Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Preparing 'targeted sanctions': White House shows NO interest in Congress's versions

In the WaPo/ here

"The Obama administration is readying sanctions against discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters, marking a shift to a more aggressive U.S. posture toward the Islamic republic, U.S. officials what may be a difficult balancing act, officials say the administration wants to carefully target sanctions to avoid alienating the Iranian public -- while keeping the door ajar to a resolution of the struggle over Iran's nuclear program. The aim of any sanctions is to force the Tehran government to the negotiating table, rather than to punish it for either its apparent push to develop a nuclear weapon or its treatment of its people.

"We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation -- whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame."

As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. "Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement," another senior official said. "Our intention is to keep the door open."....

Sanctions would probably be imposed in three ways -- at the U.N. Security Council, with like-minded countries and unilaterally -- and U.S. officials would pursue them more or less simultaneously ....

The precise contours of the administration's sanctions policy are still being decided, but high on the list of targets is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, ...... The increasingly central role of the Revolutionary Guard in both the economy and the protests, officials said, makes it a target of possible resentment among the Iranian public -- and for tough U.S. sanctions. But officials insist that sanctions would not be linked to the protests. "It is only coincidental that at the same time we reached the deadline, the Iranian government has a bloody crackdown," said a third U.S. official. "It has only served to highlight the nature of the regime.".....

Ironically, the protests may also have doomed efforts to begin negotiations on the nuclear issue. Iranian negotiators, meeting with diplomats from the United States and other powers in Geneva on Oct. 1, had tentatively agreed to a deal to swap much of its enriched uranium for fuel for a medical research reactor used to treat diseases. But then Iranian leaders split over the deal, especially after opposition leaders questioned it..."

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