Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is America Using Iran In A Dangerous Game With Russia?

On October 25, 2007, the Bush administration announced sweeping new sanctions against Iran. These are the harshest since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979 as part of the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. America claims that Tehran supports terrorism in the Middle East, exports missiles and is engaging in a nuclear build up.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, joined at a State Department news conference by 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.

The sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), from the American financial system and will likely have ripple effects throughout the international banking community.

State-owned banks Bank Melli, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat were named supporters of global terrorist groups for their activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

Iran's Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics were designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology.

The IRGC is the largest component of Iran's military and has influence in business and other spheres. The defense ministry entity is the parent organization for Iran's aerospace and ballistic missile operations.

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.

The administration accuses the Quds Force of sending fighters and deadly roadside bombs, mortars and rockets to kill American troops in Iraq in recent years — allegations that Iran denies.

These sanctions come in the wake of a strong show of support of Iran by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia and the US are at odds over a system to defend against Iranian missile attacks. The US wants the system based in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia wants it in Azerbaijan, and does not appear to be as convinced as the US as to why it is needed. Putin has also encouraged oil producing nations such as Iran to bolster their militaries against possible US aggression.

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