UANI Top 10 Iran Sanctions Targets [April 2024]

The “UANI Top 10 Iran Sanctions Targets” is a new monthly product that seeks to expose and restrict the nefarious activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, both inside and outside of the country. Using primary data and intelligence, UANI experts identify and publish a list of 10 individuals and entities for the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK), European Union (EU), and other Western allies to target with sanctions. Many of these persons and organizations fly below the radar of public scrutiny. UANI aims to increase awareness of their roles. Where available, these listings include dates of birth (DOB) or years of birth (YOB).




Hamzeh Khalili, First Deputy Chief Justice of Iran


YOB: 1963

Hamzeh Khalili was recently named as the new first deputy chief justice of Iran. Early in his career, Khalili served in the Tehran judiciary, and then was the head of the judiciary in Karaj, Golestan Province, Qom Province, Gilan Province, and Khorasan Razavi Province. He also served in a senior judicial post during the chief justiceship of Mohammad Yazdi. While serving as head of the judiciary in Qom, women’s rights activist Maryam Bidgoli was arrested and imprisoned to serve a six month sentence after engaging in the peaceful collection of signatures for a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in Iran. Khalili’s predecessors in this post have been under U.S. sanctions including his superiors as chief justice. The U.S. should sanction Khalili for human rights abuses under Executive Order 13553 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Mohammad Reza Tavakoli, Head of the First Branch of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court

Public reports suggest Mohammad Reza Tavakoli is the judge who sentenced prominent Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death. A friend of Toomaj Salehi told the media that “aiming for power and gaining the approval of his superiors who were seeking a harsher sentence, he [Tavakoli] increased the number of charges against Toomaj from three to ten.” The U.S. should sanction Tavakoli for human rights abuses under Executive Order 13553 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Minister


DOB: April 23, 1964

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the foreign minister of Iran since 2021, is a card-carrying member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s Basij, which is sanctioned under multiple authorities in the U.S., including for human rights abuses and counterterrorism. Amir-Abdollahian has spent years in Iran’s Foreign Ministry, and was known for his close relationship with the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani. He served as Iran’s ambassador to Bahrain, director-general for the Persian Gulf and Middle East area, and deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs. Amir-Abdollahian reportedly attended planning meetings in Beirut for the October 7, 2023 massacre in Israel. The U.S. should sanction Amir-Abdollahian under counterterrorism authorities pursuant to Executive Order 13224 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Mahmoud Khosravivafa, Head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee


YOB: 1953

Mahmoud Khosravivafa, the head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee, is a former bodyguard to Ali Khamenei before he became supreme leader and saved his life. Khosravivafa has reportedly lied to the International Olympic Committee about why the Islamic Republic’s athletes refuse to compete against Israelis. He falsely claimed it was due to personal religious belief, rather than a government ban. Khosravivafa has been part of an attempt by the Iranian government to whitewash the severe restrictions athletes face in competitions and bully them into silence. The EU sanctioned Iran’s Sports and Youth minister in 2023. Khosravivafa told the world that climber Elnaz Rekabi would not be punished after she refused to compete with a hijab during the Asian Championship in 2022. But in December 2022, news emerged that her family home in Zanjan was demolished. The U.S. should sanction Khosravivafa for human rights abuses under Executive Order 13553 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Kazem Sedighi, Interim Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran

DOB: March 4, 1951

Kazem Sedighi is the interim Friday Prayer leader of Tehran. Sedighi and his family have recently become embroiled in a corruption scandal after documents surfaced which revealed he and his sons transferred a garden connected to a seminary he ran to a family holding company. The land is valued at $20 million. The U.S. and its allies should sanction Kazem Sedighi under their Magnitsky Act authorities targeting corruption and human rights abuses.

Mohammad Ali Zolfigol, Iran’s Minister of Science, Research, and Technology

DOB: February 2, 1966

Mohammad Ali Zolfigol, Iran’s Minister of Science, Research, and Technology, is directly involved in facilitating and enhancing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) efforts to procure sensitive research and technology to advance its military programs from Iranian university and their international collaborations. This includes co-signing multiple agreements providing the IRGC and other armed elements of the regime with “maximum access” to Iranian universities. Zolfigol is also a member of the Professor’s Basij Organization (PBO), which is involved in human rights violations across Iranian universities. He has personally been spearheading the new wave of Islamization across universities in Iran, which has seen mass purges of Iranian academics as part of the “Third Cultural Revolution.”

Alireza Zakani, Mayor of Tehran

DOB: March 3, 1966

As mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani – a close affiliate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and former commander of the Student Basij Organization (SBO) – has been involved in gross human rights violations across the Iranian capital, including enabling and coordinating the IRGC’s violent suppression of the 2022 anti-regime protests in Iran. Zakani is one of the key implementors of the “Noor Plan,” a new initiative that seeks to violently enforce the compulsory hijab on Iranian women. In his former role as head of the SBO – the IRGC’s paramilitary group – Zakani personally commanded and oversaw violent crackdowns against students across university campuses in Iran. As part of the SBO, he played a direct and prominent role in the violent suppression on students during the July 1999 student protests. Zakani has also played a direct role in the forceful Islamization of Iranian universities, including enforcing Islamic morality codes – such as the compulsory hijab – on young Iranian women. He has played an active role in IRGC Basij indoctrination and recruitment. Despite his involvement in committing gross human rights violations and his affiliation to the IRGC, Zakani has traveled freely across Europe, including a trip to Brussels in 2023. The UK has sanctioned Zakani. The U.S. should sanction Zakani for human rights abuses under Executive Order 13553 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Alireza Panahian, Senior Member, Office of Iran’s Supreme Leader and IRGC-affiliated Cleric

DOB: April 17, 1965

Alireza Panahian—a senior member of the Office of Supreme Leader and an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated extremist cleric—is extensively tied to the IRGC’s intelligence-security apparatus, which is involved in gross human rights violations in Iran and terrorism abroad. He has vocally advocated for terrorist attacks on U.S.-led forces in the Middle East and beyond.  Panahian is in the inner-ring of Mojtaba Khamenei’s personal network and a member of the so-called “Habib Circle” – one of the regime’s highest informal security-intelligence networks – which has committed human rights violations and is involved in terrorist activities. He also plays a leading role in the IRGC’s antisemitic and violent, Islamist extremist indoctrination program, including serving as one of the key ideological architects of the IRGC’s militaristic and apocalyptic doctrine of Mahdism, which advocated for the destruction of Israel and the eradication of Jews worldwide as a perquisite for the Hidden Shia Imam’s return. The U.S. should sanction Panahian for human rights abuses and support for terrorism under Executive Orders 13553 and 13224 and its allies should do so under their respective national authorities.

Saeed Mohammad, Former Commander of the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters


DOB: March 2, 1969

Saeed Mohammad has been involved in illicit financing of nefarious IRGC activities – including money laundering and terrorist financing – and providing financial support to proscribed terrorist organisations such Hezbollah in Lebanon. He has played a leading role in facilitating the evasion of U.S. and international oil sanctions, as well as sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria. Mohammad has recently emerged as key founder of a new Islamist extremist political faction – “Sobh-e Iran” – which was established by the IRGC-linked antisemitic conspiracy preacher Ali Akbar Raeifipour and made noticeable gains in the engineered 2024 parliamentary “elections”.  Sobh-e Iran is directly tied to the Masaf Institute, which is involved in nefarious IRGC-linked cyber operations inside and outside of Iran, as well as domestic human rights abuses.




Al Mustafa International University

The IRGC-affiliated Al Mustafa International University operates as the international recruitment and radicalization hub of the IRGC with more than 50 branches across the world, including a significant presence in Europe. It is the single most important entity for IRGC Quds Force’s efforts to recruit and radicalize foreign students for militias and terrorist cells. This includes a key role in the mass recruitment and radicalization for the IRGC Quds Force’s Shia Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade and the Shia Pakistani Zainabiyoun Brigade. Al Mustafa is also closely affiliated with Hezbollah in Lebanon and its heads maintain frequent communication with Hezbollah terror chief Seyed Hassan Nasrallah. In December 2020, Al Mustafa was precisely sanctioned by the U.S. for its role in recruiting foreign students for the IRGC Quds Force. Despite being blacklisted by the U.S. for its ties to terrorism, Al Mustafa maintains a significant presence across Europe. This includes its UK-affiliate branch – the “Islamic College” – which operates from London and its German affiliate branch “the Al Mustafa Institute.” U.S. allies should follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and sanction Al Mustafa University.

For further information – including private briefings and further sourcing material – please contact Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), and Kasra Aarabi, director for IRGC research at UANI, at [email protected]. They are also on Twitter @JasonMBrodsky and @KasraAarabi.