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US Takes New Steps To Isolate Iran

President Bush
by Jim Mannion
Washington (AFP) Jan 30, 2007
The United States took new steps to isolate Iran Tuesday, announcing a freeze on the sale of all F-14 fighter parts and warning that an attempt by Tehran to block the flow of Gulf oil could be turned against it. President George W. Bush reiterated in a television interview that the US had no plans to invade Iran, but will step up diplomatic pressure to convince it to abandon its nuclear program.

"And the best way to do so is to continue rallying other nations to join us and expressing ourselves very clear to the Iranians that 'You will be isolated, that you won't be able to achieve your greatness, that you'll hurt your people economically if you continue to insist upon a nuclear weapon,'" he told ABC News.

Countering Iran has emerged as a prime objective of US policy as Washington struggles to stabilize Iraq and regain its footing in a region rife with both anti-American and sectarian tensions.

Admiral William Fallon, Bush's nominee to replace General John Abizaid as commander of US forces in the Middle East, said Iran appeared to be developing military means to deny US forces access to the oil-rich Gulf.

"But I would note this is not a one-sided game, or a one-sided situation, in that Iran is, I believe, critically dependent on its export of petroleum products for its economic vitality," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"And those exports go through the same Straits of Hormuz that they would potentially seek to deny us access to," he said.

About a quarter of the world's oil goes through the straits, which are bordered by Iran on one side and Oman and the United Arab Emirates on the other.

Experts say the closure of the straits would send oil prices soaring.

Fallon's appointment, which the US Senate is expected to confirm, coincides with Bush's ordering a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf.

The arrival of the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis would raise the US naval presence in the region to its highest level since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Fallon said Bush had not asked him to update war plans for Iran and said he was not aware of any such plans at the US Central Command, which is responsible for US forces in the Gulf.

"It seems to me in the entire approach to Iraq that we'll be looking for help from the region and ... at the full range of options that are open to us, diplomatically and every other way," he said.

In Iraq, Bush confirmed last week that he has authorized the US military to kill or capture Iranian agents plotting attacks on US forces.

"We'll deal with it by finding their supply chains and their agents and ... arresting them, getting them out of harm's way. In other words, we're going to protect our troops," Bush told ABC News.

"It's not tough talk to say that the commander-in-chief expects our troops to be protected," he said.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, froze the sales of all spare parts for F-14 fighter aircraft because of concerns they could be transferred to Iran, which bought F-14s from the United States before the 1979 Iranian revolution, a Defense Department spokeswoman said.

The Defense Logistics Agency ordered the freeze January 26 "given the current situation in Iran," said Dawn Dearden, the agency's spokesman.

The Pentagon had already suspended the sale of spare parts that either were specific to the F-14 or that could be used in other aircraft.

The DLA said the parts sales are now the subject of a comprehensive review.

earlier related report
Revolutionary Guards chief says Iran's economy targeted
Tehran (AFP) Jan 31 - The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards warned Wednesday that Iran's "enemies" have targeted its economy in a standoff over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme, ISNA news agency reported.

General Yahya Rahim Safavi said they "seek to strike our economy to create dissatisfaction among the people by adopting a (UN) resolution, sanctions, limiting financial activities and reducing oil prices".

The Iranian government must remain "alert in order to combat this plot", the commander urged.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on December 23 imposing sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear and missile programmes for its refusal to suspend controversial nuclear work.

Safavi did not rule out the possibility of a "tougher resolution" against Iran when a two-month time limit runs out for Iran to heed Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

But he described as "very weak" the chances of a military attack against Iran, citing "comprehensive intelligence about the movements of the enemies' forces, especially the Americans and the Zionist regime in the region".

Rising US accusations against Tehran and the deployment of a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf have sparked fears that Washington is contemplating a military strike to curb Iran's nuclear drive.

But US President George W. Bush said in an interview on Monday that he had no plans to invade Iran, which the United States accuses of seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.

Iran denies the charges, insisting it only wants to generate energy.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US General Accuses Iran On Weapons Supplies
Washington (AFP) Jan 31, 2007
Iran is arming Iraqi militias with weapons including Katyusha rockets, roadside bombs and rocket propelled grenades, USA Today quoted the number two US general in Iraq as saying Wednesday. Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno told the paper that several arrests in Iraq had provided hints into Iran's operations and supply chain in the country.

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