BRUSSELS, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on more than 30 Iranian officials and institutions, including units of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, accusing them of a “brutal” crackdown on protesters and other human rights abuses.
The United States and Britain have also issued new sanctions against Iran, reflecting a deterioration in the West’s already strained relations with Tehran in recent months.
Foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 member states agreed on the measures at a meeting in Brussels.
The sanctions have targeted units and senior officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) across Iran, including in Sunni-populated areas where the state’s crackdown has intensified, a list published in the EU’s official journal showed.
Some EU governments and the European Parliament have made it clear that the IRGC should be listed as a terrorist organization altogether. But the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, noted that could only happen if an EU country’s court found the IRGC guilty of terrorism.
“You can’t say, ‘I consider you a terrorist because I don’t like you,'” he told reporters before the Brussels talks.
New sanctions have been imposed on 18 people and 19 entities. Those targeted cannot travel to the EU and any assets they have within the EU can be frozen.
Relations between the EU and Tehran have spiraled downward amid efforts to revive talks over its nuclear program and Iran has moved to detain several European citizens.
The bloc has been highly critical of the violent treatment of protesters in Iran, including executions and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the new sanctions targeted “those driving repression”.
“The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a Twitter post from the country’s EU diplomatic mission.
The IRGC was established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the ruling system of the Shia clergy. It has an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units, and the Basij religious militia, often used in repression.
“The Iranian regime, the Revolutionary Guards terrorize their own population day after day,” German Foreign Minister Analena Baerbach said at a meeting on Monday.
The day before the Brussels meeting, more than a thousand people took to the city’s streets to protest the arrest of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecastel in Iran.
Iran has previously warned the EU against designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
(Reporting by Andrew Gray, Bart Meijer, Philip Blenkinsop and Parisa Hafezi, Writing by Ingrid Melander and Gabriela Bazynska, Editing by Peter Graff, Timothy Heritage and John Stonestreet
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