The Bush administration declared new sanctions against Iran Thursday - the harshest since 1979 - insisting 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 steps the U.S. administration is taking against the Revolutionary Guard Corps and a number of banks are designed, among other things, to punish Tehran for its support of terrorist organizations in Iraq and the Middle East.
According to the AP, Rice said the moves were in response to "a comprehensive policy to confront the threatening behavior of the Iranians" although she also said that Washington remains open to "a diplomatic solution." But Rice quickly added: "Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israeli off the map."
The sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, from the American financial system and will likely have ripple effects throughout the international banking community.
The Quds Force, a part of the Guard Corps that Washington accuses of provided weapons, including powerful bombmaking materiel blamed for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and other banks will be identified as "specially designated global terrorist" groups for their activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, the officials said.
According to Rice, the new sanctions will "provide a powerful deterrent" for companies in the United States and abroad to sever business relationships with Iran.
Paulson said that Iran channels millions of dollars a year to help bankroll terrorist acts. "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC," Paulson said, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The sanctions also cover three Iran state-owned banks, including Bank Melli.