Iran will face severe consequences if it attacks Americans, the White House said on Sunday, including former officials sanctioned by Tehran for the 2020 killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Iran's sanctions on Saturday came as Tehran's proxy militias continue to attack American troops in the Middle East.
"We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran," Sullivan said in a statement. "Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 52 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences."
Top Iranian officials have repeatedly issued threats to take revenge for Soleimani’s killing. The Qods Force general was Iran’s top military and intelligence operator in the region, organizing and guiding militant proxies.
The US warning came as nuclear talks continue in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement, which would lift US sanctions and restrict Iran’s fast-developing nuclear program. Iran has refused to directly negotiate with the United States. Other participants in the talks act as mediators.
Iran on Saturday imposed sanctions on dozens more Americans, many of them from the US military, over the 2020 killing of Soleimani.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said 51 Americans had been targeted for what it called "terrorism" and human rights violations. The step lets Iranian authorities seize any assets they hold in Iran, but the apparent absence of such assets means it will likely be symbolic.
It was not clear why Sullivan's statement referred to 52 people when Tehran said it had sanctioned 51.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 1 lashed out at former US president Donald Trump and others for Soleimani’s killing, saying they “will pay back for their crime.” Other Iranian officials have repeated similar threats in the past week as Tehran marked the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria accelerated drone and rocker attacks on US forces in the first week of January.
Iran's sanctions include former president Donald Trump, former CIA directors Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel, former UN envoy John Bolton, former defense secretaries Mark Esper and Christopher C. Miller. The list also included US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien.
Soleimani, was killed in Iraq in a drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, ordered by then President Donald Trump, who said he had to eliminate a “terrorist leader” who posed an immediate danger to Americans.
With reporting by Reuters