WASHINGTON -- The United States has announced sanctions against four Iranian intelligence operatives who sought to kidnap an American journalist as part of a wider attempt to silence critics of the government in Tehran, a move Iran has dismissed.
The Treasury Department announced on September 3 that it was designating senior Iran-based intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani as well as three subordinates, including Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori.
Farahani leads a network of intelligence operatives tasked with targeting Iranian dissidents in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, the Treasury Department said in its statement.
The four planned to abduct Masih Alinejad, a New York City-based Iranian-American activist and journalist, and transport her via speedboat to Venezuela for eventual return to Iran, according to a criminal complaint filed in July by the U.S. Justice Department.
The four are charged with conspiracy related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering.
“The Iranian government’s kidnapping plot is another example of its continued attempt to silence critical voices, wherever they may be,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. “Targeting dissidents abroad demonstrates that the government’s repression extends far beyond Iran’s borders.”
The sanctions block any property the four have in the United States as well as preventing any U.S. citizen from transacting with them.
Iran on September 4 dismissed the move, saying it reflects Washington’s “addiction to sanctions.”
"Supporters and merchants of sanctions, who see their sanctions toolbox empty due to Iran’s maximum resistance, are now resorting to Hollywood scenarios to keep the sanctions alive,” the Foreign Ministry said in a tweet on September 4, quoting spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.