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US Targets Foundations Controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 8, 2021.

The United States has sanctioned two Iranian foundations controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the State Department said Wednesday, the latest move in a U.S. pressure campaign against Tehran in the last days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO) and Astan Quds Razavi (AQR), allegedly enabled Iran’s elite to “control large portions of the Iranian economy, including assets seized from political dissidents and religious minorities,” the agency said in a statement.

"EIKO has systematically violated the rights of dissidents by confiscating land and property from opponents of the regime, including political opponents, religious minorities, and exiled Iranians," the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

The Iranian government did not respond immediately to the sanctions, which freeze any U.S. assets of the foundations and their subsidiaries, and generally bars Americans from doing business with them. Anyone who engages in certain transactions with these entities runs the risk of being hit with U.S. sanctions.

Tensions between the two countries escalated sharply two years ago when Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal reached by former President Barack Obama. Trump then restored harsh economic sanctions to force Iran to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

After Trump leaves the White House on January 20, President-elect Joe Biden has said he would reenter the nuclear pact if Tehran resumes compliance.