US hits Iran general with sanctions over protest crackdown
The State Department said it imposed penalties on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Hassan Shahvarpour for directing the massacre of nearly 150 demonstrators in southwestern Iran in November.
"General Shahvarpour was in command of units responsible for the violent crackdown and lethal repression around Mahshahr," special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said. He said the designation was the result of photographic and video tips submitted to the department by Iranians.
The department has received more than 88,000 such tips since it appealed for Iranians to report evidence of repression and human rights abuses, Hook said.
Iranian authorities killed as many as 1,500 people when anti-government demonstrators took to the streets nationwide in November last year, according to Reuters.
Amnesty International puts the death toll much lower, at more than 300. A near-complete internet shutdown throughout the two weeks of protests has made the scale of the dissent and subsequent crackdown hard to discern.
Iran has denied Western allegations of widespread repression but has acknowledged the violence in Mahshahr, saying it confronted armed separatists there.
Located in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, Mahshahr is home to an Arab minority population that has long complained of discrimination by the government. Insurgent groups have attacked Khuzestan oil pipelines in the past.
The New York Times reported in December that as many as 100 peaceful demonstrators hiding from security forces in a marsh close to Mahshahr had been shot dead by Revolutionary Guards troops.
Tehran blamed "riots" elsewhere in the country on "thugs" backed by Iran's foreign enemies.
The sanctions on Shahvarpour come as Washington ramps up its maximum pressure campaign on Iran.
The Trump administration announced further sanctions on Iran earlier this month after Tehran directed a volley of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops.
That attack, which injured 11 US personnel, came in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
Agencies contributed to this report
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay connected