The US government has imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian military commanders and media outlets in response to a “brazen” attempt to interfere with November’s presidential election.
On Thursday night, Washington announced it was placing sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite Quds force, the Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute and three news outlets.
It comes after US officials accused Iran and Russia of attempting to meddle in the election by spreading misinformation online and gaining access to voter registration data.
In a statement, the US Treasury said the Iranian groups were trying to “sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading US voters.”
The Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute is believed to be taking the lead in the misinformation campaign, which sent intimidating emails to US voters ordering them to vote for Donald Trump and his Republican party.
The message senders posed as members of the Proud Boys, a far-Right US militia group which supports many of Mr Trump’s more divisive policies.
Mr Trump was criticised for giving an ambiguous response when asked to condemn the Proud Boys during a recent televised debate, saying: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
His campaign staff later clarified that Mr Trump condemns white supremacism in all its forms.
Analysts pointed out that the IRGC and many other Iranian entities have already been crippled by US sanctions, which means this latest round is unlikely to have a major impact.
Iran has denied the “clumsy and fabricated” allegations and has summoned the ambassador for Switzerland, which acts on behalf of US interests due to the lack of diplomatic relations, to protest the claims.
For Russia’s part, President Vladimir Putin has said he favoured Mr Trump in the 2016 election, though an investigation by the FBI said it did not find sufficient evidence that the president had conspired with Moscow.
Mr Trump has repeatedly protested what he describes as the "Russia hoax," which he claims is a ploy to undermine his election victory.