U.S.: 40 Years After Its Embassy Takeover

November 4, 2019

The United States marked 40 years since the seizure of its embassy in Tehran by announcing new sanctions on Iran. “Forty years later, the revolutionary regime in Tehran has proven, time and again, that its first acts after gaining power were a clear indication of its evil character,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on November 4. The Treasury Department blacklisted nine members of the supreme leader’s inner circle. “The designation seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, supported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world,” Pompeo added. 

The United States also offered a new reward for information leading to the return of Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Pompeo called on the regime to release all wrongfully detained Americans. Sine 1979, Iran has sporadically detained dozens of other Americans and Iranian-Americans. Several were tried and convicted on charges of espionage or undermining Iranian national security. The following is a statement by Pompeo, a transcript of a background briefing by senior Trump administration officials and information on the sanctioned individuals from the U.S. Treasury.

 

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo

PompeoForty years ago today, heavily-armed followers of Ayatollah Khomeini broke the gates and scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.  More than 50 U.S. diplomats were taken hostage by the Iranian regime for 444 days.  For almost 15 months, these courageous and resilient Americans and their families did not know if they would live or die.  Thankfully, they lived.

Forty years later, the revolutionary regime in Tehran has proven, time and again, that its first acts after gaining power were a clear indication of its evil character.  The regime continues to unjustly detain Americans and to support terrorist proxy groups like Hizballah that engage in hostage taking.

The Trump Administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others.  We will not rest until they are reunited with their families. 

Additionally, today the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program is advertising a new reward of up to $20 million for information leading to the safe location, recovery, and return of Robert Levinson, who was taken hostage in Iran with the involvement of the Iranian regime.  Mr. Levinson is the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of the Treasury took action today against nine appointees and representatives of Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s unelected Supreme Leader, whose office is responsible for advancing Iran’s radical agenda.  The designation seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, supported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world.  The action specifically targets Ali Khamenei’s appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff, and the Judiciary.

Two of the Supreme Leader’s appointees, who are designated today, have also been linked to the 1983 U.S. Marine barrack bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. personnel and the 1994 bombing of Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA).  As recently as October 2019, a representative of the Supreme Leader directly called on regional Iran-backed militias to capture Western embassies.

While the Iranian regime’s decision to jail our diplomats has cast a 40-year shadow over our relations, the United States knows that the longest-suffering victims of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people.  We wish nothing more for them than a future with a truly representative government and friendship with the American people.

 

The White House

Statement from the Press Secretary

Forty years ago today, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.  Today, we honor the victims of this brazen act.  The Iranian regime continues to target innocent civilians for use as pawns in its failed foreign relations.  Until Iran changes this and its other hostile behavior, we will continue to impose crippling sanctions.  The Iranian regime has a choice.  Instead of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it can put the Iranian people first.  It can choose peace over hostage taking, assassinations, sabotage, maritime hijacking, and attacks on global oil markets.  The United States seeks peace, and we support the Iranian people.  It is time for the Iranian regime to do the same.   
 

Background Press Call on the 40th Anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis and New National Security Actions

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Forty years ago, the regime in Tehran revealed its true colors when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and held more than 50 American personnel hostage for 444 days. 

Today, as we reflect on the hardship and suffering they endured, we also remember the innocent Americans held captive in Iran today, who are a grim reminder that the regime is fundamentally exactly the same as it was 40 years ago.  And the important actions by -- my colleagues at the Treasury Department and State Department are taking today clearly demonstrate this administration's focus on this issue.

But there are also some hopeful signs in the region, from Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, populations that even proxies are starting to see Iranian patronage as the dead end that it is.  Given their (inaudible) financial circumstances, the mullahs can no longer offer the economic benefits that originally bought them influence.  And, instead, they now expect funds to flow the other way, making Tehran's interference much less attractive and reigniting nationalistic, patriotic desires for sovereignty.

In closing, this anniversary is an excellent opportunity for the Iranian regime to renounce the abhorrent practice of hostage taking, and immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly detained Americans on Iranian soil in a sign that they are truly ready to rejoin the international community.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Today, the Department of State's Rewards for Justice Program -- we are announcing now a reward of up to $20 million for credible information leading to the safe location, recovery, and return of retired FBI Special Agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007.  Bob Levinson has been away from his family and loved one for nearly 13 years, and we are determined to reunite them.

This reward is being offered as part of an ongoing effort to target the Iranian regime, which we believe was involved with Mr. Levinson's disappearance.  Iran has unjustly detained and tortured U.S. citizens at the heart of its ruthless efforts to exert political pressure on the United States.

We decided to time the announcement of this reward with the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.  And I think as you may know, Levinson was last seen alive in photographs received by his family in April of 2011.  And that's all I have for that announcement.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  But I think the designations today of the Supreme Leader's inner circle is an extremely important demonstration of our recognition that the Iranian regime is completely unchanged from 40 years ago; that this is the same crowd of corrupt revolutionaries that came into power in 1979. 

And as Secretary Mnuchin said, this is a targeting of the unelected officials who surround Iran's Supreme Leader and implement his destabilizing policies.  It's also important to note that these individuals are linked to a wide range of malign behaviors by the regime, including the bombings of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983 -- we just marked the anniversary of that last month; the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in 1994; as well as torture, extrajudicial killings, and the repression of civilians. 

And the other thing I would note is that these actions are taken under the executive order the President signed earlier this summer, giving him the authority to designate the Supreme Leader’s office and his associates.

So, with that, I think we can turn it over to questions.

Q    Thanks for doing this.  There are some reports that there might be conversations with Iran given the Iran’s Foreign Minister also dropped this line about a letter -- a list of names of Iranians in jail in the U.S.  Is there any conversation going on for a possible prisoner swamp?

And also, there was a Human Rights Watch report that came out a few days ago that said that the U.S. sanctions are in fact -- despite the claims by [senior administration official], previously -- is affecting, negatively, the actions of Iranian people to drugs and essential goods.  Can you comment on that, whether these sanctions -- how deeply are they hurting Iranian people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Going to your first point: You know, we don’t think it’s very effective to have any kind of conversations through the media.  I think that really demonstrates that Zarif uses their hostages as propaganda tools.  And so we would go back to my original point and say that, you know, they should immediately, on humanitarian grounds, release all of the American citizens unjustly detained on Iranian soil. 

And as to the humanitarian point, just last week the Treasury Department announced the establishment of a humanitarian channel to facilitate the types of non-sanctioned humanitarian goods that, as I said, we don’t sanction -- we aren’t doing anything to prevent them from coming into Iran -- but recognizing the enormous suffering the Iranian regime is causing the Iranian people.  The Treasury Department is working to establish that channel because of our respect for humanitarian issues. 

[Senior administration official], did you have anything you wanted to add?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I think that covers it.  I think it is also useful to point out that the regime has an obligation to its own people to provide them with food, medicine, agriculture products, et cetera.  They do not -- the regime purposefully does not run a transparent financial sector because it would rather have a dark banking system to do money laundering and terror finance, instead of having a transparent financial sector that would allow banks outside of Iran to know their client and to be able to process humanitarian transactions, which our sanctions permit.

And I think too much of the press coverage has failed to focus on the role that the regime plays in not living up to their end of the bargain to facilitate the transactions, which are completely permitted under our sanctions regime.  This is also a regime that is well known for -- recently, I think it was Rouhani’s chief of staff who had to send out a memo to all cabinet heads, asking, "Where did one billion euros of medical equipment disappear to?"  And you’ve also had other examples of medical supplies, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, just vanishing. 

I’m assuming -- I think our best guess is that somebody decided to make some money off of this, and it's probably one of the regime elite.  And until the regime starts prioritizing its own people over a violent ideology, the people are still going to suffer.

Q    Could you expand on what you suggested that your sanctions against Iran are contributing to the unrest and dissatisfaction in Iraq and Lebanon?  Is that what you meant?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The point was really -- and I think, you know, this has been pretty clearly reflected in open source reporting -- that the Iranians' lack of ability to supply the proxies and supply the kinds of services that they've traditionally supported is causing a lot of unhappiness. 

And I don’t have the quotes directly in front of me, but we had a Hezbollah member complaining that the golden days are gone and will never return, for example, and another proxy saying directly -- and I believe this one was in the Washington Post -- that the Iranians don’t have any money to pay us anymore.

So I think that is definitely contributing to the general anti-Iranian sentiment that you see in those protests.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I can go through the remarks if that would be helpful.  Although, if you're in the middle of Q&A, apologies -- we're here in the Gulf as we speak.  But let me just give a couple of high-level points.

As you probably have iterated already, the Treasury today took action against nine appointees and representative of Ali Khamenei, the Iran regime Supreme Leader and Iran's Armed Forces General Staff, as well -- the most senior military body in Iran.

People on the call, likely, will have already seen the press release, which is embargoed for just a few more minutes.  But our action is specifically focused on further targeting the financial assets of the Supreme Leader's inner circle of military and foreign affairs advisors.

I think we all know that the power in Iran is not held by elected officials or accountable to the Iranian people.  Iran's so-called democracy is a sham.  The power lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and his shadow network of corrupt appointees, who are forcibly suppressing all opposition inside the country and maintaining a grip on power, particularly exploiting, in this case, financial resources that should rightly belong to the Iranian people.

For more than 40 years, these privileged, unelected, self-enriching so-called revolutionaries have repressed the rights of the Iranian people and exported their radical terrorist agenda across the region, which is why we are now today targeting them.

I will cut it short there, just given that you have already treaded much of the ground, but I'm happy to talk about the atrocities of individuals such as Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran's Judiciary, who has overseen extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners, the executions of children -- up to seven in previous years; two more, so far, in 2019.  There are at least 90 children currently on death row in Iran. 

And in addition, between September of 2018 and July of this year, at least eight prominent lawyers who are trying to defend political prisoners and human rights defenders, many of whom have been sentenced to death, have themselves received lengthy sentences by Iran's Judiciary under Raisi.

And you probably also have made note of the fact that we are sanctioning, today, Mojtaba Khamenei, the second son of the Supreme Leader.  He works closely with Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Forces, as well with the Basij, to advance his father’s destabilizing agenda around the region.  And the list goes on and on. 

I do want to highlight two individuals for the audience: Ali Akbar Velayati, who is a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, who has helped the Iranian regime extend financial lifelines to the Assad regime.  But most importantly, particularly on this day, on the anniversary of the horrific attack on our embassy and the seizing of our diplomats, Velayati, who has been charged in Argentina for homicide in connection with the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people there, and he is one of the ideological masterminds behind that attack. 

Likewise, today we are designating Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, who was commander of the IRGC Forces in Lebanon and Syria in 1983, when they attacked -- when they masterminded and caused the bombing of the Marine Barracks bombing, which killed 241 of our service members. 

So today’s anniversary is a stark reminder that we are dealing with, today, the same regime that sprung up 40 years ago; the same regime that remains committed to violence and hostage taking that our diplomats encountered so long ago. 

And again, as the Treasury joins in this fight, we will constrict the Supreme Leader’s ability to visit his violence and to visit his malign agenda on the world.

Q    I wanted to ask about the militants that bombed the embassy 40 years ago.  They were actually -- one of (inaudible) they were actually college students.  Are these -- is this the corrupt regime that we’re talking about, college students?

And also, with the U.S. economic sanctions that are placed on Iran, it’s showing just how difficult it is for them to keep -- like, survive.  Do you not consider this putting political pressure on top of them, especially when trying to place a new leadership, or giving -- like the U.S. giving itself the authority to place a new leadership in Iran, like the same way they're doing in Venezuela, which is causing unrest?

And I also wanted to ask about the U.S. role in the Iraqi invasion of Iran, and does that contribute to, today, the unrest and the pressure in the relationship between Iran and the U.S.?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, going to your first point, I would just say that whether they’re college students or not college students, when you have militants who storm an embassy and take diplomatic and military personnel hostage for more than a year -- abusing them physically and mentally throughout -- I don’t know that being a college student is really a mitigating factor there. 

In terms of any issue of regime change: I mean, the President has been crystal clear, and I can refer you to any number of his statements that that’s not our policy.  Our policy is to change the regime’s malign behavior and to make them a responsible member of the international community.  I mean, everything we’ve asked them to do is absolutely in their own best interest. 

I believe I referred to the humanitarian channel established by the Treasury Department last week as our voluntary effort to try to provide the assistance to the Iranian people that is being denied to them by their own regime.  So I think we have addressed that. 

And I think it’s interesting to raise the issue of an -- a purported Iraqi invasion of Iran, when right now you have the Iranians trying to exert a decisive influence over the government of Iraq and you have the Iraqi people in the streets, clamoring for their own independence and sovereignty. 

 

Treasury Designates Supreme Leader of Iran’s Inner Circle Responsible for Advancing Regime’s Domestic and Foreign Oppression

November 4, 2019

Action coincides with 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today against Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff and nine individuals who are appointees of, or have acted for or on behalf of, Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s unelected Supreme Leader whose office is responsible for advancing Iran’s radical agenda. This action seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Ali Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, exported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world. Specifically, the action targets Ali Khamenei’s appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff, and the Judiciary. Treasury’s action coincides with the 40th anniversary of Iranian militants seizing the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.

"Today the Treasury Department is targeting the unelected officials who surround Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. "These individuals are linked to a wide range of malign behaviors by the regime, including bombings of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in 1994, as well as torture, extrajudicial killings, and repression of civilians. This action further constricts the Supreme Leader’s ability to execute his agenda of terror and oppression."

This action is being taken pursuant to President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, signed on June 24, 2019. The E.O. imposed sanctions on the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Supreme Leader’s Office (SLO), and authorized sanctions on others associated with the Supreme Leader or the SLO. Today’s actions complement Treasury’s previous additions of Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Iranian regime’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, to OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List).

 

EBRAHIM RAISI AND MOJTABA KHAMENEI

Today, OFAC designated Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s Judiciary, who was appointed by the Supreme Leader in March 2019. OFAC designated the former head of Iran’s Judiciary Sadegh Amoli Larijani Larijani in January 2018 pursuant to E.O. 13553 for his administrative oversight over the executions of individuals who were juveniles at the time of their crime and the torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations.

According to a United Nations report, Iran’s Judiciary sanctioned the execution of seven child offenders last year, and two so far in 2019, despite human rights law prohibitions against the death penalty for anyone under age 18. There are at least 90 child offenders currently on death row in Iran. In addition, between September 2018 and July 2019, at least eight prominent lawyers were arrested for defending political prisoners and human rights defenders, many of whom have received lengthy sentences by Iran’s Judiciary.

Prior to Raisi’s appointment as head of the Judiciary, he served as prosecutor general of Tehran between 1989 and 1994, first deputy head of the judiciary from 2004 to 2014, and Iran’s prosecutor general from 2014 to 2016. Raisi was involved in the regime’s brutal crackdown on Iran’s Green Movement protests that followed the chaotic and disorderly 2009 election. Previously, as deputy prosecutor general of Tehran, Raisi participated in a so-called "death commission" that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Mojtaba Khamenei, the second son of the Supreme Leader, is designated today for representing the Supreme Leader in an official capacity despite never being elected or appointed to a government position aside from work in the office of his father. The Supreme Leader has delegated a part of his leadership responsibilities to Mojataba Khamenei, who worked closely with the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and also the Basij Resistance Force (Basij) to advance his father’s destabilizing regional ambitions and oppressive domestic objectives. The IRGC-QF is designated pursuant to Treasury’s counterterrorism authority (E.O. 13224) and as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, while the Basij is designated pursuant to both E.O. 13224 and Treasury’s human rights designation authority (E.O. 13553).

Ebrahim Raisi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for being a person appointed to a position as a state official of Iran by the Supreme Leader of Iran. Mojtaba Khamenei is being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

 

MOHAMMADI GOLPAYEGANI AND VAHID HAGHANIAN

Also designated today is Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, the Supreme Leader’s Chief of Staff and one of the most senior officials within the Supreme Leader’s Office. Mohammadi Golpayegani often represents the Supreme Leader and his office in public engagements on behalf of the Supreme Leader’s Office.

Mohammadi Golpayegani, as the head of the Supreme Leader’s Office, along with the current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, directed the regime’s systematic blocking of social and economic progress of the Baha’i community, a religious minority group in Iran. This includes expelling members of the Baha’i faith from universities and denying them employment.

OFAC is also designating Vahid Haghanian who has been referred to as the Supreme Leader’s right hand. A former military commander, Vahid Haghanian is acting as an executive deputy for the Supreme Leader and usually accompanies the Supreme Leader on social engagements.

Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader’s Office. Vahid Haghanian is being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

 

ALI AKBAR VELAYATI AND GHOLAM-ALI HADAD-ADEL

OFAC is designating Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader who has helped the Iranian regime extend credit lines to the brutal Assad regime.

Velayati, along with the senior IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi, announced that Iran was signing several investment and oil agreements with the Syrian regime in a visit to Syria, directly facilitating Iran’s lifeline to the Assad regime. OFAC designated Rostam Qasemi and a network of companies employed by Qasemi and Hizballah operatives to transport millions of barrels of crude oil, predominantly to the Syrian regime, pursuant to E.O. 13224 in September 2019.

Notably, Velayati has been charged in Argentina for homicide in connection with the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people and as one of the "ideological masterminds" behind the attack.

Also designated today is Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, father-in-law of Mojtaba Khamenei, a member of the Expediency Council and also an advisor to Ali Khamenei. Hadad-Adel is known to be among those in the Supreme Leader’s inner circle.

Ali Akbar Velayati is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran. Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel is being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

 

ARMED FORCES GENERAL STAFF AND MOHAMMAD BAGHERI

OFAC is designating Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS), the most senior military body in Iran, which implements policy and monitors and coordinates activities within the armed forces, including the IRGC. Ali Khamenei is also the commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces, and exercises his authority by appointing the AFGS chief and various other AFGS commanders. In 2016, Ali Khamenei appointed IRGC General Mohammad Bagheri as the chief of AFGS.

Mohammad Bagheri is designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for being a person appointed to a position as a state official of Iran by the Supreme Leader of Iran. AFGS is designated for being owned or controlled by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran. The IRGC was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on October 25, 2007; subsequently designated pursuant to terrorism authorities pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 17, 2017; and as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April 2019.

 

HOSSEIN DEHGHAN AND GHOLAM ALI RASHID

IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan who is also being designated today, was appointed by Ali Khamenei as his military aide for the Defense Industries and Armed Forces Logistics. Hossein Dehghan was the commander of IRGC forces in Lebanon and Syria in 1983 when the bombing of a Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon, killed 241 U.S. service members. Iran’s proxy militia, Hizballah, carried out the attack at the direction of the Iranian regime.

OFAC is designating Gholam Ali Rashid, an IRGC commander, who was appointed by the Supreme Leader of Iran as the commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Central Headquarters, the most important military headquarters in Iran. Khatam al-Anbia Central Headquarters operates under the AFGS and its main function is to coordinate the operations of the Iran’s armed forces.

Hossein Dehghan and Gholam Ali Rashid are both being designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for being persons appointed to a position as state official of Iran by the Supreme Leader of Iran.

 

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

All property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts or facilitates a significant transaction for or on behalf of the persons designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.