by Elad Benari
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces new sanctions against nine aides to Khamenei.
The US on Monday announced new sanctions on Iran, as Iranians took to the streets to mark the 40th anniversary of the storming of the US embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionary students who seized dozens of US diplomats and security staff.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to the embassy siege as the United States announced sanctions against nine aides to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader under the Islamic republic established by the revolution.
"Forty years later, the revolutionary regime in Tehran has proven, time and again, that its first acts after gaining power were a clear indication of its evil character," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The Treasury Department said it was imposing the sanctions – which criminalize financial transactions by anyone in the United States – over "repression" at home and the export of "terrorism" overseas.
The targeted individuals include a number of prominent Iranians, among them judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy advisor to Khamenei.
Velayati, who served as Iran's foreign minister from 1981-1997, is also wanted in Argentina in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center blamed on Hezbollah.
The United States said it was also offering a $20 million reward for information to find Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and CIA contractor who went missing in Iran in 2007 in mysterious circumstances.
The US has increased the pressure on Iran over the past year and a half, ever since President Donald Trump withdrew from 2015 nuclear deal in May of 2018.
Last week, the United States and six Gulf allies announced sanctions on 25 entities associated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorist organization.
A day later, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s construction sector and trade in four materials used in its military or nuclear programs.
Iran has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal signed with world powers in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the deal.
On Monday, Iran announced further violations of the deal. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced during an interview on state television that the Islamic Republic is building a prototype centrifuge that is 50 times faster than those allowed under the agreement.
Salehi also said that Tehran is now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges, or double the number Iran was known to have, in violation of the nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, reported AFP, Iranians gathered outside the building housing the former US embassy, where replica missiles and the same type of air defense battery used to shoot down a US drone in June were put on display.
The demonstrators carried placards with slogans such as "Down with USA" and "Death to America."
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