The US has sanctioned former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the disappearance of a US citizen 16 years ago, while releasing $6 billion to Iran to free other hostages.
On Monday, as five Iranian-Americans held hostage in Iran for several years were allowed to leave, the United States announced designations for Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
The move to allow $6 billion frozen in South Korean banks due to US sanctions to be released has been criticized by Republicans, experts and many Iranian Americans as a counter-productive decision that will endanger other Americans and embolden would-be hostage takers.
The sanctions announced today are seen as a move by the administration to counter these criticisms, while Ahmadinejad holds no significant power in Iran and has been isolated by the regime. While criticizing the regime since 2017, the former president has maintained silence for more than a year.
A statement released by the State Department said the US is “designating Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in connection with the MOIS’s involvement in the wrongful detention of U.S citizens and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his support to MOIS.” It added, “During Ahmadinejad’s term in office, Iran’s MOIS abducted and detained Bob Levinson with authorization by senior Iranian officials.” Levinson traveled to Iran and disappeared in 2007.
The prisoners released on Monday were arrested on trumped-up charges and convicted for espionage and other security crimes in sham trials without due process of law.