US President Barack Obama signed an order giving the Treasury Department more power to go after individuals and groups who try to evade America’s sanctions against Iran and Syria.

The Treasury said on Tuesday that the order gave it “a new authority to tighten further the US sanctions on Iran and Syria.”

“The Treasury now has the capability to publicly identify foreign individuals and entities that have engaged in these evasive and deceptive activities, and generally bar access to the US financial and commercial systems,” the department stated.

On Monday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert told CNN that he believed it was still possible to use sanctions to avert a nuclear Iran. He made the same statements on Sunday at The Jerusalem Post Conference.

When CNN asked if he trusted Israeli leaders to make the right decision with regard to Iran, Olmert said, “You could understand from what I said that maybe something in my trust is lacking.”

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the former prime minister’s words “irresponsible” and “embarrassing.”

He said Olmert was harming Israeli interests by attacking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government’s policy on Iran after it had done so much to alert the international community to Tehran’s nuclear threat.

National Security Adviser Ya’acov Amidror was in Brussels on Tuesday holding talks with European Union officials on Iran in advance of a May 23 meeting that six powers – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – will hold in Baghdad on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Israel has said that the delay between the first and second round of talks granted Iran a further five weeks to pursue its nuclear program.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak cast doubt on the effectiveness of such talks.

Speaking to journalists in Jerusalem on Monday night, the defense minister acknowledged that current sanctions on Iran were “stronger than ever” and had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, he said, the recent round of negotiations in Turkey did not fill him with confidence.

“Maybe I sound pessimistic, but the State of Israel cannot allow itself to be cheated,” he said.

The defense minister argued that while an attack on Iran would be complex and dangerous, the dangers a radical Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons would pose to the region and to world security would be greater.

He also launched a veiled attack on former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin, who recently criticized him as being “messianic” and untrustworthy to handle the Iran issue.

Referring vaguely to “some people in the world” who have political motives, Barak said certain individuals preferred to bury their heads in their sand.

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