The Biden administration on Tuesday slapped travel restrictions on two Iranian officials accused of â€œgross violations of human rightsâ€ in their roles as interrogators for Tehranâ€™s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
AliÂ HemmatianÂ and MasoudÂ Safdari and their immediate families are barred from entering the United StatesÂ for their alleged involvement in â€œtorture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentâ€ of protesters detained during the 2019-2020 demonstrations that swept across Iran, according to a statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The move marked the US governmentâ€™s first new penalty against Iranian officials since President Joe Biden took office in January.
Despite objections from Iranian leaders, the new administration has maintained economic sanctions imposed by the former Trump administration after it abandoned the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.
American officials on Tuesday offered no insights as to why the alleged IRGC interrogators were being hit with the travel bans now.
â€œThe United States is committed to promoting accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses. That includes in Iran,â€ State Department spokesperson Ned Price told Al-Monitorâ€™s Elizabeth Hagedorn during a press briefing on Tuesday.
The penalties came on the 14th anniversary of the disappearance of Mark Levinson, a former FBI and DEA agent who disappeared while visiting Kish Island off Iranâ€™s southern coast while on an intelligence-gathering mission for the CIA in 2007.
TheÂ administration of former President Donald Trump late last year sanctioned two Iranian Interior Ministry officials who it believed were likely involved in the â€œdisappearance and probable deathâ€ of Levinson.
The new travel restrictions also come as the Biden administration is increasingly signaling disapproval for Tehranâ€™s posturing ahead of a planned return to negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear dealÂ known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the US militaryâ€™s deterrence efforts in the Persian Gulf region and the State Departmentâ€™s diplomatic push to end Yemenâ€™s civil war, Iran-linked groups have continued to launch rocket, drone and missile attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and military bases in Iraq.
Biden administration officials have stopped short of directly implicating Iran in the attacksÂ but have warned that Tehran will be held accountable for the actions of its proxy militias in the region.
During a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, US officials expressed concern about allegations of the Iranian governmentâ€™s human rights abuses against its own citizens, including â€œunjust detention of far too many people in deplorable conditions,â€ according to Blinkenâ€™s statement.