WASHINGTON – The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on a top Iranian general and three exiled Iraqis based in Iran and Syria for fomenting violence in Iraq, as President Bush lashed out again at Tehran for last weekend’s encounter between U.S. and Iranian naval vessels.
In a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush called Iran a “threat to world peace” and warned that it would face “serious consequences” if it tried to attack U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf.
All options remain on the table, Bush said, a statement that some diplomatic and military officials in Washington said inflated the brief incident Sunday between five small Iranian speedboats and three U.S. warships.
Iran countered Wednesday that a four-minute video of the encounter released by the United States on Tuesday was compiled from file pictures and fabricated audio.
The rising tensions led France and Saudi Arabia to call on Washington and Tehran to show caution. “We hope this incident will not be repeated. We face a constant danger of escalation, so self-restraint is necessary for all players in the region,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference on the eve of Bush’s visit to the kingdom.
He also appeared to rebuff U.S. efforts to raise the stakes over Iran. “We’re a neighbor to Iran in the Gulf, which is a small area, so we’re keen for harmony and peace among countries in the region,” Faisal said. “We have relations with Iran and we talk with them, and if we felt any danger, we have relations that allow us to talk about it.”
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Iran about taking a dangerous action but cautioned the two nations to show “moderation.”
Shortly after Bush’s comments in Israel on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced the new economic sanctions on the four individuals and a television station in Syria.
Treasury imposed the new sanctions under Executive Order 13438, which targets insurgents and militia groups. It freezes any assets – such as property or financial holdings – under U.S. jurisdiction or any transactions with U.S. citizens or entities.
The administration named Brig. Gen. Ahmed Foruzandeh, leader of Iran’s Quds Force operations in Iraq, for allegedly directing assassinations of Iraqis and ordering Iranian intelligence to provoke deeper sectarian violence in Iraq by targeting Shiites and Sunnis.