US places sanctions on Iran intelligence officials after kidnapping plot
© WikiMedia (US Treasury)
US places sanctions on Iran intelligence officials after kidnapping plot

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blocked the assets of four Iranian intelligence officials on Friday. The move bars US persons or individuals within the US from “dealings … that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.” The move also warns that non-US persons risk designation if they engage in transactions with the four individuals.

The designation comes after the four individuals are accused of conducting a plot to kidnap Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad. According to US intelligence officials, the plot was part of a larger effort by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) to repress criticism of the Iranian government.

Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani led Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi and Omid Noori, in the facilitation of private surveillance of Alinejad’s movements. Further, Khazein and Sadeghi are alleged to have “researched travel routes from the victim’s residence to potential exfiltration points” for a “military-style” speedboat abduction out of New York City. Not only are the individuals subject to financial sanctions, but they have been criminally charged in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The plot is significant in that it represents an effort by the Iranian government to influence media coverage transnationally. The plot is a bold step by the Iranian government and is a frightening development for journalists criticizing the regime—regardless of their location.

The goal of the sanctions is to financially harm Iranian government officials and dissuade further illegal efforts. While OFAC is clear in its accusations, Iran has denied the existence of the plot.