- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A draft U.N. Security Council resolution against Iran will target the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the security and paramilitary forces that have grown to dominate Iran’s economy since 2005, according to U.S. officials familiar with the U.S.-backed plan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that the United States reached an agreement with Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on new sanctions that seek to punish Iran for violating U.N. controls on its uranium enrichment.

The sanctions deal appears to be a rebuke of Iran’s announcement Monday that it has agreed to ship some of its low-enriched uranium fuel to Turkey.

Speaking of that deal, Mrs. Clinton said: “This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide. … There are a number of unanswered questions regarding the announcement coming from Tehran.”

If the draft is approved by the Security Council, it would be a major political victory for the Obama administration and its promise to impose tough sanctions on Iran, following the administration’s failed diplomatic overtures to Tehran during the past 17 months.

One official familiar with the U.N. sanctions draft said, “It is focused on the Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]. It looks at the areas from shipping to banking to insurance that have been in discussions for years now.”

Specifically the sanctions will expand the list of individuals and companies affiliated with the guard subject to asset freeze and travel ban, but there is no agreement yet on who will be on that list. The new proposal will also expand the number of items on the arms embargo against Iran to include war ships, attack helicopters and battle tanks.

The focus on the IRGC is a different tack that many in Congress support. Currently, legislation aimed at discouraging companies from selling refined petroleum to Iran is in a House-Senate conference. The draft U.N. sanctions do not, for example, target Iran’s import of gasoline.

Those kinds of sanctions, because they target Iran’s entire economy, are opposed by Iran’s democratic opposition. The White House has asked congressional leaders to place an exemption in the bill for companies from “cooperating nations,” a loophole that will likely include Chinese and Russian concerns.

“It does not surprise me that there are more targeted sanctions,” said Sharon Squassoni, director of the proliferation prevention program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That has been the story all along since we went down the sanctions path four years ago.”

She added, “I would say, however, that all of Iran’s actions in the past few months don’t really indicate any wavering in their commitment to their nuclear program.”

Recent Iranian action supports this view. After a proposed fuel-swap deal in October fell through, Iran announced it would begin enrichment of uranium to even higher levels.

Patrick Clawson, the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the Obama administration’s approach of using targeted sanctions aimed at Iranian shipping and its banks reminded him of the approach favored by the Bush administration against North Korea and Iran.

That policy was called the proliferation security initiative and sought help from U.S. allies to track and interrupt the smuggling of nuclear material.

The draft U.N. sanctions would, for example, include a framework for when navies should board vessels believed to be carrying banned cargo headed to Iran. It does not, however, include language making such seizures mandatory.

“The big question now is how long like-minded countries and individual countries take to build on the resolution,” Mr. Clawson said.

He added, “The sanctions resolution will include calls on countries to exercise vigilance and adopt appropriate measures and similar phrases. What the like-minded countries may do is use that language as the basis for much- further-reaching action on their part.”

Charlie Szrom of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute said that targeting sanctions against Iran’s IRGC likely will end up targeting the entire Iranian economy.

“The revolutionary guard controls a significant and growing part of the Iranian economy. The number is in the billions,” he said, pointing out that some Iranians themselves have estimated that the guard’s smuggling operations amount to billions of dollars in trade per year.

“Because so much of the economy is being taken over by the revolutionary guard corps., it is fair to ask how much do sanctions against the guard really turn into sanctions against the entire economy of Iran?” he said.

Industries controlled by the revolutionary guard corps., according to Mr. Szrom include the energy sector, telecommunications and all facets of the country’s defense industry.

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