Iran Hit With New Sanctions 40 Years After Hostage Crisis

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration announced new sanctions Monday on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, which gripped the nation as 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days during a student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

A Shiite Muslim cleric chants during an annual anti-U.S. rally in front of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Monday. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Treasury Department said the country’s regime has not changed since the crisis and cited this lack of progression in imposing financial sanctions on nine members of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s inner circle.

Those hit with sanctions include Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s judiciary, as well as the Armed Forces General Staff and its commander-in-chief, Mohammad Bagheri, and the supreme leader’s second son, Mojtaba Khamenei.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Trump administration is targeting “the unelected officials who surround Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies.”

“These individuals are linked to a wide range of malign behaviors by the regime, including bombings of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in 1994, as well as torture, extrajudicial killings, and repression of civilians,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “This action further constricts the Supreme Leader’s ability to execute his agenda of terror and oppression.”

Senior administration officials said during a briefing Monday that the sanctions will block financial assets from going to Khamenei’s “shadow network” of appointees who are suppressing opposition in the country.

They pointed specifically to Raisi, who has overseen the execution of thousands of political prisoners, and said the 40th anniversary of the hostage crisis is a reminder that the Iranian regime is still committed to violence.

The new sanctions come four months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking Khamenei and some senior Iranian military leaders from accessing any financial assets under U.S. jurisdiction. The president has said the U.S. will continue to pressure Iran until it abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and halts the development of ballistic missiles and support to terrorism activities abroad.

The Trump administration on Monday also offered a reward up to $20 million for information leading to the safe return of Robert Levinson, an FBI special agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Levinson was last seen alive in photographs received by his family in April 2011, according to the State Department.

Senior officials believe the Iranian government was involved in Levinson’s disappearance, and called for his return as well as the release of other Americans detained in Iran.

Levinson’s family said in a statement Monday that he has been detained for 4,624 days, 10 times longer than the American hostages were held 40 years ago.

“Bob Levinson must come home, and Iran’s hostage-taking as government policy must end,” they said.

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