The Trump administration on Thursday sanctioned Iranian elections officials who disqualified thousands of moderate candidates from running in Friday’s parliamentary vote, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured a Saudi air base where 2,500 U.S. troops are stationed to deter Tehran.

Pompeo’s visit to Iran’s neighbor and biggest regional rival, coupled with the latest round of sanctions, underscored the perilous state of tensions between the United States and Iran following a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq.

“Tomorrow, the Iranian regime will stage an event euphemistically called elections,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy on Iran. “Unfortunately for the Iranian people, the real election took place in secret long before any ballots were even cast.”

Hook said the officials — two members of Iran’s Guardian Council and three members of a committee charged with vetting candidates — had denied slots to more than 7,000 would-be contenders and banned 90 lawmakers from seeking reelection.

As a result, hard-liners allied with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are expected to gain seats and embrace a more confrontational attitude toward the United States and its allies.

Hook said he doubted the next parliament would nudge Iran’s leaders toward diplomacy with Washington.

“Because the day after the election, the Supreme Leader is still going to be in charge,” he said.

Hook said there will be no easing of the “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions, which began ramping up after President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal. The State Department said the measures already have deprived Iran of 80 percent of its oil revenue and access to 90 percent of its foreign reserves, though foreign diplomats and Iran experts say the campaign has not sapped Tehran’s leaders of their political and military ambitions.

Hook said the purpose of sanctioning officials unknown to most Americans is to highlight the officials who “hide in the shadows” but hold immense power, and that “plenty of targets” remain.

“And so sanctions have a practical effect, but they also have a symbolic effect, because if you don’t sanction these people, it sends a message,” he said. “It’s a message of silence or looking the other way.”

Pompeo, meanwhile, flew from Riyadh to the sprawling Prince Sultan Air Base in the Saudi desert, where he reviewed a fighter jet squadron and toured a U.S. Army Patriot missile battery defending the site. He was accompanied by John Abizaid, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who previously was a four-star general and commander of the U.S. Central Command responsible for the Middle East.

Pompeo told reporters traveling with him that his visit shows the need to maintain a troop presence in Saudi Arabia after missile attacks on a Saudi oil facility and an airport last year that the administration blames on Iran.

“You need look only at the ayatollah’s Twitter feed to know that these are people who have a deep disdain for the very fundamental ideas that we hold so dear in the United States and that their desire to wipe the state of Israel off the map and to do harm to the United States of America remains,” he said.

The United States has designated Iran as the world’s single largest state sponsor of terrorism. On Thursday, Hook added another descriptive epithet, calling Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-Semitism.”

Earlier this week, Khamenei said in a tweet that the United States is controlled by affluent Jews, and that it will sink like the Titanic.

“We are against the rule of oppression and arrogance,” he wrote. “This is what we mean by ‘America.’ Today, the peak of arrogance is the US, which is controlled by the wealthy Zionists & their corporate owners. The US is a manifestation of oppression. Thus, they’re abhorred by the world.”