Press TV – The United States has imposed sanctions on five Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of Iran’s Guardian Council, which is responsible for supervising the electoral process in the country.
The sanctions were announced by the US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, on Thursday, a day before a key parliamentary vote which is being seen as a referendum on Iran’s diplomacy to counter imperialistic US policies.
Hook accused the Iranian officials of preventing free and fair elections by disqualifying a number of candidates.
He also labeled Friday’s general elections as a “political theater.” Earlier this week, Hook made similar remarks about the upcoming polls, which were dismissed by Iran’s Foreign Ministry as nonsense.
Iranian officials have called for a high turnout in Friday’s parliamentary elections, saying that every vote that people cast in ballot boxes is a slap in the enemy’s face.
The Treasury Department said in a statement on Friday that it imposed sanctions on the members of Iran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee over the council’s role in disqualifying the candidates.
“The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime’s malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
“The United States will continue to support the democratic aspirations of Iranians,” he added.
The US sanctions targeted Ayatollah Jannati, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a member of Iran’s Guardian Council who was formerly Iran’s first Judiciary Chief, and three members of the Elections Supervisory Committee, according to Reuters.
The bans freeze any American-held assets of the officials and generally bar American citizens from doing business with them.
The Guardian Council has said that the vetting process for the candidates in the elections was solely based on law and had nothing to do with the political factions the nominees represent.
Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Wednesday, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the Guardian Council, dismissed claims that many reformist hopefuls had been disqualified from running in the 11th parliamentary polls scheduled for February 21.
He explained that the disqualifications had nothing to do with the political inclinations of the candidates and that the Guardian Council had done its best to enforce the law.
The council has never sought a political viewpoint in its decision-makings, the spokesman said.
In an earlier interview Kadkhodaei said out of the 16,000 people who applied to compete in the elections, some 9,000 were disqualified as per the election law.
Iran’s 11th parliamentary elections will be held on February 21, 2020. The date will also feature interim elections for Iran’s Assembly of Experts, which elects and oversees the activities of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
More than 7,000 candidates are to vie in the polls for 290 seats, five of them representing religious minorities. A winning candidate must have at least 20 percent of the votes cast in their constituency in order to become lawmaker for a four-year term.
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said an inclusive and enthusiastic popular turnout in the parliamentary elections will enrage the United States, stressing the significant role of the legislative chamber in moving forward government efforts to thwart Washington’s sanctions.
Iran can triumph over the US pressure campaign through perseverance and strength, Rouhani told the Wednesday cabinet session.
Also on Tuesday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the parliamentary elections in Iran are taking place at a critical time of US pressure and attempts to drive a wedge between the Iranian nation and government, calling for a large turnout in the polls to foil Washington’s “evil intentions.”
The Leader called elections a contributor to the strength of the country and said the US formed think tanks of dozens or hundreds of people to plan to alienate the Iranian people and the youth in particular from the government.