Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a Cabinet meeting held by President Donald Trump in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
May 20 (UPI) -- The Trump administration continued to increase pressure on Iran on Wednesday, imposing a new round of sanctions against Tehran's interior minister and several others.
The United States blacklisted 12 individuals and entities as part of its "maximum pressure campaign" to force Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump pulled out of a multi-nation accord aimed at preventing the Middle Eastern country from getting a nuclear weapon.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement it was sanctioning Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli for his role in committing serious human rights abuses against Iranians, explaining he issued orders authorizing Tehran's Law Enforcement Forces to use lethal force against protesters in November, killing hundreds of them.
Amnesty International said in early March that between Nov. 15-19, Iran's security forces killed more than 300 protesters, including 22 boys between the ages of 12 and 17 and a girl under the age of 12.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Fazil of giving security forces "carte blanche orders" to use lethal force on those initially protesting a substantial price hike in the cost of gasoline and a cut to fuel subsidies late last year.
"His -- and the regime's -- goal was to quash these peaceful protests and suppress the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression at any cost," Pompeo said in a statement.
He told reporters that Thursday will mark 24 months since the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign began, and part of it includes demanding the Iranian regime treat its people with respect and dignity.
"His evil commands killed Iranian citizens," he said. "We're proud to mete out what justice we can on behalf of the slain and silenced inside Iran."
The Treasury also blacklisted seven senior officials of the LEF, including commander Hossein Ashtari Fard, and a brigadier general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hassan Shahvarpour, over their roles in suppressing the protests.
The LEF Cooperative Foundation and its managing director were also sanctioned for being affiliated with the LEF, the Treasury said.
The round of sanctions follows the Treasury blacklisting a Chinese company for working with an Iranian airline.
The sanctions block all property in the United States and prohibit U.S. citizens from conducting business with the designated individuals and entities. They also ban Fazli, Shahvarpour and their family members from entry to the United States.
"The Iranian regime violently suppresses dissent of the Iranian people, including peaceful protests, through physical and psychological abuse," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said. "The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people"