Taking advantage of the ado surrounding the failed airliner bombing and the new prominence of the al Qaeda peril, the Obama administration has finally given up its sanctions strategy for averting the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was tasked with the public announcement: "The Obama administration wants to keep the door to dialogue open with Iran," she said Jan. 4, then added a remark which let Iran off completely of the American hook: "…although the United States has avoided using the term deadline, it cannot wait indefinitely to hear form Iran."
Her words explicitly backtracked on statements by other senior administration officials, including National Security Adviser James Jones, in recent interviews that Tehran's deadline for responding to international proposals expired on Dec. 31. debkafile's Iranian sources report that Tehran sees Washington as so eager to reach the negotiating table that it is falling back from effective penalties step by step, including an embargo on refined oils and benzene, and even willing to forgive Iran's failure to meet a highly publicized international deadline.
"Our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guards elements without contributing to the suffering of Iranians," Clinton explained.
Threatening Iran's Revolutionary Guards instead of its regime is nothing but a feeble face-saver, our Iranian sources maintain, since the IRGC, whose financial operations and its management of Iran's nuclear program subsist on alternative "black market" economic mechanisms is hardly vulnerable to international sanctions.
The Guards command a world network of thousands of straw companies, which defy investigation – even by American experts. Their funds are not moved through banks but around the illegal channels of international crime and drug cartels in countries outside US scrutiny. The IRGC is therefore not afraid of the fading US threat of sanctions.
In Jerusalem, the Netanyahu government persists in clinging to the Obama administration's coattails on the Iranian nuclear menace, keeping up the pretence that sanctions are still a viable option. On Jan. 2, a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington was quoted as saying that in back-channel conversations “Obama has convinced us that it’s worth trying the sanctions, at least for a few months.”
Another official, deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, predicted confidently to an interviewer: "The US will impose sanctions against Iran within a month."
Two days later, the Clinton statement showed Israeli officials to be woefully lagging behind the times with regard to decision-making in Washington. There, the Iran crisis has been taken back a whole year to square one. Obama administration wasted this year in barren diplomatic engagement against Tehran's iron resistance to any changes in its nuclear objectives, while the Netanyahu-Barak government frittered the year away by playing follow-the-US leader and keeping Israel on the sidelines of any initiative against an avowed enemy.
By contrast, Iran spent the year celebrating another leap forward in developing its nuclear weaponry and missiles, the while binding its ally Syria and proxies Hizballah and Hamas to mutual defense pacts should the US or Israel conjure up the temerity to strike its nuclear facilities after all.