WASHINGTON — The Trump administration condemned Iran’s government Thursday for cracking down on protests across the country and warned that the United States has “ample authorities” to impose sanctions in response.
At the same time, the United States imposed new sanctions on five Iranian entities over their involvement in developing ballistic missiles. Those sanctions were unrelated to the ongoing protests. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said more sanctions “targeting human rights abuses are coming,” adding that the U.S. would call out Iran’s economic mismanagement — a key complaint of the protesters.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Iran’s government had imprisoned more than 1,000 people and was killing “those who are brave enough” to protest in the streets. She accused Iran’s government of limiting the flow of information, restricting speech and trying to prevent the rest of the world from witnessing the repression.
Nauert said the United States supports Iranians’ “legitimate aspirations” and calls on Iran’s government to ease controls on information and allow peaceful demonstration.
“To the regime’s victims, we say: You will not be forgotten,” Nauert said.
The fresh expression of support for the protesters came as the United States looks for additional ways to embolden and assist those demonstrating against corruption, economic problems and mismanagement by Iran’s government. The U.S. has called on Iran to stop blocking social media sites and has sought through the media and other channels to signal to Iranians that the world is watching closely and lending moral support.
The United States is looking at ways to potentially open up access to the internet despite the Iranian government’s efforts to restrict it, U.S. officials have said. The Trump administration is also looking into sanctions that could be imposed on Iranian officials in response to the crackdown, using existing U.S. authorities related to human rights, censorship and free assembly, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.
Iran, in return, has tried to portray the protests as fomented by the United States, rather than the spontaneous result of homegrown frustrations. On Thursday, Iran directly blamed a CIA official for the protests, though the Trump administration has denied having any hand in starting them. The CIA declined to comment.
The new sanctions designations announced Thursday target subsidiaries of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, part of the Iranian Defense Ministry. Shahid is already under U.S. sanctions. The new designations ensure its subsidiaries are punished, too.
Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley showed reporters missile parts with logos suggesting they were manufactured by Shahid. Haley said the fragments were recovered from missiles launched at Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
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