By Jamie Crawford
The United States sanctioned 17 Iranian individuals and entities for their alleged roles in the Iranian government's human rights abuses and support of terrorism, the Treasury and State departments announced Thursday.
The actions were carried out under the authority of three separate executive orders that had already been put into effect.
In the first set of sanctions, the United States targeted four Iranian individuals and five entities for their roles in censoring or blocking citizen access to the internet and international media - including the jamming of international satellite broadcasts.
Among those targeted is Ali Fazli, deputy commander of the Basij militia, who participated in the brutal crackdown of civilian protestors in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election.
By Barbara Starr
Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf on November 1, the Pentagon disclosed on Thursday.
The incident, reported first by CNN, raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.
The drone was on routine maritime surveillance in international airspace east of Kuwait, 16 miles off the coast of Iran, U.S. officials said. The Predator was not hit.
"Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace. It was always flying in international air space. The recognized limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast and we never entered the 12 nautical mile limit," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in responding to questions from reporters after CNN reported the incident.
Little said the United States believed this was the first time an unmanned aircraft was shot at by the Iranians in international waters over the Gulf. In December of 2011, a U.S. surveillance drone crashed in eastern Iran. Iranians claimed to have shot it down, and created a toy model of the drone to celebrate its capture.
Little stopped short of calling the incident an act of war although the Pentagon was concerned.
By Larry Shaughnessy
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday accused Iran of training pro-Assad militias in Syria in an increased effort to to prop up the embattled Syrian president.
"There's now an indication that they're trying to develop - or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime," Panetta said during a news briefing at the Pentagon. "We are seeing a growing presence by Iran and that is of deep concern to us that that's taking place."
U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who briefed the media with Panetta, said this Iranian-trained militia appears to be made up of local civilians, "generally Shia, some Alawite."
The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday announced an extension of sanctions against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shiite militant group, for its support of the Syrian government.
Hezbollah, which the United States has long designated a terrorist organization supported by Iran, has provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to President Bashar al-Assad's military campaign against an uprising that began last March, the department reported.
The agency accused the group of directly training Syrian government personnel inside Syria, and facilitating the training of Syrian forces by the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"Hizballah's extensive support to the Syrian government's violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a written statement announcing the sanctions.
With sanctions targeting its oil sector, and the possibility of Israel striking its nuclear program, a senior official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Iran could strike U.S. military installations in the region "within minutes."
How equipped is Iran's military to carry out such a threat? CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty reports.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States sanctioned an Iranian airline, three Iranian officials, a trading company and a shipping agent Tuesday for providing support to an elite Iranian military unit that has already been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
All of the entities sanctioned were involved in the shipments of weapons to the Levant, a collection of countries on the eastern Mediterranean Sea that includes Syria, as well as to Africa, the Treasury Department said in a press release.
They have all assisted Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the Treasury Department said.
"Today's action again exposes Iran's malign influence in the Middle East, Africa and beyond," David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the release. "As the Iranian regime exports its lethal aid and expertise to foment violence in Syria and Africa, Treasury will continue to expose the officials and companies involved and work to hold them accountable for the suffering they cause."
By Jamie Crawford
The United States imposed sanctions Wednesday on a senior member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Qods Force and designated him as a narcotics trafficker, the first such designation of an Iranian official.
Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, the current chief of the ICRG-QF office in Zahedan, Iran, has allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through his zone of operations in exchange for money, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. FULL POST
By Suzanne Kelly
Iran poses a laundry list of threats to U.S. national security, according to top officials in the intelligence community.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Iran poses a threat on a number of fronts, including its ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the fact that any nuclear attack would likely be delivered by a ballistic missile.
"Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile force, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload," Clapper said during his opening remarks to the committee. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived in the Arabian Sea on Thursday, Navy officials said, a likely prelude to testing Iran's recent warning against sending a U.S. carrier through the Strait of Hormuz.
The Lincoln joins the USS Carl Vinson, already in the region, returning the U.S. Navy its standard two-carrier presence there. The carrier USS John Stennis left in the past few days and is now traveling back through the western Pacific.
The Lincoln's arrival puts into place all the elements for a U.S. carrier to travel back into the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz for the first time since recent tensions with Iran escalated. FULL POST
By Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty
In seeking to avoid a military confrontation with Iran, the United States is navigating a myriad of potential landmines that has created a tense triangle between Iran, Israel and the U.S.
Most immediately, the United States is trying to make clear to Iran the consequences of closing the Strait of Hormuz, a key transit point for one-fifth of the world's oil.
Washington is doing everything to get its message across but send up smoke signals to warn Iran. In the absence of relations, the United States has used a variety of public statements and secret diplomatic backchannels to send a message to Iran that closing the Strait would be a red-line.
Even after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly warned Tehran against such a move last Thursday, threatening to "respond" if Iran attempts to shut down traffic, the U.S. also sent diplomatic messages through Switzerland - its protecting power in Iran - and through Iraqi President Jalal Talibani.