By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it had sanctioned Iran's national police force and police chief and two other security forces for serious rights violations since Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election.
The sanctions, announced by the U.S. departments of State and Treasury, apply to Iran's Law Enforcement Forces and its commander Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, and to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij Resistance Force.
The sanctions would freeze any of the targets' assets under U.S. jurisdiction and bar U.S. persons and institutions from dealing with them. They also make Moghadam and potentially all members of the groups ineligible for U.S. visas.
"Nearly two years after Iran's brave citizens took to the streets, the struggle for civil liberties and fundamental rights continues," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referring to mass protests -- subsequently crushed -- following Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.
"Today, the United States has sanctioned three Iranian government entities complicit in the ongoing brutal repression," she added.
The IRGC, which the Treasury blamed for violent crackdowns after the election, was already subject to the asset freeze and the ban on U.S. dealings under October 2007 sanctions that target proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
As a result, the only new sanctions on the IRGC are the visa restrictions.
The practical effect of the steps may be limited because it is unclear to what extent, if at all, the groups have assets under U.S. jurisdiction or their members may seek U.S. visas.
A U.S. official said that as a general rule, the government did not comment on the amount of assets frozen.
"We do not believe that the amount of assets frozen is an accurate indicator of the effect of our unilateral sanctions," said the official, arguing that sanctions have a multiplier effect as non-U.S. financial institutions cut off dealings with targeted groups to avoid falling afoul of U.S. regulations.
"The voluntary implementation of U.S. sanctions by nearly every major financial institution around the world amplifies the effect of U.S. sanctions," the official said.
"These designations highlight for the international community the IRGC's continuing role in a broad range of illicit activities, which is an important part of our strategy to build and maintain a broad coalition of nations imposing sanctions against Iran," the official added.
"The IRGC's expanding influence and control over broader segments of the Iranian economy -- and its continued involvement in a broad range of illicit activities, in this case, human rights abuses - has made is a primary focus of our efforts," the official said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)