x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Iran 'is moving towards a military dictatorship'

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton accuses Iran of becoming a military dictatorship as she continues to seek the support of Gulf states for tougher sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

DOHA // The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton accused Iran of becoming a military dictatorship yesterday as she continued to seek the support of Gulf states for tougher sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Mrs Clinton told an audience of students: "We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the UN that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran."

She added: "The government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament is being supplanted and Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship," Meanwhile a UAE diplomatic source said the country implements UN sanctions "on whoever, whether Iran or Korea". "Whatever comes out of the UN's Security Council is fully implemented by the UAE," he said. He added that the UAE had in the past succeeded in seizing banned material bound to countries under UN sanctions, including North Korea.

Neal Wolin, the deputy secretary of the US treasury, said in Abu Dhabi yesterday: "It is important that countries around the world - make clear to the Iranians that its proliferation activities are unacceptable." The world can do this by focusing on Iranian financial activity, whether involving individuals or banks, plus the activities of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has many business interests, said Mr Wolin, who is touring the Gulf to address financial issues with regional leaders.

He said such targeted sanctions are being raised in multilateral forums and that the United States is "looking forward to working in partnership with governments across the Gulf, including here in the UAE, on these topics". Yesterday, however, Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of Iran's atomic energy organisation, said the major world powers with which it is at loggerheads over its programme had made a new offer to Iran for a supply of nuclear fuel in return for its shipping out of most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium.

"After the decision by Iran to produce its own uranium enriched to 20 per cent, France, Russia and the United States presented a new proposal which we are in the process of considering," Mr Salehi said, according to the ILNA news agency. France and Russia quickly denied yesterday that such an offer even existed. Mrs Clinton is spearheading the Obama administration's full-court press of the region, meeting with the leaders of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Along with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, Qatar is one of four Gulf countries that accepted US missile-defence systems designed to shoot down short-range missiles.

"They worry about Iran's intentions, they worry about whether Iran will be a good neighbour," Mrs Clinton said. "The question is what can Iran do in order to allay the worries and the fears of its neighbours - and yet I don't see much progress there." Her rhetoric seems to mark the start of a tenser phase in the West's nuclear stand-off with the Islamic republic. "It's no longer just about the nuclear programme," said Hady Amr, the director of Brookings Doha, the Qatar branch of a US think tank. "It's also frustration with how the regime has responded to the aftermath of the elections."

After Iran's presidential elections in June, a mass uprising calling for votes to be recounted was forcibly silenced with beatings, arrests, detention and, recently, executions. The repression continued last week with the smothering of protests during anniversary celebrations of the Iranian Revolution. That same day, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that the country had successfully enriched uranium to the 20-per-cent level needed to fuel a medical research reactor.

"The US is trying to signal," Mr Amr added, "that it's not really willing to wait a lot longer before it changes its policy." Beyond Iran, Mrs Clinton's discussion topics with the students in Education City included Middle East peace, US-Islam engagement and building a dialogue with Muslim youth. She said she hoped for the "kind of breakthrough" between Israel and the Palestinians that people were expecting after President Barack Obama said he would actively promote peace.

On engagement, she said: "We will not agree on everything. I don't think any family agrees on everything. What I look for are ways that we can celebrate our differences but narrow our disagreements and find common cause." Some expressed doubts about the US ability to eradicate stereotypes and move beyond rancour. Mrs Clinton said it would be up to the next generation to bridge the divide. "The decisions that are made here at Education City and in my own country are really about what kind of future we will help provide for those of you who are students today. The education you are receiving here is absolutely critical. The important thing is not what you wear, but what's in your head and your heart."

Farah Pandith, the US state department's first special representative to Muslim communities, who joined Mrs Clinton at Education City, highlighted the potential of today's young Muslims. "Every single day since 9/12, on the page of every magazine or newspaper around the world, you see Islam defined in a particular way," Ms Pandith on Saturday at the forum, which concluded yesterday. "This generation is having to navigate through that and understand what it means to be modern and Muslim - and also is really searching for a way to be connected."

Amr Khaled, an Egyptian televangelist and one of the most influential Muslim voices, also worried about Muslim youth. He called on the United States to launch a "Project for Love" and invest US$10 billion (Dh36.7bn) over five years on education, poverty and health in the Muslim world. "America is fighting already wars against terror and injustice, why not a third?" Mr Khaled said. "Millions of Muslim youth will stretch out their hands to you."

At a Sunday morning panel, the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, urged Barack Obama to engage smartly. "Yes, President Obama, engage with hope, but you must engage the aspirations of the whole people," he said, pointing the inclusion of leaders, non-governmental organisations, intellectuals, Islamists and secularists. "Because if you miss some of them, you will have a continuation of this problem."

@Email:dlepeska@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Mahmoud Habboush and Bradley Hope, and Agence France-Presse