The Cable

Treasury announces new sanctions on Iranian companies

As Susan Rice's shop in New York pursues multilateral sanctions against Iran at the U.N. and Congress moves its own sanctions regime on Capitol Hill, the Treasury Department is moving forward with targeted actions against a new set of Iranian companies.

Treasury announced Wednesday it is officially affiliating four more companies with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), bringing those companies under the umbrella of Iran sanctions already in place in existing law. The main target is IRGC General Rostam Qasemi, who is also the commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the engineering arm of the IRGC that Treasury says helps the Guards generate income and fund their operations. 

"Khatam al-Anbiya is owned or controlled by the IRGC and is involved in the construction of streets, highways, tunnels, water conveyance projects, agricultural restoration projects, and pipelines," the Treasury Department press release states.

Administration officials are pointing to the move as a sign they are zeroing in on the IRGC specifically.

"As the IRGC consolidates control over broad swaths of the Iranian economy, displacing ordinary Iranian businessmen in favor of a select group of insiders, it is hiding behind companies like Khatam al-Anbiya and its affiliates to maintain vital ties to the outside world," the release quoted the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, as saying. "Today's action exposing Khatam al-Anbiya subsidiaries will help firms worldwide avoid business that ultimately benefits the IRGC and its dangerous activities."

Treasury also designated four organizations as being controlled by or connected to Khatam al-Anbiya: the Fater Engineering Institute, the Imensazen Consultant Engineers Institute, the Makin Institute, and the Rahab Institute.

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Iran, North Korea, Ukraine

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of Tuesday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drove Monday from Chappaqua to Washington over the snow caked roads. Ok, she was driven by the diplomatic service agents, but still. She had lunch with Rahm Emmanuel Tuesday. Her Wednesday testimony on Capitol Hill is postponed.
  • No specific schedule for a new round of talks between the P5+1 countries on Iran, following last Friday's conference call. "We have and will continue to consult with our counterparts, you know, within the P-5 plus one process. I've got nothing to project, you know - specifically," Crowley said.
  • Crowley reiterated Obama's dissatisfaction with Iran's announcement it will at least try to increase its uranium enrichment to 20 percent. "This was an unnecessary step. In fact, you know, by every indication, it is counterproductive to Iran's, you know, specific interest," he said. He wouldn't give a timeline for the "pressure track" and didn't take the opportunity to criticize China when baited by the press corps.
  • He again concentrated on making a distinction between sanctions that target the regime versus ones that target the population. "We're looking at ways in which we can put additional pressure on the Iranian government without, you know, increasing the burden on the Iranian people," Crowley said.
  • Crowley admitted that there have been other proposals put forth to the Iranians besides the one at the IAEA regarding fuel transfers for the Tehran Research Reactor, such as providing commercially available medical isotopes. "What we're saying is that, you know, okay -- you know, we put forward a good-faith proposal. We thought it was practical. It was doable. But if Iran didn't want to accept that proposal, there are others that are available."
  • The State Department isn't getting too excited about new statements by North Korea but is pleased to see North Korean negotiator Kim Gye Gwan visiting Beijing. "North Korea is saying the right things," Crowley said, "But the right words must be followed by action. Words by themselves are not sufficient."
  • On Ukraine, Crowley praised the process of the election that is about to return former Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich to power, despite that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is refusing to concede defeat. But Crowley didn't congratulate the apparent winner or reference the apparent loser. "So let's wait until the results are official. Then we'll have more to say."