- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2010

UPDATED:

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the Obama administration has concluded that the best way to pressure Iran to come clean on its nuclear ambitions is to impose sanctions aimed at the country’s ruling elite.

“It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran,” she told reporters traveling with her en route to Hawaii. “They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon.”

Clinton’s aircraft stopped at Travis Air Force Base to refuel on the first leg of a trip taking her to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

She did not get specific about those inside Iran who might be targeted with new international sanctions, but her allusion to Iranian leaders with political and commercial ties suggested that she was referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite group that is separate from the Iranian military and is charged with protecting the Islamic revolution that brought the clerics to power in 1979.

Clinton said the administration’s thinking on approaches to more effective sanctions against Iran has been developed after consultations with a wide range of other countries.

“We’ve been very actively involved in soliciting ideas from a broad range of other countries, looking at what will work, what won’t work, what would have the biggest impact on perhaps changing the strategic calculation inside Iran of the current leadership,” she said.

She said the U.S. remains interested in engaging with Iran, even as it considers ways to pressure Tehran through sanctions.

Asked by a reporter what she made of recent hints from Iran that it might be open to new solutions on the nuclear matter, Clinton said, “We get a constant flow of feelers from the Iranians on approaches that they might consider. Other countries are reaching out to them all the time, asking if they will look at one or another proposal.”

Clinton said no final decisions on sanctions have been made. Iran has balked at coming to an agreement on curtailing a nuclear program that the U.S. and other nations fear is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran insists the program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

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