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This Week in Iran Policy
November 21, 2020

“The Maximum Pressure campaign against the Iranian regime continues to be effective. It deprives the regime of funds to carry out its malign activities. Reducing that pressure is a dangerous choice, bound to weaken new regional partnerships for peace and strengthen the regime.”

– Secretary Pompeo, Tweet of November 18, 2020

Commemoration of the Massacre of Mahshahr and Designation of Iranian Officials Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights, November 18.

One year ago, the Iranian regime killed as many as 148 Iranian civilians in Mahshahr, while imposing digital darkness to hide evidence of their savage crackdown on last November’s protests in that city. Both protesters and bystanders were targeted by snipers on rooftops, tracked down and surrounded by armored vehicles, and sprayed with machine-gun fire. When protesters sought refuge in nearby marshlands, regime forces set fire to the area and then shot those trying to escape. When families tried to recover the remains of their loved ones, Iranian authorities charged them hundreds of dollars for each bullet that had pierced their bodies.

Today, I am announcing the designation of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Heidar Abbaszadeh and IRGC Colonel Reza Papi pursuant to Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2020 for their involvement, by operation of command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely the flagrant denial of the right to life in connection with the violent suppression of protests by security forces in November 2019 in Khuzestan province. These individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. Iranian Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi is also being designated by the Department of Treasury under E.O. 13553, which authorizes sanctions for entities that commit serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people.

Additionally, today the United States is designating the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation, 51 associated entities, and 10 associated individuals pursuant to E.O. 13876, which authorizes sanctions for entities affiliated with the Supreme Leader’s Office. This organization, which claims to be the “Foundation of the Oppressed,” is in reality a key agent of regime oppression and corruption, and many of its assets were originally confiscated from Iranians, especially from religious minorities such as Baha’is and Jews. The foundation is involved with human rights abusers, those involved with the regime’s support for terrorism, and organizations involved in the brutal killings last November. This action deprives the regime’s machinery of oppression the funds needed to execute its depraved agenda. For more information, see the

Department of Treasury’s press release.

Nations who believe in supporting the freedoms of expression and association should condemn Iran’s egregious human rights violations, and reaffirm respect for the dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person by imposing consequences on the regime as we have, today. The Iranian regime maintains its grip on power through brute force, with no concern for the wellbeing of the Iranian people. The United States will continue to stand with the Iranian people and demand the regime treat its own people with the respect and dignity they deserve.
The Importance of Sanctions in Iran, November 18.

The Maximum Pressure campaign against the Iranian regime continues to be extraordinarily effective. Today, Iran’s economy faces a currency crisis, mounting public debt, and rising inflation. Prior to the Maximum Pressure campaign, Iran was exporting nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. Now it struggles to export even a quarter of that volume. Since May 2018, we have denied the regime of direct access to more than $70 billion in oil revenue, and will continue to prevent the regime access to around $50 billion annually. The Iranian rial has depreciated to one fifth of its former value against the dollar since the start of the campaign, while Iran’s GDP has shrunk by around 6% for three consecutive years.

These sanctions deprive the regime of funds it would use to carry out its malign activities. As a direct result of sanctions, Iran reduced its military budget by nearly 25 percent in 2019. The regime’s terrorist proxies and partners beg for cash, and have been forced to take austerity measures, even furloughing some terrorist fighters. Sanctions are part of the pressures creating a new Middle East, bringing together countries that suffer the consequences of Iran’s violence and seek a region more peaceful and stable than before. Reducing that pressure is a dangerous choice, bound to weaken new partnerships for peace in the region and strengthen only the Islamic Republic.

We need not speculate about what a cessation of sanctions would imply for Iran’s funding for terrorism; we can simply look to the recent past. From 2016 to 2018, Iran took advantage of the sanctions relief provided under the JCPOA to increase its defense spending by more than 30 percent, to a record high. Iran’s proxies and partners became flush with cash and greatly emboldened. The Iranian people did not benefit from the funds as had been promised by their leaders; instead, the regime increased funding for the military and for the Basij, the key instrument of internal oppression, while its elites took billions to enrich themselves. That is why Iranian dissidents around the world are calling for sanctions to remain against this regime as long as its malign behavior continues.

The Iranian regime seeks a repeat of the failed experiment that lifted sanctions and shipped them huge amounts of cash in exchange for modest nuclear limitations. The regime desperately needs an economic lifeline. For that reason, they make two arguments: sanctions are useless and ineffective; or, in the alternative, when sanctions are effective they hurt only the Iranian people and not the regime; either way they should be removed. The regime’s greatest fear is that sanctions will remain.

We can expect to see repeated efforts by the regime to spread disinformation, and we are likely to see reports and arguments that say sanctions have failed. We should not be deceived. The consulting firm Facts Global Energy (FGE) reports Iran exported only 280,000 barrels of oil per day in October. Other estimates are higher, but even if we double FGE’s numbers we see the enormous impact of U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Western media reports with alarm that the Iranian regime is increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium. This is indeed troubling, but even more disturbing is the notion that the United States should fall victim to this nuclear extortion and abandon our sanctions. That is precisely the effect the regime intends when it publicly discloses its uranium stockpile. The world must never reward nuclear threats with a cash appeasement—and must never fall victim to regime propaganda intended to save it from powerful sanctions.

The Maximum Pressure campaign is working, sanctions will continue, and the United States will not hesitate to impose painful consequences on those who engage in sanctionable activity. Throughout the coming weeks and months, we will impose new sanctions on Iran, including using our nuclear, counterterrorism, and human rights authorities, each reflecting the wide range of malign behavior that continues to emanate from the Iranian regime. These sanctions are a critical tool of national security to preserve the safety of the region and to protect American lives.
Our Global Partnership Against Chemical Weapons Abuses, Remarks by International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau Assistant Secretary Dr. Christopher A. Ford, November 18.

The world has long recognized the terrible nature of chemical weaponry, and humanity has tried repeatedly to control it. Initial efforts to prohibit the use of poison gas in warfare failed to prevent its use in World War One, but the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting use of chemical or biological weapons gained widespread adherence. A number of states still maintained CW programs, but their actual use was thankfully very rare thereafter. The few instances that did occur – such as Egypt’s use of CW in Yemen in the 1960s and the large-scale employment of chemical agents in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s – helped to drive progress toward a total ban, achieved with the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997. After that, one hoped, CW would just be a thing of the past, and indeed the superpower adversaries, the United States and Russia, heir to the Soviet Union’s program, declared their Cold War CW stockpiles and production facilities and set about destroying them under international supervision.

Countries such as Russia and Iran have been in violation of the CWC for some time, hiding certain aspects of their programs rather than eliminating them, but the worst of the modern ugly spiral of CW problems began with the use of sarin nerve agent by the Syrian regime against its own people.
The CWC, and the broader global nonproliferation regime of which it is a part, is today at a turning point. We must not let the persistence of state-level CW programs in countries such as Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria – and indeed continuing episodes of outright CW use – destroy this regime.

For more information about the Plenary Meeting, please see press release.

Anniversary of Protests in Iran, November 15.

On November 15, 2019 and in the week that followed, brave Iranians took to the streets of more than 200 cities across Iran to protest four decades of mismanagement by a corrupt regime that squandered its people’s wealth on terrorism abroad and oppression at home. As the protesters exercised their freedom of expression, the regime responded by expressing its radical ideology of indiscriminate violence and terror. In doing so, the regime once again revealed its true nature and squandered any remaining claim to legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people. The regime killed as many as 1,500 Iranians, including at least 23 children.

Tragically, the regime’s reign of terror continues to this day. The regime ignores its own laws and international obligations to the rights of the Iranian people. Thousands of protesters remain in prison, where they are reportedly subjected to flogging, electrical shocks, starvation, beatings, sexual assault and rape, and other acts of torture. Family members of victims are thrown in jail for advocating on behalf of their loved ones. The world should understand that there are no moderates to empower in such an evil regime; only officials who defend and seek to profit from this machine of cruelty. We hope all governments join our call for the Iranian regime to immediately release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

The Iranian regime tried to hide the evidence of its brutal crackdown through censorship, intimidation, and the digital darkness of Internet shutdowns, and still refuses to allow independent investigations into the killings it perpetrated during that fateful week. But we will never forget the regime’s victims. The United States will continue to promote accountability by announcing further actions against the agents of repression later this week to bring a measure of justice to the Iranian people, the longest-suffering victims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


@SecPompeo Nov 18

A year ago, Iran’s regime massacred as many as 148 Iranians in Mahshahr. Today, I designated Heidar Abbaszadeh and Reza Papi for their role in gross human rights violations by Iranian security forces as well as other agents of regime oppression. We will never forget their crimes.

@StateDeputySPOX Nov 18

@SecPompeo‘s designation of Iranian nationals Heidar Abbaszadeh and Reza Papi and Khamenei’s Mostazafan Foundation underscores our support for the Iranian people and our commitment to promoting accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations.

@SecPompeo Nov 15

One year ago, brave Iranians took to the streets to exercise their freedom of expression. The regime responded by manifesting its brutal ideology: indiscriminate violence and terror, killing as many as 1,500 Iranians, including at least 23 children. We mourn these victims.

@StateDeputySPOX Nov 15

Iran’s reign of terror continues to this day. Thousands of Iranian protesters remain in the regime’s prisons, where they are starved, subject to flogging and electrical shocks, and other acts of torture. We will never forget the regime’s victims.