"These designations politically will go to the top of the regime", said another administration official, also speaking anonymously, "and send the message that the United States will not tolerate the violation of the rights of [Iranian] citizens".
In particular, placing judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on the sanctions list "crossed all red lines of conduct in the worldwide community. and the government of the United States will bear responsibility for all the consequences of this hostile move".
It did not specify what any retaliation might involve.
"The American administration has failed to undermine the nuclear deal". The Europeans, meanwhile, have said they are willing to discuss the matter with the USA but have shown little enthusiasm with Trump's hard line.
The United States has offered its allies a chance to "rescue" a deal nobody else thinks is broken, widening the rift between Trump and much of the rest of the world, Paton Walsh said.
Under the deal, the US president must sign a waiver suspending the USA sanctions on Iran every 120 days.
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"Our worst expectations are coming true", Ryabkov said Saturday.
Implementation of the deal hasn't been derailed, but will face some new complicating factors, said the minister.
Also on Friday, the USA imposed separate sanctions against 14 Iranian individuals and entities it accuses of rights abuses, censorship and support for weapons proliferators.
Republican Senator Bob Corker said "significant progress" had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to address "flaws in the agreement without violating USA commitments". That has put Trump in a tough position, given his opposition to the deal.
Part of the nuclear deal was that the US would waive the sanctions, which are part of the relief Iran gets in exchange for destroying much of its nuclear equipment and allowing inspections.
The 2015 nuclear accord, reached after months of painstaking negotiations with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russian Federation, lifted worldwide sanctions in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program.
But Trump gave European allies only 120 days to agree to an overhaul of the deal.
In short, Trump's pedigree in real estate negotiation is being used to try to recast one of the most complex and geopolitically vital documents on the planet, Paton Walsh said. She underlined Washington's strong message by saying that America would not tolerate "dangerous and destabilizing behavior" and expected that other nations would join the United States in its efforts.
Two EU diplomats said EU foreign ministers would discuss next steps at their next regular meeting on January 22 in Brussels.