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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LYNN NEARY, host:
And I'm Lynn Neary, in for Renee Montagne.
The Bush administration, today, imposed new sanctions against Iran. The move follows months of tense words between the U.S. and Tehran. The sanctions were announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Mr. HENRY PAULSON (United States Department of Treasury): Iran exploits its global financial ties to pursue nuclear capabilities, develop ballistic missiles, and fund terrorism. Today, we are taking additional steps to combat Iran's dangerous conduct and to engage financial institutions, worldwide, to make the most informed decisions about those with whom they choose to do business.
NEARY: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson speaking this morning at the State Department.
Joining me now is NPR's Michele Kelemen. Michele, what do these measures mean?
MICHELE KELEMEN: Well, the idea, as you heard from Henry Paulson, is really to cut Iran off from the international financial system. And U.S. sanctions could hurt there in that - the signal that it sends, really. The U.S. has put on a blacklist three banks in addition to the big news that it's blacklisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and part of the Corps, the al-Quds Force, which the Bush administration says has been the main conduit for supporting terrorists in the Middle East, including Iraqi insurgents in Iraq.
So as to what they'll mean whether - the Revolutionary Guard Corps does control a lot of businesses in Iran, including in the oil sector. The Bush administration also accuses it of operating front companies that are used to procure nuclear technology. So what it means specifically is that any assets that these groups might have in the U.S. will be frozen, and Americans can't do business with them.
NEARY: Why is it happening now?
KELEMEN: Well a lot of it has to do with internal policy disputes in the Bush administration. It was May 2006 when Rice decided to - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to back the European Union's negotiating effort with Iran and say, okay, you know, we'll join these talks, offer a package of economic incentives if Iran suspends its nuclear program. And if Iran hasn't, we'll work together to impose sanctions.
So it was this sort of two-path diplomacy. Hard liners in Washington have become increasingly worried about this. Iran hasn't stopped its program, and you know, this weekend, we even heard from Vice President Dick Cheney who talked about the need for serious consequences, so there's been a lot of pressure there.
On the other side of this debate, one Iran watcher, Trita Parsy, who advocates talks, said that he thinks Rice is playing defense now and losing the battle with the hawks. And he said, this move to sanction this group is only going to push Iran and the U.S. into a situation where it's going to make it harder for any future administrations to deal with Iran.
NEARY: Is the U.S. acting alone here?
KELEMEN: Well, it is in these sanctions, but, again, it's really the signal that it's sending to others. And, you know, Henry Paulson was very strong on this, too. Let's hear - let's listen to what he had to say this morning.
Mr. PAULSON: In dealing with Iran, it is nearly impossible to know one's customer and be assured that one is not unwittingly facilitating the regime's reckless behavior and conduct.
KELEMEN: You know, the U.N. Security Council has imposed some sanctions, but we've been hearing a lot of complaints in the U.S. that many countries aren't enforcing them in such a way. So here's a real signal to businesses around the world to stop doing business as usual with Iran.
NEARY: Now, Secretary Rice stressed continued diplomacy; what chance is there for diplomacy at this point?
KELEMEN: Well, I mean, her idea of diplomacy, again, is this two-track thing, you know? We're going to move ahead with sanctions and see if Iran does suspend. So far, Iran hasn't done that, and her efforts - and the next step is to try to persuade Russia and China, basically, to go along with a third sanctions resolution against Iran.
NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Michele.
KELEMEN: You're welcome.
NEARY: NPR's Michele Kelemen.
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