July 12, 2016 | Policy Brief

Why Are These IRGC Figures Not Sanctioned?

July 12, 2016 | Policy Brief

Why Are These IRGC Figures Not Sanctioned?

The White House promised Congress last summer that the Iran nuclear accord would not prevent the United States from imposing additional non-nuclear sanctions. Yet Ambassador Stephen Mull, the administration’s lead coordinator for implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), acknowledged recently that Washington has not designated a single Iranian official for human rights violations since signing the deal last year. Terrorism designations have also been rare.

The regime has exploited this window of opportunity. On the human rights front, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has launched its largest wave of arrests since crushing the 2009 post-election protests, targeting journalists, social media activists, Baha’is, dual citizens, ethnic minorities, and political activists. On the terrorism front, the Guard has escalated its military involvement in Syria, dispatching thousands of Guard forces and IRGC-backed Shi’ite militias. Support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen is also ongoing, and the IRGC has stepped up shipments of explosives and weapons to the radical groups in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

Since the announcement of the JCPOA, the IRGC has conducted eight ballistic missile tests, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in defiance of the United Nations. Meanwhile, Germany’s domestic intelligence has revealed that, as of 2015, Iran was still illegally attempting to procure ballistic missile and nuclear technology. German intelligence officials cited by The Wall Street Journal confirmed that these activities continued into 2016.

Washington has ample authority to sanction the perpetrators of these illicit activities. Through executive orders, the U.S. Treasury can add individuals to its Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN). The following five individuals are deserving of such action:  

Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi is a senior advisor to Qassem Soleimani, the notorious commander of the Qods Force, the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations wing. In 2007 Treasury designated Soleimani and the Qods Force for terrorism. Masjedi was involved in directing Qods Force operations against U.S. forces in post-2003 Iraq, and today is working to establish the IRGC’s long-term presence in Syria and Iraq. Masjedi should be sanctioned for terrorism under Executive Order 13224, and for Syria human rights abuses under E.O. 13572.

Brigadier General Majid Hosseini is deputy commander of the IRGC Intelligence Organization. Treasury already designated the unit’s commander, Hossein Taeb, for his role as commander of the IRGC’s Basij paramilitary in the 2009 protests. The IRGC Intelligence Organization is a driving force behind Tehran’s recent arrests of journalists, activists, and dual citizens – including Iranian-Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, and Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Hosseini should be sanctioned for Iran human rights abuses under E.O. 13553.

Colonel Mohamed Sadeghi, deputy of IRGC technical and cyber intelligence and head of the IRGC Center for Examining Organized Cyber Crime, is “responsible for the arrests and torture of bloggers/journalists,” according to the European Union's designation. The center was responsible for a project called “Spider 2,” in which dozens of female models were arrested and charged in May 2016 for improper wearing of the hijab on Instagram and “spreading organized vulgarity.” Sadeghi should be sanctioned for Iran human rights abuses under E.O. 13606 and malicious cyber activities under E.O. 13694.

Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi is prosecutor general of Tehran. His office indicted a number of protesters following the 2009 protests, charging them with moharebeh (crimes against God), which carries the death sentence. He also ordered the closure of Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s office and arrest of several reformist politicians that year, and banned two reformist political parties the following summer, according to the EU's designation. Rights groups have described Dolatabadi as one of the top officials responsible for a spike in executions of dissidents since 2011, and this year he has provided legal backing for the crackdown on “immodest” stylists, fashion houses, and Instagram models. He also filed indictments against dual citizens Hoodfar, Namazi, and Zaghari-Ratcliffe on unidentified charges this month. Dolatabadi should be designated for Iran human rights abuses under E.O. 13553.

Brigadier General Ebadollah Abdollahi commands the IRGC construction conglomerate Khatam al-Anbiya (KAA). Although the organization and Abdollahi’s predecessor have been designated by Treasury, he has not been sanctioned since his appointment in 2013. Although U.S. sanctions will remain in place, KAA will be de-listed by both the EU and UN on Transition Day in about seven years. KAA “serves to help the IRGC generate income and fund its operations,” according to Treasury. Sanctions should be considered for proliferation under E.O. 13382.

As the one-year anniversary of the JCPOA approaches on Thursday, the White House must resolve to finally address Iran’s non-nuclear malign behavior. Designating these five individuals would constitute an important first step.

Amir Toumaj is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @AmirToumaj.