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Iran sanctions 52 Americans on anniversary of Soleimani killing, drawing US rebuke

White House national security adviser Sullivan says Tehran will ‘face severe consequences’ if it attacks those targeted by largely symbolic measure

People carry portraits of late Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport, in Baghdad on January 2, 2021, at the site of their killing. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
People carry portraits of late Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport, in Baghdad on January 2, 2021, at the site of their killing. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Iran announced sanctions against more than 50 American individuals over the killing two years ago of Tehran’s top general Qassem Soleimani, drawing a strong rebuke from Washington on Sunday.

The Islamic Republic’s foreign ministry said the 52 US nationals had been blacklisted for “their role in the terrorist crime by the United States against the martyred General Qassem Soleimani and his companions and the promotion of terrorism and violations of fundamental human rights.”

Many of those targeted are from the US military. They include Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley and former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

The sanctions let Tehran confiscate assets owned by the American’s in Iran, but since they apparently do not have such assets, the move is largely symbolic.

Soleimani — the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq in January 2020 ordered by then-president Donald Trump.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan responded that “should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 52 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences.”

Sullivan noted in a statement that the sanctions came “as Iran’s proxy militias continue to attack American troops in the Middle East, and as Iranian officials threaten to carry out terror operations inside the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

“Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens,” he added. “This includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served.

“We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran,” Sullivan said.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, December 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A year ago, Iran imposed sanctions on Trump himself and other senior former US officials over Soleimani’s killing.

On Wednesday, Iran said it intended to prosecute 127 people for alleged involvement or cooperation with the assassination of Soleimani. According to Fars News, which is run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a judiciary spokesperson said the country sent 11 letters to nine countries, asking them to take measures against the alleged culprits.

The report did not provide details about who were among the 127 individuals.

Last Monday, as Tehran marked two years since the revered commander’s death, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed revenge against Trump unless the former US president is tried over the killing.

Raisi, addressing Tehran’s largest prayer hall, said: “The aggressor and the main assassin, the then president of the United States, must face justice and retribution” alongside former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo “and other criminals.”

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, with links to armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza Strip, Syria and Yemen. The Quds force is designated by a number of countries as a terrorist organization, including the US and Israel.

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