The United States has warned Iran that it will face "severe consequences" if it attacks any American citizen after Tehran sanctioned 51 U.S. nationals for their alleged role in the death of a powerful Iranian commander two years ago.
"Make no mistake: The United States of America will protect and defend its citizens," Jake Sullivan, the White House national-security adviser, said in a statement on January 9.
"Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the [Americans] named yesterday, it will face severe consequences."
Tehran on January 8 announced the sanctions -- including on U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley -- for their role in the death of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.
The move would allow Iranian authorities to seize any assets held in Iran by those sanctioned. But the move is mainly symbolic given the lack of assets held by Americans in the country.
Soleimani, who headed the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed on January 3, 2020, in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport.
Soleimani was considered a main architect of Iran's Middle East military strategy and his assassination brought the United States and Iran close to a military conflict. Tehran retaliated by launching a missile strike targeting U.S. forces in Iraq.
In addition to Milley, Iran announced sanctions against former national-security adviser Robert O'Brien and Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"Looks like I'll have to cancel my relaxing getaway to Iran," Haley tweeted in response.
"When you get sanctioned by Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terror, you know you're doing something right,” she wrote.
In his statement, Sullivan said that Americans may have "our disagreements on Iran policy. But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations."
"We are united in the defense of our people [and] work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran."