Tehran has answered Joe Bidenthreatened to end its nuclear program by force if necessary to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and sanctioned dozens of current and former US officials.
The move, which is almost entirely symbolic and will have little to no effect as no one affected by the sanctions has any assets Iran or does business with companies that do, is nonetheless a sign that Iranian officials looked on as the US president told an Israeli news channel he would use military force as a “last resort” to stop Iran developing a nuclear missile to stop.
According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the said US lawmakers participated in the “deliberate support of the [MEK] by attending the terrorist group’s rally, recognizing its terrorist acts and causes, and providing political and propaganda support to the group,” referring to the Iranian opposition organization known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).
Among the targets are big names from both parties on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.
Other inclusions in the list were further removed from any decision-making ability regarding US-Iran policy. Doug Jones, a CNN commentator who was briefly a U.S. Senator from Alabama and former Shepard of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination, was on the list, as was former Democratic National Committee chair (and also CNN commentator) Donna Brazile. The two have attended gatherings hosted by Iranian opposition groups such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which frequently holds conferences and other events in Washington DC, in recent years.
Mr. Biden returned to Washington DC on Sunday after the four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia. During his trip, he again insisted that a path remains open for Tehran to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration, and signaled his administration is ready to do so. But his patience to wait for such a development is finite, the US President added.
“[W]We won’t wait forever,’ he said.
Iranian opposition activists, meanwhile, are leading a demonstration outside Belgium’s embassy in Washington, which stretched into its third week on Monday, as they continue to pressure the Biden administration to take an official stance against a proposed Iran-Belgium treaty is seen as a means of speeding up prisoner exchanges between the two countries.
The US State Department declined to comment, but stressed that all countries have a responsibility to stand firm against the practice of detaining citizens of other countries on politically motivated charges.
A spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group that typically takes a tough stance on issues such as sanctions on Iran’s leadership and economy, condemned Tehran’s sanctioning of US officials in a statement The Independent.
“These 61 individuals sanctioned by the Iranian regime today are in fact those fighting the state-sponsored terrorism of Iran’s ruling theocracy. Today’s appointment should be another reason why the Belgian government must not send the regime’s convicted terrorist, Asadollah Assadi, back to Tehran as a gift,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of NCRI-US.