In an interview with the state-backed broadcaster VOA (Voice of America), deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek, said Washington was mulling targeted sanctions as well as working with international partners to censure Tehran.
“For our part, we will hold accountable those people or entities who are committing violence, from the top to the bottom, against the protesters,” Peek said. “That involves examining actions we can take against those individuals, like sanctions and other means.”
Trump has used Twitter to warn he is “watching” events in the Islamic Republic, where the security services are cracking down on a wave of protests against rising prices, corruption and Iran’s costly military interventions in Syria and Yemen.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted to his 45.6 million followers on Tuesday, before blasting the nuclear deal his predecessor, Barack Obama, brokered with Tehran in 2015.
“All of the money that president Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights.”
As many as 22 people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces since a wave of anti-government protests began on Thursday in the city of Mashhad, and have since spread across the country and to the capital, Tehran.
Speaking to reporters at the UN on Tuesday, US ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington was not planning any unilateral action but called for meetings of the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“This is the precise picture of a long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators. The international community has a role to play in this. The freedoms that are enshrined in the United Nations charter are under attack in Iran,” she said.
The rallies are a rare public display of ire against a political elite that has kept a tight grip on power since the 1979 revolution against the pro-Western Shah.
The threat of US sanctions comes ahead of a congressional deadline Trump faces this month on whether to continue waiving sanctions that were frozen under the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers.
Last year, Trump declined to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal, but Congress did not act on a provision allowing lawmakers to reimpose the nuclear-related curbs within 60 days. Trump can also impose new sanctions, unrelated to the accord.