The FINANCIAL -- The United States has imposed sanctions on five Iranian companies it says are involved in Tehran’s illegal ballistic-missile program.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on January 4 said the "sanctions target key entities involved in Iran's ballistic-missile program, which the Iranian regime prioritizes over the economic well-being of the Iranian people."
The five companies are subsidiaries of Iran's Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group (SBIG), an Iranian defense entity that is already under U.S. sanctions.
They were listed as Shahid Kharrazi Industries, Shahid Sanikhani Industries, Shahid Moghaddam Industries, Shahid Eslami Research Center, and Shahid Shustari Industries, according to RFE/RL.
At a December 14 news conference in Washington, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, showed what she called was concrete evidence that Iran was supplying weaponry to the Huthi rebels in Yemen in violation of UN sanctions.
She displayed one of the fragments from a missile fired by the rebels toward Saudi Arabia that she said bore the logo of SBIG.
Under the new sanctions, any assets the firms hold in U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and U.S. citizens will be barred from doing business with the companies.
A UN resolution passed in connection with the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal prohibited Tehran from supplying, selling, or transferring weapons unless the Security Council approved it. A separate UN resolution bans the supply of any weapons to the Huthi rebels in Yemen.
Although the sanctions were not directly related to the antigovernment protests that have erupted on the streets of Iran over the past week, Mnuchin said the authorities should spend more on public welfare than on banned weapons.
The protests began on December 28 in the country's second-largest city, Mashhad, initially over complaints of rising prices, but they have led to complaints over corruption and the lack of freedoms in the country.
"As the Iranian people suffer, their government and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] fund foreign militants, terrorist groups, and human rights abuses," he added.
"The United States will continue to decisively counter the Iranian regime's malign activity, including additional sanctions targeting human rights abuses."
President Donald Trump and the State Department have issued harsh criticism of the Iranian authorities for their crackdown on the protests and have threatened additional sanctions.
Iranian officials claim to have the unrest under control, with state television on January 4 showing video of pro-government counterdemonstrations in several cities, although the reports cannot be independently confirmed.
In its January 4 announcement, the U.S. State Department also said it had added three individuals linked to Al-Qaeda to its global terrorist list.
It identified the three as Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abukar Ali Adan, and Wanas al-Faqih, saying they were affiliated with either Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Shabaab, or Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
It added that Ghazali is a senior member of AQAP involved in internal security and the training of the group’s operatives.
Ali Adan is deputy leader of Al-Shabaab, which is active in Africa; while Faqih is an AQIM associate who planned the March 18, 2015, Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, Tunisia, that killed at least 20 people, it said.