WASHINGTON (AP) - Thwarted internationally, the Obama administration cobbled together a new set of best-available sanctions against Iran on Monday that underlined its limited capacity to force Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program. The U.S. action was coordinated with Britain and Canada, but not with countries such as Russia and China that have far greater economic investments in the Islamic republic.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were to present the American measures later in the day, and officials said they would target Iranian companies, the hardline Revolutionary Guard force and Iran's petrochemicals sector. The restrictions aren't expected to break new ground, instead representing a piecemeal addition to several rounds of American measures already in place to isolate Iran's economy.
The American dilemma is twofold: After the three decades of economic estrangement and escalating pressure on Tehran for its dismal human rights record and alleged support for terrorism, the United States has few tools left to coerce or penalize the Iranian regime. And Washington is unlikely to authorize a military strike anytime soon, conscious that an attack may delay but not stop Iran from developing the bomb and fearful of the political fallout at a time when the U.S. is flailing in debt and trying to transition from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, Monday's coordinated actions among the United States and its two close allies represent the first direct response to a recent report by the U.N. nuclear agency suggesting Iranian work toward the development of atomic weapons.
report's release has sparked frenzied international diplomacy over how to halt the Iranian threat, including speculation in the U.S., Europe and Israel on the merits of a military intervention.