- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Bush administration yesterday imposed new financial sanctions on a top Iranian general and a Syrian-based television station, accusing them of backing violent attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq.

The latest round of financial pressure on Tehran, announced by the Treasury Department as President Bush began an eight-day Middle East tour, came as both U.S. allies and adversaries in the region raised fresh questions about the U.S. policy of trying to isolate Iran.

After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, Mr. Bush ratcheted up the rhetoric again, calling Iran a “threat to world peace” and saying the United States was not ruling out any options after a tense standoff Sunday between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz.

Asked how Washington would respond to another Iranian provocation, Mr. Bush replied, “My advice to them is don’t do it.”

The Treasury Department action targeted Iranian Brig. Gen. Ahmad Foruzandeh, a commander in the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Revolutionary Guard are the primary military defenders of the country’s Islamic revolution, and the Quds Force directs the guard’s overseas operations.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading opposition group based in Paris, said Gen. Foruzandeh is among the most senior leaders in the Quds Force.

“Shortly after the fall of the former Iraqi government in early 2003, the Quds Force was dispatched to Iraq in an organized way and in large groups,” a spokesman for the resistance group told The Washington Times.

U.S. forces attempted to arrest Gen. Foruzandeh during an attack on an Iranian outpost in Irbil last year, the spokesman added.

Treasury said Gen. Foruzandeh ordered Iranian intelligence officers to assassinate leading Iraqi political figures, train Shi’ite militias fighting the U.S.-led multinational force and provide funds to both Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist cells in Iraq.

The sanctions also target a Syrian-based television station that has received funding from al Qaeda and openly supported al Qaeda operations in neighboring Iraq against U.S. and coalition forces.

The Treasury order, which imposes a U.S. asset freeze and other financial prohibitions, also named an Iraqi national who runs the Syrian television station and two Iraqis living in Tehran accused of aiding violent insurgent forces in Iraq.

Mr. Bush repeatedly has said that containing Iran is a central focus of his trip, but the effort to date has not gone smoothly.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, on a Washington visit this week, made it clear that Ankara will not be cutting economic ties with Tehran, despite U.S. pressure. Turkey receives critical natural-gas supplies from Iran, and two-way trade between the countries went from $1.2 billion five years ago to more than $8 billion last year.

Mr. Gul, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center after an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Bush Tuesday, said it was Turkey’s policy to “establish proper relations with all our neighbors” and denied that relations with Iran will alter Turkey’s pro-Western orientation.

Saudi Arabia and Syria have also said they are determined to maintain ties with Iran over U.S. objections.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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