WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) -- The United States has imposed new sanctions on a leader and several affiliates of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) over its suspected involvement in spreading weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced on February 10 that it is freezing the U.S. assets of Revolutionary Guard General Rostam Qasemi and four companies that work for Qasemi's Khatam al-Anbiya construction company -- the engineering arm of the IRGC that helps fund its operations.
Western intelligence officials believe the IRGC is the force behind Iran's nuclear weapon and missile programs.
The sanctions are permitted under an Executive Order signed by former President George W. Bush in 2005 that allows the United States to freeze the assets of foreign individuals or entities suspected of producing or distributing WMDs.
Khatam al-Anbiya was hit with U.S. sanctions before, in 2007. The new penalties apply to Qasemi and the Fater Engineering Institute, the Imensazen Consultant Engineers Institute, the Makin Institute, and the Rahab Institute.
In a statement, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said, "As the IRGC consolidates control over broad swaths of the Iranian economy -- displacing ordinary Iranian businessmen in favor of a select group of insiders -- it is hiding behind companies like Khatam al-Anbiya and its affiliates to maintain vital ties to the outside world."
He added, "Today's action exposing Khatam al-Anbiya subsidiaries will help firms worldwide avoid business that ultimately benefits the IRGC and its dangerous activities."
The announcement comes as the White House is pushing for new UN sanctions on Iran for failing to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Speaking on February 9, U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington is still willing to talk, but that all signs point to a defiant Iran.
"They have made their choice so far, although the door is still open. And what we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole," Obama said.
The UN Security Council has already imposed sanctions three times on Iran, which insists it is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.