Iran sanctions 51 Americans, White House responds threatening 'severe consequences'

Sullivan responded: "Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens."
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January 2018 photo of Tehran, Iran
Tehran, Iran
Getty Images/ATTA KENARE

Iran on Saturday sanctioned 51 U.S. officials in response to the assassination of General Qassim Soleimani, and the following day, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned of "severe consequences" if Iran attacks any American.

The most recently announced sanctions come shortly after the anniversary of the Jan. 3, 2020, U.S. drone strike on Soleimani in Baghdad. Similar sanctions were announced last year shortly after the attack's one-year anniversary.

The additional sanctions named U.S. leaders such as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie as well as Trump officials including former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (spelled incorrectly on the Iranian document as "John Micheal mulvaney").

The Iranian sanctions imposed one year ago signaled out former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and seven others. The Islamic Republic accused the ten of "terrorist actions" by assassinating Soleimani, former head of Iran's elite Quds force who the country describes as a "martyr." 

Sullivan responded: "Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens."

Although many of those sanctioned are from the prior administration, Sullivan said: "As Americans, we have our disagreements on politics. We have our disagreements on Iran policy.  But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations. We are united in the defense of our people."

"We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran," Sullivan concluded. "Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 51 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences."

The sanctions allow authorities to confiscate assets a named person owns in Iran. The move is largely symbolic, Axios reports, as those named are not believed to own assets in the Islamic Republic.

Tensions in the Middle East have risen due to the anniversary of the general's death. Last week, Syrian and Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops were attacked, but no one was killed.