US, UK, Canada hit Iran with new sanctions after IAEA report on nuclear arms

The West will tighten its efforts to isolate Iran after the IAEA admitted that Tehran continues its push for nuclear weapons.  The US, UK, and Canada will roll out coordinated sanctions today, CBS reports, which might indicate a failure to woo the other veto-holding nations on the UN Security Council:

The Obama administration will hit the Iranian economy with new sanctions Monday, a U.S. official said, teaming with Britain and Canada in an effort to pressure Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The financial and energy sanctions will target Iranian companies, the hardline Revolutionary Guard force and Iran’s petrochemicals sector, the official said. The aim would be to build on several American measures already in place to isolate Iran’s economy. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The action represents the first direct response to the U.N. nuclear agency’s recent report suggesting Iranian work toward the development of atomic weapons. The report’s release has sparking frenzied international diplomacy over how to halt the Iranian threat, with President Barack Obama pressing the leaders of Russia and China little more than a week ago to join the United States and its allies in taking action.

Obama, however, returned home from an Asia-Pacific trip without any firm commitments from either of the two veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members over stiffer penalties against Iran. The U.S. has insisted since the report’s publication two weeks ago that it was prepared to act unilaterally, or in concert with like-minded governments, to increase the heat on Tehran amid hardening suspicion over its nuclear ambitions.

The British government started first by blocking any further commerce with Iranian banks:

From 1500 GMT on Monday, all UK credit and financial institutions are required to cease all transactions with banks including the Central Bank of Iran.

Chancellor George Osborne said there was evidence that Iran’s banks were funding its nuclear weapons programme.

This is the first time the UK has used powers created under the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act to cut off a country’s banking sector in this way.

That will be a significant blow to Iran, which has maintained economic contacts with Europe while the US blocks access to our financial sector.  Iran can certainly work around it — they’ll probably run to the Russians and China, which have blocked attempts on tougher sanctions for years — but the UK move might convince other EU nations to get tough as well.  Germany is a trade partner with Iran, and if Germany cuts off the Iranians, it will bite deeply into their economy.  Of course, the EU has big financial problems at the moment, which means they may not rush to join the UK in cutting off a potential source of revenue.

Still, this action will produce some hardship for the Iranians, and put more pressure on the mullahs as economic conditions worsen in their country.  They already have a significant amount of unrest among the population, which they have tried to blame on the Great Satan (the US) and the Little Satan (Israel), two countries that the mullahs have not engaged at all.  If the Brits leave them high and dry, that’s going to be tougher to explain to the population.  Iranians will see that the mullahs are increasing their nation’s isolation rather than improving their standing.  That won’t be enough to make the mullahs stop building a bomb, but hopefully will push the mullahcracy and the Revolutionary Guard closer to a tipping point.