European Union foreign ministers on Monday approved a new round of sanctions against Iran over the regime's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
The bloc targeted 29 individuals and three entities with asset freezes and travel bans for their role in both the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the country's morality police and the violent response to the subsequent demonstrations that swept the country.
The newly-sanctioned individuals include four members of the squad that arbitrarily arrested Amini, provincial heads of the Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and Brigadier General Kiyumars Heidari, the Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and Vahid Mohammad Naser Majid, the head of the Iranian Cyber Police, were also targeted, the latter for "his responsibility in arbitrarily arresting people for expressing online criticism of the Iranian regime," the EU Council said in a statement.
State television broadcaster Press TV is also on the new list for "producing and broadcasting the forced confessions of detainees."
Nuclear deal 'at a stalemate'
The new designations come a month after a first package imposed restrictive measures on 15 Iranian individuals and entities.
These included the morality police and two of its key figures Mohammad Rostami and Hajahmad Mirzaei as well as the Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and a number of its local chiefs. The country's Minister of information and Communications Technology, Issa Zarepour, was also sanctioned for his responsibility in the internet shutdown.
Borrell said he spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday to discuss the sanctions and the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
Asked whether a new round of sanctions, which would likely be met by countermeasures from Tehran, could endanger JCPOA discussions, Borrell conceded that the deal "is not on a good track, it is at a stalemate, but the work continues."
"We discussed about the military support of Iran to Russia that has to stop," he also said. He reiterated that the bloc has "clear evidence" that Iran has supplied drones to Moscow that were used in Ukraine.
Ninth package against Russia?
Russia's continued war in Ukraine will also be on the agenda for ministers but a new round of sanctions against Moscow is unlikely to be discussed.
The bloc has so far imposed eight packages of sanctions targeting Moscow's defence, energy, financial, media and transport sectors but the pace has slowed in recent weeks as cracks in the bloc's unity widen over spiralling cost of living and energy costs.
Poland and the Baltic States have proposed new sanctions with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis telling reporters that Vilnius "offered a number of listings already several weeks ago and we're still waiting for the response from the institutions in Europe, that they would react and go forward with the 9th package."
"There are those who are saying that maybe there is nothing else to sanctions that everything that Europe was able to sanction is already in the list so I would like to dispel this information," he added.
Asked about this, Borrell defended Brussels, assuring reporters that "we are reacting, and we are following the procedures."
"Member states propose, then sanctions are being studied, legal services are being consulted, and then we proceed. Be sure that we are not stopping," he said.