The United States will take “further action” against Iran’s regime later this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Sunday, the anniversary of the bloody Iranian protests in 2019.
“On November 15, 2019 and in the week that followed, brave Iranians took to the streets of more than 200 cities across Iran to protest four decades of mismanagement by a corrupt regime that squandered its people’s wealth on terrorism abroad and oppression at home,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“The Iranian regime tried to hide the evidence of its brutal crackdown through censorship, intimidation, and the digital darkness of Internet shutdowns, and still refuses to allow independent investigations into the killings it perpetrated during that fateful week,” he added.
“The United States will continue to promote accountability by announcing further actions against the agents of repression later this week to bring a measure of justice to the Iranian people, the longest-suffering victims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The statement coincided with the one year anniversary of the violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrations in Iran. The protests which started on November 15 last year, may have been the bloodiest repression of protesters in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Human rights groups estimate that thousands were arrested in the 2019 protests.
Iran's Interior Ministry has said around 225 people were killed during the protests, which erupted after state media announced that gas prices would rise by as much as 200 percent and the revenue would be used to help needy families.
Meanwhile, Reuters previously reported about 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019. The toll included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as members of the Iranian security forces and police.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has ramped up Iran-related sanctions in the past few weeks.
The sanctions targeted companies and individuals for supplying a state military firm, and more than a dozen entities and people involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional arms programs.
The US has also targeted Iran’s state oil sector including the Ministry of Petroleum and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for supporting the Quds Force, the elite paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Quds Force is the overseas arm of the IRGC and gives material support to Iran-allied Shia militias in the region such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Houthis in Yemen, and others in Syria and Iraq.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also sanctioned the Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zanganeh among other high-ranking officials in Iranian companies in the energy sector.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
Analysts have said that the Trump’s administration has been trying to make it difficult to lift sanctions on Iran’s regime in anticipation of Joe Biden claiming the White House.
Biden takes office on January 20. The Democrat, who was Barack Obama's vice president, defeated Trump in the November 3 US election.
Biden has previously said he will return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for relief from US and other sanctions, if the Iranian government resumes compliance.
- With Reuters