By Bridget Johnson - 02/10/10 06:15 PM EST
The Treasury Department moved Wednesday to implement sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard just after Iran stepped up its defiance of international efforts to rein in its nuclear program.
Treasury targeted four subsidiaries of Khatam al-Anbiya Construction, the engineering arm of the Revolutionary Guard: Fater Engineering Institute, Imensazen Consultant Engineers Institute, Makin Institute and Rahab Institute.
Sanctions were levied against Khatam al-Anbiya Construction in 2007, when broad action was taken against the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's Ministry of Defense, state-owned banks and individuals in the country's aerospace industry.
"As the [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps] 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,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said in a statement Wednesday announcing the sanctions.
“Today's action exposing Khatam al-Anbiya subsidiaries will help firms worldwide avoid business that ultimately benefits the IRGC and its dangerous activities.”
The Revolutionary Guard was founded as a defense mechanism after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but has deep roots in the structure of the regime and powerful economic influence in various sectors. In 2006, Khatam al-Anbiya secured deals worth at least $7 billion in the oil, gas and transportation sectors.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced over the weekend that the Islamic Republic would step up its uranium enrichment to 20 percent. This sparked calls from Western nations for stronger sanctions against Iran, plus an offer this week from the U.S. to supply the country with medical isotopes if it halts uranium enrichment.
“Shutting down the reactor or stopping the production of medicine is not the solution,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Wednesday. “This proposal is not logical.”
Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is for energy and medical purposes and not for nuclear weapons as the majority of the international community fears.
Tension between Iran and the U.S. is expected to increase further next week, when Iran's turn for a three-hour debate on its human-rights record comes up at the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Obama administration has levied measured criticism at Tehran for its crackdown on opposition protesters following June’s elections while persisting with diplomatic outreach efforts to Iran.
But in an interview aired Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged that Iran's fist was still clenched despite President Barack Obama's inauguration vow to extend a hand if rogue regimes unclenched their fists.