• Iran's parliamentary elections are scheduled for Friday
  • Two of those targeted by sanctions were appointed to the Guardian Council by Supreme Leader Ali Khameini and make sure candidates' views align with the government's
  • More than 7,000 people were disqualified from running for Parliament

The U.S. on Thursday tightened sanctions on Iran, taking action against five members of Tehran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee, just a day before scheduled parliamentary elections seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani.

The sanctions target U.S. assets belonging to the individuals and prohibit then from doing any business within the U.S. or with U.S. residents or companies.

More than 7,000 potential candidates were blocked from running in the elections scheduled for Friday, including dozens of sitting lawmakers. The remaining candidates are considered conservatives and hardliners.

The elections follow months of antigovernment demonstrations protesting economic conditions and a crackdown on dissent. They also come about six weeks after U.S. President Trump ordered a targeted drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimeni.

Thursday’s action targeted Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council, and Mohammad Yazdi, a member of council who was formerly Iran’s first judiciary chief, and three additional members of its Elections Supervisory Committee.

The administration said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Jannati and Yazdi, who use the council’s power to determine who gets on the ballot to “deprive the Iranian people of free and fair elections.”

“The Trump administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime’s malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release. “The United States will continue to support the democratic aspirations of Iranians.”

Jannati was first appointed to the Guardian Council in 1980 and currently is serving a six-year term that began in 2016. He oversaw the disqualification process for Friday’s elections. He also is a member of the Expediency Council, which adjudicates power disputes between the supreme leader and lawmakers.

Yadzi, a religious jurist, was reappointed to the Guardian Council in July and served as Iran’s judiciary chief from 1989 to 1999, during which time he abolished the Office of the Prosecutor, giving that power to the judiciary.

Also cited were Siamak Rahpeyk, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, and Mohammad Hasan Sadeghi Moghadam, who were appointed to the Guardian Council by Jannati.

Rahpeyk is a deputy head of the Guardian Council in charge of executive and elections affairs, charged with justifying candidate disqualification decisions.

Kadkhodaei is a deputy head of the Guardian Council, speaker and member of the Central Committee for Election Supervision. He ruled insults, defamation or inflammatory remarks toward the supreme leader would be used in deciding who qualified for the ballot.

Moghadam serves as an adviser to Jannati and has defended the candidate disqualification process.