The US on Thursday sanctioned members and affiliates of Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for their alleged participation in a series of assassination plots against former American government officials, dual US-Iranian citizens and Iranian dissidents.
In a press release, the US Treasury Department said the move took aim at three people and a company affiliated with the IRGC-Quds Force and two senior officials in the IRGC's Intelligence Organisation accused of being involved in plotting deadly operations against civilians, including journalists.
“The United States remains focused on disrupting plots by the IRGC and its Quds Force, both of which have engaged in numerous assassination attempts and other acts of violence and intimidation against those they deem enemies of the Iranian regime,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
“We will continue to expose and disrupt these terrorist activities and efforts to silence opposing voices, particularly those who advocate for respect for the universal human rights and freedoms of the Iranian people.”
The Treasury said the Iranians named include Mohammad Reza Ansari, a Quds Force member whom it said has supported malign activity in Syria.
While the statement did not specify the plots, officials named Iranian citizen Shahram Poursafi, whom the US Justice Department last year charged with plotting to kill John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who were national security adviser and secretary of state, respectively, under former president Donald Trump.
The assassination attempts were believed to be in retaliation for the killing of IRGC commander Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani.
"Today, the United States is designating five members or affiliates of the IRGC and its external operations arm, the IRGC-Qods Force, who have participated in a series of external plots, or have been involved in targeting former United States government officials, foreign nationals and Iranian dissidents abroad," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Thursday.
"We are also designating Rey Havacilik Ithalat Ihracat Sanayi Ve Ticaret Anonim Sirketi (Rey Airlines), which is owned, controlled or directed by one of these individuals."
The development comes amid heightened tension between the US and Iran. On Thursday, leaked documents revealed that Iran was preparing to launch new attacks against US troops in Syria, The Washington Post reported.
According to the Post, Iran is arming militants as well as building and training forces in Syria to use bombs that would be used to attack US military vehicles and kill American personnel.
In March, a US army contractor was killed and five troops wounded in north-east Syria when a drone suspected of being of Iranian origin struck a facility near Hasakah.
The Biden administration responded by ordering strikes on facilities used by groups affiliated with the IRGC.