Iran last week sanctioned 51 Americans for the drone attack assassination of Quds force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020. He was killed in a strike authorized in Iraq under then-US president Donald Trump on the basis of intelligence reports that Soleimani was planning large-scale lethal attacks on US troops.
The sanctions were issued on Saturday, days after Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said in a speech that the nation would take revenge unless Trump and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo faced trial over Soleimani’s death.
The extended sanctions include Gen. Mark Milley, former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and many other military and government leaders who were in office at the time of Soleimani’s death two years ago.
The sanctions are largely symbolic, as the people named in the list do not hold assets in Iran nor do they have plans to travel to the nation. In response, US leaders vowed to “protect and defend its citizens.”
“Iran purported to impose sanctions on 51 Americans. They do so as Iran’s proxy militias continue to attack American troops in the Middle East, and as Iranian officials threaten to carry out terror operations inside the United States and elsewhere around the world,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
“Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens. This includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served…We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran. Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 51 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences,” he added.
The list of sanctioned US leaders appeared as America and other nations involved in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran meet in Vienna to discuss the possibility of reviving the deal, in the hope of trusting Iran not to proceed on enriching uranium to the 60 percent threshold of a nuclear weapon. Israel has reaffirmed its ability to act independently in self-defense against Iran regardless of any new deal.