President Obama, VP Joe Biden
President Obama, VP Joe BidenReuters

President Obama on Friday renewed America's 33-year-old state of emergency with regard to Iran as lawmakers of both parties prepared a push for a new round of sanctions aimed at halting the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

The state of emergency against the country, which was first declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 following the Islamic revolution, allows the president broad powers to impose sanctions and take other measures “to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy” of the United States.

“Our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal, and the process of implementing the agreements with Iran, dated Jan. 19, 1981, is still under way,” Obama informed the House and Senate on Friday. “For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared on Nov. 14, 1979, with respect to Iran, beyond Nov. 14, 2012.”

The announcement directly follows the Treasury Department’s announcement on Thursday to impose sanctions against several top Iranian officials and organizations found guilty of “censorship or other activities that prohibit, limit or penalize freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

They were also accused of limiting “access to print or broadcast media, including by jamming international satellite broadcasts into Iran,” Nuland said, denouncing the “regime’s insidious actions.”

The United States was determined to stop the “Iranian government from creating an ‘electronic curtain’ to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world,” she said.

Those hit by sanctions include Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Reza Taghipour, who has been found responsible for ordering the jamming of satellite television broadcasts and restricting internet connectivity.

Also sanctioned are Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its Press Supervisory Board, which have limited freedom of expression through their censorship and closure of numerous newspapers and detention of journalists.