U.S. Imposes New Sanctions Against Iran

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007; 10:19 AM

The Bush administration announced an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the long-awaited designations of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism.

The package, announced jointly by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., marks the first time that the United States has tried to isolate or punish another country's military. It is the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy, and included a call for other countries and firms to stop doing business with three major Iranian banks.

The sanctions recognize that financing for groups like the Revolutionary Guard have become closely entwined with Iran's economy, making it difficult to disrupt the one without targeting the other.

The Revolutionary Guard "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy, that it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC," Paulson said.

The banks involved are Bank Melli, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat. The first two are being designated for helping finance Iran's proliferation program, and Saderat is being designated for financing terrorism. In addition, the administration named five Revolutionary Guard leaders who are included under the new restrictions, as well as nine businesses and the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.

Rice said the United States is "committed to a diplomatic solution" to the tension between Washington and Tehran, but also wants to "increase the costs to Iran" unless it cooperates with the international community on terrorism and proliferation.

The announced measures will help protect the international financial system, she said, and provide "a powerful deterrent" to those who do or are considering doing business with Iran.

The move caps a year of growing U.S. pressure on Tehran, including billions of dollars in arms sales to Persian Gulf allies and Israel, interception of Iranian arms shipments in Iraq and Afghanistan, detention of Iranian agents in Iraq, and pressure on the United Nations and European allies to increase Iran's isolation. The dramatic U.S. steps underscore the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.

"The policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge for American security interests in the Middle East, and possibly around the world, because the combination of Iranian terrorism, Iranian repression at home and the pursuit of nuclear weapons technology -- technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon -- is a very dangerous mix," Rice said yesterday in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The new sanctions will empower the United States to financially isolate a large part of Iran's military and anyone inside or outside Iran who does business with it, U.S. officials said. The measures could affect hundreds of foreign companies by squeezing them to drop Iranian business or risk their ability to do business in or with the U.S.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps, which numbers at least 125,000, is the most powerful wing of Iran's military. It controls a growing sector of the economy, including construction companies, aspects of the oil industry, pharmaceutical plants, telecommunications and ordinary commerce. U.S. officials said it also operates the front companies that procure nuclear technology.

The administration will designate the entire Revolutionary Guard under Executive Order 13382, signed by President Bush in June 2005, which allows the United States to freeze the assets of any proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its supporters. Iran is being designated for its ballistic missile program. The United States will announce a list of Iranians involved in that program -- civilians as well as military officials -- who will also be designated, U.S. officials said.

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