US imposes new sanctions on dozen of Iranian officials, organizations

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AP file photo)

The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on a number of Iranian officials and entities accusing them of committing human rights abuses, as Iran and the five other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are set to start a new round of negotiations on the removal of American sanctions on Thursday.

The Treasury and State Department announced the sanctions on Tuesday that targeted about a dozen Iranian government officials and organizations.

The US Treasury also placed several Syrian officials on its sanctions blacklist accusing them of committing political repression and carrying out chemical gas attacks against militants in Syria. The Treasury, however, did not present any evidence to substantiate its claims.

"The United States is committed to promoting democracy and accountability for those who abuse human rights around the world," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"The United States will utilize its full range of tools to highlight and disrupt these abuses of human rights," he said.

The new US sanctions come as Iran has informed signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, in detailed draft documents, that it wants all US sanctions that violate the 2015 agreement to be removed.  These include all sanctions imposed under former president Donald Trump as part of the maximum pressure campaign.

The JCPOA was abandoned by Trump in May 2018. Trump then targeted Iran’s economy with what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh sanctions. But Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran failed to force Tehran to negotiate a “new deal.”

Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA began the talks in the Austrian capital in April with the aim of removing the sanctions after the US, under President Joe Biden, voiced a willingness to return to the agreement.

Iran's top negotiator Ali Baqeri-Kani has said that Tehran has called for the verifiable removal of sanctions and guarantees that the US will not commit further violations.

Meanwhile, diplomats from the participant countries gathered in Vienna on Monday for the seventh time, after a hiatus in the talks due to the presidential election in Iran. Five days of intensive talks ended on Friday after the sides returned to their respective capitals for more consultations.

Bagheri-Kani, who serves as Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, announced last week that Iran had submitted two proposed drafts to the other parties concerning the removal of sanctions and Tehran’s nuclear commitments, and is about to put forward a third draft.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the talks, he said the P4+1 group of countries had been given the chance to consult with their capitals on the Islamic Republic’s proposed drafts, and that Tehran expected a “reasonable, documented and rational” response.

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