Not letting the pandemic soften its hard line on Tehran, Washington has sanctioned nine Iranian officials over alleged human rights violations during last year’s protests, including Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.

Announcing the new sanctions on Wednesday, the US Department of the Treasury said that Fazli issued orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) to use lethal force in response to the November 2019 protests. At least 23 minors were killed during clashes between protesters and the LEF, the Treasury claims.

Also sanctioned were six LEF officials, the manager of the LEF cooperative, and a senior officer in the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US has declared a terrorist organization.

The nine blacklisted individuals will be barred from entering America, along with their immediate family members, as well as having any of their US-based assets frozen.

Wednesday’s sanctions come after the US Navy issued a notice that any ships that come too close to its vessels in the Persian Gulf will be targeted, not naming Iran but clearly referring to recent Iranian naval activities.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, and re-imposed all sanctions that had been lifted as part of that agreement, as well as adding additional ones. Washington has made it clear that it regards the Iranian “regime,” in place since the 1979 revolution overthrew the US-backed monarchy, as illegitimate.

Iran has condemned the US sanctions, particularly amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that the measures have prevented them from importing sufficient amounts of medical supplies and equipment to deal with the outbreak of the virus.

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