The Biden administration imposed sanctions on four people on Friday. The United States said they were Iranian intelligence agents who tried to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist in New York last year.
This move may exacerbate tensions between Washington and Tehran, who called the kidnapping allegations “baseless.” At the same time, Biden is seeking to renew diplomatic contacts with Tehran on its questionable nuclear program.
The State Department and the Treasury Department announced sanctions against Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani. US officials called him a senior intelligence officer in Iran; and Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori, who were identified by US officials as Iranian intelligence agents.
“We will not tolerate efforts to intimidate independent journalists or suppress their voices,” Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said in a statement on Friday. “We will hold the responsible person accountable. We will not tolerate any attacks on American citizens, whether at home or abroad.”
“The United States is still aware of Iran’s continued interest in other American citizens, including current and former U.S. officials,” he said.
In July, US federal prosecutors accused Iranian intelligence agents of conspiring to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist based in New York who is known for criticizing the Iranian government.
The allegations named four people who were sanctioned on Friday, but no reporters were named. The Washington Times and other news media confirmed at the time that the target person was the journalist and human rights activist Massih Ali Nejad.
In a video message posted online in July, Ms. Irene Nejad said that eight months ago, she was told by the FBI that she had become a target.
The sanctions prevented four individuals identified as Iranian intelligence agents from entering the U.S. financial markets and authorized U.S. officials to confiscate any assets that these individuals may have in these markets.