The United States is expected to impose sanctions as early as next week on Iranians involved in a crackdown against anti-government demonstrations in Iran a year ago, sources said on Monday.
The sources said the announcement was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of what may have been the bloodiest repression of protesters in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
One source said next week action by the US would involve many individuals and several dozen Iranian entities.
"If true, it will simply be indicative of the desperation of an administration whose hostility towards the people of Iran is well known," said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Reuters, citing three Iranian Interior Ministry officials, reported that about 1,500 people were killed in two weeks of unrest that started on November 15, 2019. The toll included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women, as well as members of the Iranian security forces and police.
Iran’s Interior Ministry has said that about 225 people were killed during the protests, which erupted after state media announced that gas prices would rise by as much as 200 per cent and the revenue would be used to help needy families.
The sources said the sanctions have been in the works for months and are the latest in a series of US penalties imposed on Iran by President Donald Trump.
Two years ago, Mr Trump abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has since restored harsh US economic sanctions designed to force Tehran into a wider negotiation on curbing its nuclear programme, development of ballistic missiles and support for regional proxy forces.
One source said Washington would blacklist people involved in the killing of civilians, while a second source said those targeted would include government and security officials.
Sources played down a media report that the Trump administration planned a flood of sanctions before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.
Mr Biden said he would return the US to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme in return for relief from US and other sanctions, if the Iranian government resumed compliance.
"We've been sanctioning Iranian entities nearly every week for the past six months. There's no reason we would put our foot on the brake now, but we're not pushing it down on the gas pedal any further either," a Trump administration official said.
Two weeks ago, the US Treasury put counterterrorism sanctions on leading figures in Iran's oil sector for supporting the Quds Force, the elite paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Analysts said that action, taken before the November 3 US presidential election, was among the Trump administration's moves seeking to make it harder to lift sanctions if Mr Biden won the White House.