updated 9/16/2008 7:54:27 PM ET 2008-09-16T23:54:27

The Bush administration said Tuesday it was imposing economic sanctions against five people accused of supporting violence in Iraq, including an Iranian who allegedly planned a sophisticated attack against U.S. forces.

The list released by the Treasury Department also includes a Syrian television station that allegedly has been airing Iraqi insurgent propaganda videos.

The department's action freezes any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to those listed and prohibits Americans from doing business with them. It's part of a U.S. effort to step up pressure on Damascus to clamp down on supplies being funneled to alleged extremists in the neighboring nation. 

The Iranian, Abdul-Reza Shahlai, was identified as a deputy commander in the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that U.S. officials believe is supporting Shiite extremists in Iraq.

"In one instance, Shahlai planned the January 20, 2007, attack by JAM Special Groups against U.S. soldiers stationed at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq," the statement said. JAM is the Arabic acronym for the Mahdi Army militia — one of the most feared groups in Iraq before anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered it to uphold a cease-fire.

In that attack, up to a dozen fighters with false IDs disguised themselves as an American security team to penetrate security and open fire in the provincial government building in the city of Karbala, south of Baghdad. One U.S. soldier was killed in the initial attack, and four others were abducted and found shot to death soon after.

The U.S. military has said an Iraqi militant captured last year, Qais al-Khazaali, confessed to ordering the attack.

Sunni leader accused
The head of Iraq's hard-line Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars was accused in the Treasury statement of directing an October 2006 plot to bring bombs into Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone as part of efforts to assassinate the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and the U.S. and British ambassadors.

Harith al-Dhari, who was said to be based in Jordan, also was allegedly responsible for ordering the abduction of four foreign nationals in December 2005 by the Sunni insurgent group Ansar al-Sunnah, according to the statement. It did not identify the kidnap victims.

Al-Dhari's son, Muthanna, a spokesman for the association, expressed "great astonishment" at the accusations against his father.

"It is proof of the ignorance of the U.S. administration, which doesn't possess any information, since al-Dhari and the association do not have a single dollar in America," he told Al-Jazeera television station in Cairo, Egypt.

The Treasury Department also listed a Mahdi Army commander, Akram Abbas al-Kabi for allegedly planning rocket and mortar attacks that pummeled the Green Zone this spring, as well as suspected Sunni insurgent Ahmad Hassan Kaka al-Obeidi, accused of directing violence in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"Their lethal and destabilizing tactics, especially by Iran's Quds Force, are intended to undermine Iraq as it strives for peace and prosperity," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The U.S. said the Syrian satellite television station Al-Rai was owned and controlled by a man already on the list, Mishan al-Jubouri, and has aired videos of insurgent attacks. Al-Jubouri's wife, Rawa al-Usta, also was listed for purportedly managing the station on behalf of her husband.

The Treasury Department has the authority to act under an executive order President Bush signed in July 2007. The order allows the U.S. government to impose financial sanctions against those that threaten stability in Iraq.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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