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US sanctions Iranian officials involved in vetting election candidates

US sanctions Iranian officials involved in vetting election candidates
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The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against five Iranian officials it said are responsible for preventing “free and fair” elections.

The sanctions are being announced a day before Iran’s parliamentary elections, which conservative hard-liners are expected to dominate.

“Tomorrow, the Iranian regime will stage an event euphemistically called elections,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, said at a briefing announcing the sanctions. “Unfortunately for the Iranian people, the real election took place in secret long before any ballots were even cast.”

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The sanctions levied Thursday are on two members of Iran’s Guardian Council and three members of the council’s Central Committee for Election Supervision.

The Guardian Council, a 12-member panel appointed by the supreme leader or his appointees, is responsible for approving candidates to get on the ballot, a vetting process the United States says rigs the elections in favor of those who share Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's ideology.

“Together, these five officials oversee a process that silences the voice of the Iranian people, curtails their freedom and limits their political participation,” Hook said. The council members “are the ones who really get to vote in Iran.”

Hook said the council denied more than 7,000 candidates ahead of Friday’s parliamentary elections.

Thursday’s sanctions are against Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council, and council member Mohammad Yazdi, who is also the former head of Iran’s judiciary. Sanctions are also being placed on Siamak Rahpeyk, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei and Mohammad Hasan Sadeghi Moghadam, members of the council’s election supervision committee.

The Trump administration has slapped myriad sanctions on Iranian officials as part of its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

U.S.-Iran tensions have skyrocketed in the midst of the pressure campaign, with the two sides nearly going to war in January after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.