By Jamie Crawford
The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran on Friday in an effort to further squeeze its crippled economy and pressure Tehran into curbing its nuclear ambitions.
The latest Treasury Department action targets the petrochemical industry, Iran's second-highest source of revenue after oil production, which is also under sanctions.
Treasury targeted eight companies under the authority of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama last year to stem the flow of money that can be diverted to Iran's nuclear program.
Western powers believe Iran is aiming to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its intentions are peaceful.
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.
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 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.
By Tim Lister
Ali Mussa Daqduq – a Lebanese militant accused of involvement in the murder of several U.S. soldiers in Iraq – has been in U.S. military detention in Iraq since 2007. But not for much longer. As the last U.S. forces depart Iraq, Daqduq may soon go free, without facing trial.
The Iraqis have given no indication that they will allow Daqduq to be taken out of the country and the case has become a tug-of-war between Iraq and the Obama Administration. The prospect that Daqduq – a veteran operative of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia – may escape U.S. justice altogether has infuriated members of Congress. And even if the Iraqis agree to let him leaves with his captors, just how and where he would face trial is another political minefield for the Justice Department.
Daqduq was accused of organizing a kidnapping in the Iraqi city of Karbala in January 2007 that left five U.S. soldiers dead. After he was captured some months later, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Daqduq pretended to be a deaf-mute. But officials identified him as a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah who had commanded a special operations unit and been sent to Iraq to develop “Special Groups” within Shi’ite militia. They said he admitted working with the Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. U.S. military intelligence contended the Quds force was using Hezbollah as a surrogate in Iraq. FULL POST
By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty and CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
It's a phrase Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to slip into with almost every comment about Iran these days: "I think Iran, unfortunately, is morphing into a military dictatorship."
That's how she put it in an interview on October 26, with BBC Persia. The expression appears to have first popped up during Clinton's February 2010, trip to the Middle East, where she said at a town hall appearance in Doha, Qatar, that U.N. sanctions are aimed at "enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran."
"We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship."
With reporting from Jamie Crawford, Charley Keyes, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott and Gloria Borger
At the center of the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is the alleged involvement of the Quds Force, the elite special operations unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The most militant wing the corps, Quds Force has reportedly carried out covert operations in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of working with members of an arm of the IRGC in devising a murder-for-hire plot, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York and announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Arbabsiar is accused of "orchestrating the $1.5 million plot with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the (Quds) Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators," according to the complaint.
A reading of the complaint, along with public comments by officials, suggested that the U.S. government came to the conclusion that Quds Force was linked to the plot based on claims the defendant made to an informant. But the question left unanswered is whether the alleged conspirators were free-lancing or got a nod of approval from senior officials in the regime.
The administration does not have "specific information" tying Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, to the plot, but specific information does link senior Quds Force officials, a senior administration official familiar with the case told CNN's Gloria Borger. When pressed, senior administration officials would not link the plot to the highest levels of the Iranian government, Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin said Thursday.
A senior U.S. official told CNN's Elise Labott that given how compartmentalized Iran's leadership is, it was also unclear the extent to which the plot was known - or approved of - within the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.
"It could be someone in the IRGC who was freelancing; it could be one stovepipe of the Quds force that felt they had the resources and the means to conduct something," the senior U.S. official said. "It's still unclear."
But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who was briefed about the plot this summer, went further in accusing the Iranians of being behind the plot. FULL POST
By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence
A senior defense official says there has been no change to U.S. military posture in reaction to the terror plot allegedly backed by Iran. The official says American Navy ships in the region have not been re-positioned, and at this point there are no plans to do so.
“The act is already done. One of the people involved is still at large, but the other principal is in custody. So what does changing military posture do?, the official says.
The official says while the Pentagon continues to concentrate on keeping an eye on the Quds Force and Iran’s actions in the region, especially Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, this incident is “much more of a law-enforcement matter.”
The official was not surprised at the level of cooperation apparently given by the Mexican government to foil the terror plot. “We’ve got a very good working relationship with the Mexican military in a number of ways, especially counter-narcotics. The US Navy and Marine Corps are very involved with their Mexican counterparts, and work together in several ways, including training.”
The Treasury Department sanctioned five people for their alleged involvement in the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Here is the announcement –
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the designation of five individuals, including four senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) officers connected to a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, while he was in the United States and to carry out follow-on attacks against other countries’ interests inside the United States and in another country. As part of today’s action, Treasury also designated the individual responsible for arranging the assassination plot on behalf of the IRGC-QF.
Designated today pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF were: Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports who acted on behalf of the IRGC-QF to pursue the failed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador; IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani; Hamed Abdollahi, a senior IRGC-QF official who coordinated aspects of the plot and oversaw the other Qods Force officials directly responsible for coordinating and planning this operation; Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF official who coordinated this operation; and Ali Gholam Shakuri, an IRGC-QF official and deputy to Shahlai, who met with Arbabsiar on several occasions to discuss the assassination and other planned attacks.