President Obama said in an executive order that the two nations had committed serious human rights abuses through network disruption and by using tracking technology and by perpetrating the “malign use of technology.”
The move blocks the property and interests of people that have participated in such trade and suspends their right of entry into the United States.
It targets those who have sold, leased or otherwise provided goods, services or technology to Iran or Syria likely to be used to help disrupt, monitor or track individuals through computer of Internet networks.
Mr Obama unveiled the measure in a speech at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington as part of a wider effort to halt atrocities and genocide by regimes using technology, by tracking social media and using the Internet.
The order freezes US assets linked to people found to have aided satellite, computer and phone network monitoring in Syria, where more than 9,000 people have been killed in more than a year in turmoil, as well as Iran, where Washington believes authorities are clamping down on opposition groups.
The order cites the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the Syrian mobile phone company Syriatel, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces and the Iranian internet provider Datak Telecom, as well as a number of individuals.
The sanctions coincide with reports from Iran on Monday that the country’s main oil export terminal had been hit by a suspected cyber attack affecting the Oil Ministry and national oil company.
The Washington Post reported that Mr Obama would also offer grants to companies to develop alerting tools to make activists aware of dangers of crackdowns or mass killings.
The president’s response to the year-long violence in Syria as well as Iran’s steps towards nuclear development has been sharply criticised by Republicans during this election year.
Obama, a Democrat, has been emphasising the potential for a diplomatic resolution to the crises while trying to add pressure on both governments through financial and other sanctions. He was elected in 2008 in large part due to his promise to wind down U.S. military engagement overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.