US prepares targeted sanctions against Iran

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Washington, Dec.30 (ANI): 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 said.

Ten months after President Obama set a year-end deadline for Iran to engage with world powers on its nuclear program, Tehran has failed to respond other than an abortive gesture in the fall.

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, with initial emphasis on pressing forward at the United Nations in February.

The Washington Post quotes the officials as saying that the Obama 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, they add.

"We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy. 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," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

As a result, top officials are showing little interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran.

Another senior official said. "Our intention is to keep the door open."

Throughout the year, Obama had reached out directly to the Iranian leadership, through video messages and two personal letters to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an effort to break through the antagonism and distrust that had built up since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy.

When the protests over a disputed presidential election began in June, Obama's initial response was muted to keep the prospects for engagement open.

France, an advocate of firmer pressure on Iran, will hold the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council that month.

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 arm of the military that has been centrally involved in the attacks on demonstrators and that is playing an increasingly bigger role in Iran's economy.

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. (ANI)

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