The Bush administration plans to announce an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the designation of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, according to senior administration officials.
The sanctions, to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., mark the first time that the U.S. has tried to isolate or punish another country’s military.
“This is a very powerful set of measures designed to send a message to Iran that there will be a cost to what they do,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the measures had not been announced.
The new sanctions will allow the United States to financially isolate a large part of Iran’s military and anyone inside or outside Iran who does business with it, U.S. officials said. Hundreds of foreign companies may have to drop Iranian business or risk U.S. sanctions.
The Revolutionary Guard, which numbers at least 125,000, is the most powerful wing of Iran’s military. It has growing financial interests, including in construction companies, the oil industry, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and ordinary commerce. U.S. officials said it also operates the companies that procure nuclear technology.
The administration will designate the entire Revolutionary Guard under Executive Order 13382, signed by President Bush in June 2005, which allows the U.S. leader to freeze the assets of any alleged proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its supporters. The United States will announce a list of Iranians involved in their country’s ballistic missile program -- civilians as well as military officials -- who will also be designated, U.S. officials said.
Under the executive order, the administration intends to designate Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which runs defense industries, as well as the firms owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, U.S. officials said.
The Quds Force, the foreign operations branch of the Revolutionary Guard, will be designated separately as a supporter of terrorism under Executive Order 13224, which Bush signed two weeks after Sept. 11, U.S. officials said. The measure authorizes the United States to identify and freeze the assets of individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups allegedly engaged in terrorism.
The Quds Force -- “Quds” is the Arabic name for Jerusalem -- is estimated to number from 2,000 to 15,000 personnel and is said to run Tehran’s covert activities throughout the Middle East, including arms, aid and training for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. U.S. officials allege that it has aided Iraqi militants and provided the high-tech bombs capable of penetrating armored vehicles and the roadside explosives that are the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Rice said Wednesday in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “The policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge for American security interests in the Middle East, and possibly around the world, because the combination of Iranian terrorism, Iranian repression at home and the pursuit of nuclear weapons technology -- technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon -- is a very dangerous mix.”