Details and implications of New U.S. Sanctions ahead of Jan. Talks

We’ve already covered the announcement of new sanctions against Iran ahead of upcoming talks in Istanbul, but recent reports have provided a troubling broad and detailed picture that suggests the U.S. dual-track approach — pressure and engagement — might be going off the rails.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon on Tuesday, with my emphasis:

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration enacted new financial sanctions on Iran’s elite military unit and the country’s largest shipping company, as the U.S. intensifies efforts to choke Tehran off from the global financial system.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement Tuesday comes just weeks ahead of a scheduled second round of negotiations in Turkey between Iran and the international community focused on containing Tehran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful in nature.

Senior U.S. officials said the new measures illustrate that Washington and its allies won’t relax their financial campaign against Iran even as the diplomatic process continues in late January. “It’s clear that our policy is going to be to continue to impose pressure on Iran so long as it defies its international obligations,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury’s point man on Iran sanctions.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, held an earlier diplomatic round with Iran on Dec. 6-7 in Geneva. The talks registered little progress and have sparked concern that Iran may seek to use the diplomacy as a means to deflect international pressure while continuing to advance its nuclear capabilities.

The Journal, among other outlets, reported the new sanctions target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and various linked organizations, including several banks and an insurance company that works with Iran’s state-run shipping company.

As for the notion that the West is skeptical about continuing diplomacy, David Crawford, also at the Journal, had this report last weekend (again with my emphasis):

The U.S. and representatives of the European Union have agreed to impose joint sanctions against Iran in January and are considering breaking off talks with the country, as patience with Tehran’s nuclear activities wears thin, according to people familiar with the matter.

Western officials are discussing making further talks with Iran contingent on Tehran’s progress toward compliance with existing United Nations Security Council resolutions, which call on Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. […]

Some Western officials accuse Iran of playing for time by agreeing to talks but refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations. Senior diplomats from the U.S., U.K. and France met in Paris on Tuesday to chart the new course, amid growing frustration over Iran’s obstruction of IAEA inspections. London and Paris help to coordinate policy for the entire EU on Iran.

Washington Post‘s neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin promptly seized on the report and asked:

Could the Obama administration really be stiffening its spine and responding to the advice of those warning that talks with the Iranian regime are counterproductive?

We summed up her blog post thusly in our Daily Talking Points:

The Post’s neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin picks up on a Wall Street Journal story where anonymous U.S. officials comment that the United States may soon abandon engagement with Iran. “Could the Obama administration really be stiffening its spine and responding to the advice of those warning that talks with the Iranian regime are counterproductive?” she asks hopefully. She interviews Foreign Policy Initiative’s Jamie Fly, who remarks: “I’m skeptical that they will be the ‘crippling’ sanctions we were promised but have yet to see.” Rubin also speaks to an “advisor to a key senator” who says, “My point is just that they are very well-positioned to pursue a very hawkish policy towards Iran now.” Rubin then espouses her own Iran policy: “The real issue is whether the administration will, if needed, employ force to disarm the revolutionary Islamic state.” She is doubtful, but hopes that the next U.S. president will attack Iran.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. It sometimes really is depressing reading all those reports about the ideas and actions of this odd assortment of Neocons, Republican Tea-party fans, Israel lobbyist and Christian Zionists, who try to manipulate us in a war against Iran.
    Another war that will fail, and leave us with nothing more than humanitarian, political and financial disasters.
    But I am grateful the people of Lobelog keep the spotlight on their activities, so we know what they are up to.

    Today reading the website of the Jerusalem Post I come upon 2 reports.
    One called: ‘Iran globally recruiting scientists for nuclear program’ You should read it first on:
    This was the response I send to their Talkback section:

    The same old trick again.
    The Daily Telegraph as a serious source of information ? What a canard their report is. A Iranian defector short on income, will confirm everything that he is asked to tell, in exchange for money.
    I mean with all due respect for Africa, but it is not the most likely place to look for nuclear scientists or high tech engineers. A diplomat checking passports and visa on a airfield? How do we know he has not confused North Koreans with South Koreans or people from Japan or Taiwan? If their really were North Korean technicians in Iran, western intelligence agencies would have known it, and western governments would have publicised it to strengthen their case for sanctions against Iran.
    The people who want war with Iran must be really desperate, if they are trying to sell such unsubstantiated nonsense as facts. It is the same old ploy used to justify the war against Iraq. Defectors (remember Chalabi ?) spreading fabrications about non-existent WMD’s.

    The second other article was an interview with: ‘Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Ready to play hardball’
    Again you should read it first on :
    This was my other response:

    May God help the US.
    With this woman at the steer of the House Foreign Affairs committee, the US is in for a lot of trouble. With her ignorant confrontation politics we will soon have a new Cold War with the entire Third World ( A Third World that has not yet forgotten its bitter memories of white colonial rule and domination). With her militant vision on the US role in the world we can expect an endless series of political and military confrontations with these countries that will further alienate potential allies and turn them into foes.
    A US foreign policy as proposed by her only will augment the economic and political opportunities and influence on the world scene for countries like China, Brazil, India, Turkey, South-Africa and Russia.
    The trillion dollar US deficit created by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will rise further, and with efforts to keep shaky regimes in power and undertaking new military interventions, it may even bring about the final collapse of US economic, political and moral pre-eminence in this world.

    Guess what ? The Jerusalem Post didn’t place either of my Talkbacks.

  2. Obama’s biggest mistake vis-a-vis Iran was to give more power to the treasury to sanctions Iran at will. Treasury is basically an AIPAC operated enterprise when it comes to Iran.

  3. The US has 100 Nbombs in turkey, Israel has a large number of bombs, Russia,India, and Pakistan have bombs, why does a nuclear reactor in Iran cause so much fear?

  4. I second Polderman’s comments above with the modification that it is ALWAYS depressing to read about the reports and articles of the various war mongrels loose in the streets.

    By the way, everyone seems to referring all the time to Iran’s ‘obligations’. Just what might those obligations be?

  5. what have become of america? a gov runned in by proxy by AIPAC. Shame on you zionists!

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