US prepares new sanctions against Iran: report
The White House is crafting new financial sanctions targeting the Iranian entities and individuals most directly involved in the crackdown on dissidents, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said US Treasury Department strategists had already been focusing on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has emerged as the economic and military power behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, AFP reported.
But in recent weeks, senior dissident figures from Iran -- who have been speaking at major Washington think tanks -- have made up a list of Revolutionary Guards-related companies they suggest targeting, the report said.
Names on the list include Iran's largest telecommunications provider, Telecommunication Company of Iran, which is majority-owned by the Guards, and the Iranian Aluminum Company, according to the paper.
In a signal of the White House's increased attention to Iran's political upheaval, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered over coffee at the State Department this week with four leading Iran scholars and mapped out the current dynamics, The Journal said.
One issue explored was how the United States should respond if Tehran suddenly expressed a desire to reach a compromise on the nuclear issue, the report said.
Clinton asked whether the United States could reach a pact without crippling the prospects for the opposition, according to the paper.
US allies are mixed in their response to the new focus, The Journal said. One senior Arab official said he told State Department officials this week they were deluded if they though Iran was close to experiencing a revolution reminiscent of the Shah's overthrow.
Israel believes only widespread sanctions will effectively upend Tehran's current political leadership, the paper noted.
"Many Israeli experts have concluded that expansive sanctions will widen the schisms between the Iranian government and its people," said The Journal quotes Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren as saying.
Senior US officials stressed this week that President Barack Obama isn't moving toward seeking a regime change as its policy for Iran, the report said.
Rather, Washington remains committed to a dual-track approach of pursuing dialogue aimed at ending Iran's nuclear program while applying increasing financial pressure if the talks fail, The Journal noted.