Thursday, October 25, 2007

US Iranian Sanctions: It's Long Overdue

[image: Washington Note]

Better Late Than Never

by Mondoreb

U.S. State Department to-do list:

1-Further U.S. interests.
2-Fight terror.
3-Stymie Iran.
450-Freeze Iran's Revolutionary Guards' assets.

Why this move comes now is a puzzler. The question is: why, after much evidence that Iran has contributed to the deaths of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, hasn't the economic screws been applied before? U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, complains of the Revolutionary Guards and their negative impact on U.S. operations in Iraq and this hadn't been done? No wonder he was complaining.

More on the belated action from the AP:
The Bush administration announced sweeping new sanctions against Iran Thursday — the harshest since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979 — charging anew that Tehran supports terrorism in the Middle East, exports missiles and is engaging in a nuclear build up.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, said the moves against Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, an element of its defense ministry and three of its largest banks are designed to punish Tehran for weapons proliferation and alleged support of terrorist organizations in Iraq and the Middle East.
Rice elaborated on the sanctions and their target. More on this from CNN:
Rice accused Iran of "pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon; building dangerous ballistic missiles; supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories; and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map." Video Watch Rice tell why sanctions are being imposed »

"Many of the Iranian regime's most destabilizing policies are carried out by two of its agencies: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the IRGC, and the Quds force, an arm of the IRGC," she said.

The web of commercial ties between Iran and the Revolutionary Guards was explained.

Paulson said it is nearly impossible for overseas businesses or banks to "know one's customer" in Iran and avoid unwittingly funding terrorism or other illicit activities.

Because of the Revolutionary Guard's broad reach into business and other spheres, "it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC," Paulson said.

The Revolutionary Guards organization, formed to safeguard Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, has pushed well beyond its military roots, and now owns car factories and construction firms and operates newspaper groups and oil fields.

Current and former members now hold a growing role across the country's government and economy, sometimes openly and other times in shadows.

The guards have gained a particularly big role in the country's oil and gas industry in recent years, as the national oil company has signed several contracts with a guards-operated construction company. Some have been announced publicly, including a $2 billion deal in 2006 to develop part of the important Pars gas field.

Now numbering about 125,000 members, they report directly to the supreme leader and officially handle internal security. The small Quds Force wing is thought to operate overseas, having helped to create the militant Hezbollah group in 1982 in Lebanon and to arm Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars.

Some background on the Revolutionary Guards'(Pasdaran) operations and divisions from Global Security:
The Pasdaran has maintained an intelligence branch to monitor the regime's domestic adversaries and to participate in their arrests and trials. Khomeini implied Pasdaran involvement in intelligence when he congratulated the Pasdaran on the arrest of Iranian communist Tudeh leaders.

The Baseej (volunteers) come under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. In 1988, up to 900,000 baseej were mobilized. The Baseej allegedly also monitor the activities of citizens, and harass or arrest women whose clothing does not cover the hair and all of the body except hands and face, or those who wear makeup. During the year ending in June 1995, they reportedly "notified 907,246 people verbally and issued 370,079 written notices against ‘social corruption’ and arrested 86,190 people, and also broke up 542 ‘corrupt gangs’, arresting their 2,618 members, and seized 86,597 indecent videocassettes and photographs.

The Ashura Brigades force was reportedly created in 1993 after anti-government riots erupted in various Iranian cities and it consists of 17,000 Islamic militia men and women. The Ashura Brigades are reportedly composed of elements of the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and the Baseej volunteer militia.
The Revolutionary Guards are now even more influential than the Iranian Army, figures the Economist:
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), set up more than two decades ago as an ideological counterweight to the less politically minded (and now less well-equipped) regular army, may be quietly taking control.

The reformists, once dominant but now being squeezed out of power, fear so. Last year their conservative opponents helped a former guardsman become Tehran's mayor. In May, another was appointed to head the broadcasting monopoly. One reformist newspaper reckons that some 90 out of 290 deputies in Iran's new parliament have a background in revolutionary and military institutions.
With U.S. men and women in uniform dying in Iraq because of the Revolutionary Guards' actions, it's about time the freezing of assets has taken place. It's long overdue.

Iran, and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, can continue to thumb their nose at the world. There's now an economic price to pay for it.


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