Reuters: Raising pressure on Tehran, the United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on a general from the country’s elite Qods force and three Iraqis living in exile in Syria and Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq. By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Raising pressure on Tehran, the United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on a general from the country’s elite Qods force and three Iraqis living in exile in Syria and Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq.
The new sanctions come amid fresh tensions this week between Tehran and Washington after Iranian speedboats confronted three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, an action U.S. President George W. Bush called “provocative.”
They also coincide with Bush’s visit to the Middle East this week, where one of his goals is to rally support to continue to isolate Iran. Speaking in Jerusalem on Wednesday he called Iran a “threat to world peace” and said all options were on the table after the naval incident.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement identified the Iranian general as Brig-Gen. Ahmed Foruzandeh, who it said “leads terrorist operations” against U.S. forces in Iraq and directed assassinations of Iraqi figures.
Economic sanctions were also placed on Syrian-based Al-Zawra television station. The sanctioned Iraqis were named as Mishan al-Jaburi, Ismail Hafiz al Lami and Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani.
“Iran and Syria are fueling violence and destruction in Iraq. Iran trains, funds and provides weapons to violent Shia extremist groups while Syria provides safe haven to Sunni insurgents and financiers,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
“Today’s action brings to light the lethal action of these individuals and we call on the international community to stand with us in isolating them from the global economy,” he said in the statement.
The United States last October called Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and imposed sanctions on its Qods force, which Washington accuses of arming and training militants in Iraq.
Both Iran and Syria strongly deny stirring up violence in Iraq and say the United States is to blame.
But the statement said Foruzandeh and his subordinates gave financial and material support to fight against U.S. and Iraqi forces and that in early April last year the Iranian general provided $25,000 to help fund military operations in Iraq.
It accused the Al-Zawra television station of being “pro-insurgency” and said it broadcast graphic videos of attacks against U.S. forces, advocated violence and had called upon Iraqis to take up arms against American troops.
As in other cases, the latest sanctions prohibit all transactions between those designated and any U.S. person, and freeze all assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The United States is at loggerheads with Iran over a range of issues, including U.S. suspicions it wants to build nuclear weapons and accusations it has fanned violence in Iraq.
A senior Bush administration official said the latest sanctions were part of an overall plan to continue squeezing Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work.
“It is another example of what the Iranians are up to. Our feeling is that we need to have both multilateral pressure in the U.N. and we need to put a lot of bilateral pressure on them,” said the senior U.S. official of the proposed actions.
The sanctions strategy against Iran comes despite a U.S. national intelligence estimate last month that found Iran had given up its atomic weapons program in 2003, a revelation that undercut U.S. efforts to raise financial pressure on Tehran.
The senior U.S. official said the intelligence estimate had not shifted U.S. strategy on Iran and the United States hoped to get a tough, third U.N. sanctions resolution passed against Iran in the Security Council this month.
Russia and China, which have veto power in the Security Council, are balking at new pressure and so far major powers have not been able to agree on the text of a new resolution.
The senior official said the hope was that a third U.N. sanctions resolution would get nations to sanction business entities that supported Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and further limit arms exports.
“We had a damn hard time getting these things even before the NIE (national intelligence estimate) and so therefore the fact that we are in a tough negotiation should not surprise anybody,” he said. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Stuart Grudgings)