The U.S. on Friday said it was imposing sanctions on 14 people and 17 entities connected to Iran’s Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND).
SPND is a body the U.S. said had played a central role in Iran’s past nuclear weapons effort.
Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a Statement.
“The U.S. government is taking decisive action against actors at all levels in connection with Iran’s Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), who have supported the Iranian regime’s defence sector,” Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said.
“The U.S. will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction.
“Anyone considering dealing with the Iranian defence industry in general, and SPND in particular, risks professional, personal, and financial isolation.”
It said the steps targeted current SPND subordinate groups, supporters, front companies, and associated officials.
The move freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and bans U.S. dealings with them.
“Today’s action serves as a warning to individuals and entities considering dealing with the Iranian regime’s defence sector in general, and SPND in particular.
“Engaging in sanctionable activity with designated Iranian persons, you risk professional, personal, and financial isolation,” the Treasury statement said.
On Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran was determined to boost its defence capabilities in spite mounting pressure from the U.S. and its allies to curb its ballistic missile programme.
“We need to take Iran to a point that enemy understands that they cannot threaten Iran … America’s sanctions will make Iran self-sufficient,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.
President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. last May from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, saying it gave too much away to Iran, and reimposed far-reaching U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. sanctions aim to force Iran to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear work and drop its ballistic missile programme.
Mr Khamenei said the European signatories of the deal had failed to maintain Iran’s interests.
“They have stabbed Iran in the back … The Western countries have proved they cannot be trusted,” he said in the speech in Mashhad.
The other signatories to the nuclear deal – Germany, France, Britain, the EU, Russia and China – have remained committed to the agreement and have been trying to salvage the pact by a mechanism to circumvent Trump’s sanctions.
Iran says its missile programme is purely defensive and has rejected the curbs on it demanded by the U.S.
Tehran says it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), which puts Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach.