Iran sanctions more Americans as nuclear deal hangs in the balance

President Ebrahim Raisi says his country will continue to develop its nuclear technology

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at an event in Tehran to mark the country's nuclear technology day. AFP
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Iran has placed more current and former US officials, military officers and diplomats under sanctions, Iranian media reported on Saturday.

The 16-person list released by Iran's Foreign Ministry includes George William Casey, former commander of American forces in Iraq; Joseph Votel, former commander of Centcom; Austin Scott Miller, former commander of American forces in Afghanistan, and ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.

Sanctioned officials from the Donald Trump administration include Sigal Mandelkar, who served as Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and former commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.

The sanctions fall on people who “played a role in supporting, organising, imposing and also intensifying” sanctions against Iran, as well as supporting “terrorist acts” against the country and Israel's policy towards Palestinians, the Islamic Republic News Agency said, quoting the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Iran imposed sanctions on Donald Trump, his secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and eight other people last year. In January, Iran put more than 50 Americans under sanctions for their alleged roles in killing Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Iraq in 2020.

Iran's sanctions ban the persons concerned from travel to the country and possible confiscation of their assets in Iran. They are seen as symbolic as the Americans do not have any assets in Iran.

The latest sanctions were applied amid a lull in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers under which international sanctions on Tehran were lifted in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Mr Trump abandoned the accord in 2018 and reimposed stringent sanctions on Iran.

A new deal appeared close following months of indirect talks in Vienna after Mr Biden took office last year, but the lifting of Washington's terrorist designation on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps paramilitary appears to be a sticking point.

Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional hearing on Thursday that he believed the Quds Force, the overseas operations arm of the IRGC, should not be dropped from the terrorist list.

Top US general: Iran's Quds Force should not be delisted as foreign terrorist organisation

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 7, 2022.  (Photo by SAUL LOEB  /  AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that his country would continue nuclear development activities regardless of whether a deal was reached or not.

“Our knowledge and technology in the nuclear field is not reversible. Iran’s research in peaceful nuclear fields will not depend on others’ demands or viewpoints,” Mr Raisi said at a ceremony marking Iran’s national day of nuclear technology.

The head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Eslami, said Iran planned to build a nuclear power plant with 360-megawatt capacity near the town of Darkhovin in oil-rich Khuzestan province in the south-west.

Iran’s only nuclear power plant, in the southern port city of Bushehr, which has 1,000 MW capacity, went online in 2011 with help from Russia.

The 2015 nuclear deal was intended to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons, although Iran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Since the collapse of the agreement, it has gradually increased its uranium enrichment to 60 per cent purity, far above the cap of 3.67 per cent set by the accord and a step from the 90 per cent level required for weapons.

Updated: April 09, 2022, 1:31 PM