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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: New Squeeze on Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

January 25, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

An apparent ratcheting up of U.S. pressure on Iran is underway on several fronts in what is seen as a moment of opportunity. To try to isolate Tehran, Washington has put pressure on foreign banks and financial institutions to sever their ties to Iranian banks, as outlined in this new Backgrounder. Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, an expert on Iranian foreign policy, says this kind of financial squeeze is effective but unlikely to move Iran to renounce its nuclear program. But the U.S. has set other pieces in motion.

U.S. forces recently raided an Iranian consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan and detained alleged members of the Revolutionary Guards accused (BaltSun) of abetting Islamic militants in Iraq . Around the same time, President Bush suggested similar raids in the future with his January 10 speech on stabilizing Iraq. The Pentagon is expected to release a report soon detailing why the Iranian diplomats were detained.

The United States this month sent its second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, sending an explicit warning (AP) to Tehran and enhancing the U.S. military's capability to carry out potential air or naval-based strikes against Iranian targets. Bush's appointment of Admiral William Fallon to head Central Command may also signal Washington's greater willingness to wage air or navel-based strikes against Iranian nuclear targets, given the admiral's "vast experience in directing carrier-borne air strikes," writes Martin Sieff, a national security correspondent for UPI. One aim of these maneuvers is to show that the U.S. presence in the region remains strong, notwithstanding military setbacks in Iraq. There is no hope for direct dialogue with the Iranians, the thinking goes, so long as Washington appears to be negotiating from a position of weakness.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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