Iran Terrorism New penalties set as Bush calls Iran a threat...

New penalties set as Bush calls Iran a threat to peace

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New York Times: President Bush charged Wednesday that Iran remained “a threat to world peace” as the Treasury Department imposed strict economic penalties on a top Iranian military commander, a Syrian-based television station and three militants in the region accused of helping the insurgency in Iraq. The New York Times

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
Published: January 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush charged Wednesday that Iran remained “a threat to world peace” as the Treasury Department imposed strict economic penalties on a top Iranian military commander, a Syrian-based television station and three militants in the region accused of helping the insurgency in Iraq.

Speaking in Israel at the beginning of his visit to the Middle East, Mr. Bush took a hard line on Iran over its nuclear program and said that “all options are on the table” to guard against more military provocations like the Iranian threats to American ships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday.

“We have made it clear publicly, and they know our position,” Mr. Bush said. “There will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple. And my advice to them is, Don’t do it.”

The Treasury actions against entities and individuals associated with Iran and accused of helping the Iraqi insurgency were taken under the authority of an executive order from Mr. Bush last summer freezing assets and prohibiting financial transactions with groups based in Iran and Syria aiding the insurgency. Administration officials said the actions had been in the works for months and were not related to the naval confrontation.

Administration officials say some of the attacks on American troops in Iraq that had previously been attributed to Iran — like the roadside bombs that have become a major cause of American casualties — have declined recently.

But the administration has stopped short of concluding that Iran is trying to reduce anti-American attacks, and American officials say the decline may be attributable to better cooperation by Iraqi citizens and better intelligence in stopping the proliferation of roadside bombs.

“Has Iran made a conscious decision to scale down support of these attacks?” an administration official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence. “Nobody is really sure. It’s possible they really have, and it’s possible they haven’t. We are still capturing people in Iraq who have had training as recently as a month or two ago in Iran. The jury is still out.”

The latest administration action occurred at a time of difficult negotiations to get a United Nations Security Council resolution to tighten economic sanctions on Iran unless it stops enriching uranium, which the West contends is part of a plan to make nuclear weapons. Chinese and Russian opposition to tough sanctions increased last year after a National Intelligence Estimate asserted that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program.

Although the Security Council has imposed two rounds of economic penalties on Iran, the United States has continued on a path of unilateral sanctions. They are largely symbolic, some officials acknowledge, because they prohibit Americans from doing business with these individuals or groups when virtually no Americans do such business.

In the action on Wednesday, the Treasury Department named Ahmed Foruzandeh, who was listed with seven aliases and identified as commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — the Quds Force’s Ramazan Corps. It also named Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, identified as a leader of a network of Shiite extremists sponsored by Iran that aids groups attacking Americans in Iraq, and Ismail Hafiz al Lambi, identified as a leader of attacks on Americans in Iraq.

The department also named a Syria-based television station, Al Zawra, and its owner, Mishan Rakin Thamin al-Jaburi. It said the station broadcast coded messages to insurgents in Iraq and “graphic videos of attacks against U.S. forces.”

The Quds Force has been identified by the United States as a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard that operates in Iraq.

“Iran and Syria are fueling violence and destruction in Iraq,” said Stuart Levey, under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Iran trains, funds and provides weapons to violent Shia extremist groups, while Syria provides safe haven to Sunni insurgents and financiers.”

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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