The United States plans to continue hounding Iran's Revolutionary Guards with economic sanctions while the Obama administration seeks to improve diplomatic ties to Tehran's leadership, the Washington Times reported today (see GSN, March 30).
The elite branch of Iran's military might control up to 40 percent of the economy and the nation's controversial nuclear program, which the United States fears could be easily converted into a weapon effort. The Bush administration pursued an active effort to freeze assets and restrict the purchasing ability of guard members thought to be involved in nuclear activities, and President Barack Obama is likely to continue those activities.
"I have not seen any indication that the Obama administration is backing away from continuing the strategy of acting to disrupt Iranian covert networks," said Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert with the Congressional Research Service.
Obama chose to retain the Bush administration's key attack dog for the sanctions, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey.
"I think keeping Stuart Levey is [a] pretty big sign, and I think the key is going to be how do you ratchet up the financial pressure while you do these negotiations," Michael Jacobson, a one-time top adviser to Levey, told the Times.
"I don't see how the new administration walks away from these" efforts, added Suzanne Maloney, a former Iran analyst at the State Department. "Levey is full steam ahead looking for new banking sanctions" (see GSN, March 4; Eli Lake, Washington Times, March 31).