U.S. Sanctions Iran Ministry for Aiding Assad's Crackdown

Washington announces seizure of U.S. assets of Ministry of Intelligence and Security for human rights abuses, support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaida.

The United States moved Thursday to sanctions Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for what it says is its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal repression of opposition protests as well as for its support of terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

In a statement released by the State Department, spokesperson Victora Nuland indicated that the MOIS was "designated for its involvement in the commission of serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, as well as its support to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, Hizballah and Hamas."

Black smoke rising over the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs province on Feb. 12, 2012, in an image pro

"It was also designated under a separate executive order for its support to the Syrian regime in brutally repressing the Syrian people," the statement added, saying the U.S. "imposed visa and financial sanctions on the MOIS for its commission of serious human rights abuses in its own country."

Regarding the sanctions purpose, Noland wrote that the move was meant to expose "the activities of the MOIS, and allows us to identify and sanction individuals, companies and other entities that, among other things, support or act on behalf of the MOIS."

"We encourage all of our partners to take similar actions in response to the MOIS involvement in illicit conduct," the statement added.

A Department of Treasury statement indicated that as part of the newly imposed sanctions, "any property or property interests in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the MOIS has an interest are blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with it."

In addition, "all members of the MOIS are also ineligible to receive visas from the Department of State."

In June of last year, the United States hit Iranian officials with sanctions, tagerting included Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the chief of Iran’s national police force, or Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), and his deputy, Ahmad-Reza Radan.

A Treasury statement released at the time accused Radan of traveling to Syria in April to provide “expert aid in the Syrian government’s crackdown on the Syrian people.”

Earlier this month, a senior member of Syria's National Syrian Council indicated that a top Iranian military official was actively aiding Assad's regime to suppress popular unrest throughout the country.

According to the Syrian official, Kassam Salimani, commander of the Quds Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard special forces unit, has arrived in Syria recently and has taken up a spot in the war room which manages army maneuvers against opposition.

The war room was also reportedly populated by Assad himself, as well as his brother Maher, brother-in-law Assaf Shaukat and cousin Rami Makhlouf, with the Syrian chief of staff's authority reportedly restricted and divided up between other military commanders.