I said most of what I have to say on this subject three months ago when news first broke that it was in the works, but it’s the big story of the day so it shouldn’t pass unremarked upon. Initially it was thought that the entire Revolutionary Guard would be designated a terrorist organization; instead they limited that to the Quds Force and reserved nuclear-proliferator status for the IRGC. Follow the links in my old post to see the significance of this, or let Henry Paulson sum it up:

The sanctions recognize that financing for groups like the Revolutionary Guard have become closely entwined with Iran’s economy, making it difficult to disrupt the one without targeting the other.

The Revolutionary Guard “is so deeply entrenched in Iran’s economy, that it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC,” Paulson said…

The overall impact, according to U.S. officials, will be to make a pariah of the most critical parts of Iran’s military and its defense and commercial industries.

I wrote about this once before in the context of the Palestinians but it bears noting anew that sanctions are, theoretically, an option favored by the left precisely because they don’t involve military force. “We have other levers of power besides the Army,” they’re forever reminding us. Which is true; Bush is using one of those levers now. Are they happy? Of course not. Hillary and Obama issued statements today cautiously endorsing the sanctions, which they have to do since they’re serious candidates who need votes from the center. The other, nutroots-approved candidates? Not so much:

Former Sen. John Edwards released a statement saying, “Today, George Bush and Dick Cheney again rattled the sabers in their march toward military action against Iran. The Bush Administration has been making plans to attack Iran for many months. At this critical moment, we need strong leadership against George Bush’s dangerous ‘preventive war’ policy, which makes force the first option, not the last.”

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd echoed that sentiment.

“Unfortunately, the action taken by the administration today comes in the context of escalating rhetoric and drumbeat to military action against Iran,” he said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned that once again the president is opting for military action as a first resort.”

Not only do they want the military option off the table, they want the sanctions option off the table too. Which leaves us with the negotiation option, sans any stick to help make the carrot more appetizing. Could that option work? Judge for yourself. Here’s a little inside baseball on the new Iranian nuclear negotiator, who’s reported to be a diehard Ahmadinejad crony:

Mr. Jalili’s appointment may signal a clarification rather than a hardening of Iran’s policy. Mr. Larijani [his predecessor] pleaded with the Europeans for understanding and room to maneuver, and he avoided the fiery bombast of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to several European officials who dealt with him. By contrast, they said, Mr. Jalili, as the Foreign Ministry official responsible for European and American affairs, did not pretend to try to negotiate, but tended to lecture with a sweet demeanor that belied his steely messages.

“He doesn’t listen or pretend to listen,” said one European official who has dealt with him. “It’s not a dialogue of the deaf. It’s a monologue of the deaf.”

The silver lining is that Larijani is popular with the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and even among Ahmadinejad’s own nuttier-than-nutty base. News of his dismissal led the “conservatives” in the Iranian parliament to pass a measure of support for him, which apparently so worried Ahmadinejad that he cut short his trip to Armenia and came home to deal with it. The question at the moment is why Khamenei would have allowed him to replace Larijani with the new harder-line guy under those circumstances. One devious theory which thrills my Machiavellian heart is that Khamenei has it in for Ahmadinejad and is looking for a pretext to push him out; by letting him staff the all-important nuclear diplomacy team with his own goons, it gives Khamenei an excuse later to declare the negotiations a failure and to blame Ahmadinejad squarely for it. Which, again, means negotiations with Iran are totally pointless, at least until Khamenei makes his move. So much for the Edwards/Dodd approach, premised as it is upon the simple belief that anything, including letting a terrorist state build a nuclear weapon, is preferable to conflict.

Alas for them, not everyone agrees. Exit question: Why, oh why, does the new defense spending bill include an order for upgrading B2s to carry 30,000-lb. bunker busters?