WASHINGTON: Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the United States is imposing sanctions on the leaders of two Iranian-linked militia groups in Iraq.
"Let me be clear, the United States will not stand idly while Iranian-backed militias spread terror," Pence told a high-level meeting on religious freedom, without naming the individuals targeted.
A US Treasury statement said the sanctions were being imposed on the four Iraqi milita leaders due to suspicion of human rights abuses and corruption.
Further sanctions were imposed on five people and seven entities in connection to Iran's nuclear program and non-proliferation matters, the Treasury Department said on its website on Thursday.
They are the first punitive steps by Washington since Tehran announced earlier this month it would increase its levels of enriched uranium that can be used for bomb fuel.
Tehran announced on July 1 that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, marking its first major step beyond the terms of the pact since the United States withdrew more than a year ago.
"Treasury is taking action to shut down an Iranian nuclear procurement network that leverages Chinese- and Belgium-based front companies to acquire critical nuclear materials and benefit the regime's malign ambitions," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
"Iran cannot claim benign intent on the world stage while it purchases and stockpiled products for centrifuges," he added.