Protest against increased gas price on a highway in Tehran
Protest against increased gas price on a highway in Tehran Reuters

The United States is expected to impose sanctions as early as next week on Iranians involved in a violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrations in Iran a year ago, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the sanctions announcement was timed to the one-year anniversary of what may have been the bloodiest repression of protesters in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

One source said next week’s designations would be a major action covering multiple individuals as well as several dozen Iranian entities.

The sources, who included one US official and two people familiar with the matter, said the sanctions have been in the works for months and are the latest in a long series of U.S. penalties imposed on Iran by US President Donald Trump.

Neither the State Department nor the Iranian mission to the United Nations immediately responded to a request for comment on the sanctions.

Massive protests erupted across Iran in November 2019 after a major petrol price hike, but they were put down by security forces with mass arrests amid a near-total internet blackout.

Amnesty International reported at the time that at least 300 people were killed in that unrest, many shot dead by security forces.

Eyewitness accounts and videos said security forces responded to the November protests by opening fire on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income young men between the ages of 19 and 26.

Iran blamed the violence that broke out during the protests on "thugs" backed by its foes the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s report follows a report Sunday in Axioswhich cited two Israeli sources who said the Trump administration is pushing a plan to slap a long string of new sanctions on Iran in the 10 weeks left until Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

On Monday, several sources played down Sunday’s report.

“We’ve been sanctioning Iranian entities nearly every week for the past six months. There’s no reason we would put our foot on the brake now, but we’re not pushing it down on the gas pedal any further either,” a Trump administration official said on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration has regularly enforced sanctions on Iran since 2018, when it withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but has ramped up the sanctions in recent weeks, when its efforts to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran did not succeed.