as providing political and propaganda support to the group,” referring to the Iranian opposition organisation known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).

Among those targeted are big names from both parties on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Other inclusions on the list were further removed from any decisionmaking capabilities around US-Iran policy. Doug Jones, a CNN commentator who was briefly a US senator from Alabama and formerly the shepard of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, was on list as was former Democratic National Committee chair (and also CNN commentator) Donna Brazile. The two have in recent years participated in gatherings hosted by Iranian opposition groups like the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which frequently holds conferences and other events in Washington DC.

Mr Biden returned to Washington DC on Sunday after the four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia. During his trip once again insisted that a path remained clear for Tehran to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement signed under the Obama administration, signaling that his administration was willing to do so as well. But his patience for waiting for such a development to occur is finite, the US president added.

“[W]e’re not going to wait forever,” he said.

Iranian opposition activists, meanwhile, are leading a demonstration outside of the Embassy of Belgium in Washington which stretched into its third week on Monday as they continue to pressure the Biden administration to take an official stance in opposition to a proposed treaty between Iran and Belgium which is seen as a means of hastening prisoner swaps between the two countries.

The US State Department has declined to take a stance, while insisting that all countries have a responsibility to stand firm against the practice of detaining another country’s citizens on politically-motivated charges.

A spokesperson for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group which typically takes a hardline stance on issues including sanctions targeting Iran’s leaders and economy, condemned the sanctioning of US officials by Tehran in a statement to The Independent.

“These 61 figures sanctioned today by the Iranian regime are in fact those who are fighting state-sponsored terrorism by the ruling theocracy in Iran. Today’s designation should be an added reason why the Government of Belgium must not return the regime’s convicted terrorist, Asadollah Assadi, as a gift to Tehran,” said NCRI-US’s deputy director Alireza Jafarzadeh.

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