Sanctions are against two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, an elite corps of the Iranian army

First Biden sanctions against Iran on human rights violations

REUTERS/TOM BRENNER - United States President Joe Biden

The US Executive headed by Joe Biden has decreed the first sanctions against senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran; in this case, against two officials of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard: Alí Hematian and Masud Safdari. 

The Biden Administration thus singled out Hematian and Safdari, who will be banned from entering the United States after being accused of irregularities in the interrogation of detainees from the protests that took place in Persian territory in 2019 and 2020, thus allegedly violating human rights. The access veto and these restrictions concerning US territory also affect family members of both men.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US turned to the Human Rights Council in Geneva out of “concerns about the abuses the Iranian government continues to perpetrate against its citizens, including the unjust detention of far too many in deplorable conditions", as reported by agencies such as AFP and Reuters.  

El secretario de Estado de EEUU, Antony Blinken

This initiative comes at a time of uncertainty surrounding the nuclear pact signed in 2015 between the US and Iran along with other powers such as China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which limited the Persian atomic programme, above all in terms of weapons, in exchange for the elimination of sanctions imposed on the Iranian state. The previous US government of Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement (known as the JCPOA) in 2018, accusing the regime of the ayatollahs of non-compliance and imposed political and economic sanctions, including those related to the oil trade, the main source of Iranian financing.  

The Islamic Republic reacted firmly by announcing that it would continue to trade its crude oil, that it would renege on JCPOA terms such as those concerning uranium enrichment and heavy water treatment, and that it would block the Strait of Hormuz, one of the main crossing points for the global oil trade. This tough stance, announced at the time by President Hassan Rohani, was followed by attacks against cargo ships in Gulf waters and offensives against oil and airport infrastructures in Saudi Arabia (the main representative of the Sunni branch of Islam, as opposed to the Shiite branch sponsored by Iran), for which Iran and pro-Iranian actors such as the Houthi rebels acting in Yemen's war to undermine the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour al-Hadi, who are confronting the Saudi-led Arab military coalition, have been blamed.   

Miembros de la Guardia Revolucionaria de Irán

Joe Biden's new US administration has promised that the United States will rejoin the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 by Tehran with the major powers, although in exchange it is demanding Iran to fulfil its commitments to limit its atomic programme. From here, the US executive should once again lift the sanctions on Iran suspended thanks to the pact, but reinstated by Trump in 2018. Meanwhile, Iran has already indicated that it will only return to the agreement if the US giant lifts the sanctions imposed. 

At the moment, it seems that the reactivation of the agreement is stalled, even more so after Iran's refusal to the EU's proposal to start informal talks with the United States. "Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, who also accused the Biden administration of not letting go of Trump's policy of maximum pressure.