US sanctions Iranian intelligence minister and supreme leader’s personal foundation

Trump administration issues new sanctions against Iranian leadership

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi, a candidate for upcoming vote on the Assembly of Experts, speaks during a campaign gathering of candidates mainly close to the reformist camp, in Tehran February 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY./File Photo
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Donald Trump's outgoing administration placed new sanctions on Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi on Wednesday as well as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal foundation, which includes about 160 holdings across key economic sectors.

Mr Khamanei’s Mostazafan Foundation, or Bonyad Mostazafan, is the largest holding company in the Middle East and has investments in Iran’s finance, energy, construction and mining sectors.

“Iran’s supreme leader uses Bonyad Mostazafan to reward his allies under the pretence of charity,” said US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

“The United States will continue to target key officials and revenue-generating sources that enable the regime’s ongoing repression of its own people.”

The foundation was created after the 1979 revolution to confiscate the property of former officials in Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government, as well as the belongings of other dissidents and religious minorities.

The US Treasury Department also sanctioned dozens of other individuals and entities affiliated with the Mostazafan Foundation and its holdings. The latest round of sanctions comes after Mr Trump signed an executive order in the past year mandating sanctions on Mr Khamanei and his office.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to Iran's bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters the past year as the justification for the sanctions on Mr Alavi.

He also noted that the Mostazafan Foundation “is involved with human rights abusers, those involved with the regime’s support for terrorism and organisations involved in the brutal killings last November".

“One year ago, the Iranian regime killed as many as 148 Iranian civilians in Mahshahr while imposing digital darkness to hide the violence of their savage crackdown on last November’s protests in that city,” Mr Pompeo said.

“Protesters and bystanders were targeted by snipers on rooftops, tracked down and surrounded by armoured vehicles and sprayed with machine-gun fire.”

The State Department also announced sanctions on Brig Gen Heidar Abbaszadeh and IRGC Col Reza Papi for their role in the crackdown.

Although Mr Trump refuses to concede the election, officials in his administration are working overtime to implement additional sanctions on Iran before president-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

Iran hawks in the administration hope that the new sanctions will stymie any efforts by Mr Biden to re-enter the nuclear deal, rom which Mr Trump withdrew in 2018.

“Throughout the coming weeks and months, we will impose new sanctions on Iran, including using our nuclear, counterterrorism and human rights authorities, each reflecting the wide range of malign behaviour that continues to emanate from the Iranian regime,” Mr Pompeo said in defence of the Trump administration’s maximum-pressure campaign.

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