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Concerned that the international community is "losing momentum" in its bid to use sanctions to deter Iran's nuclear drive, Israel is now energetically lobbying for the imposition of a new batch of stiffer sanctions that would cause "real damage" to the regime.
Israel is anxious that the international community has "taken its eye off the ball" in the effort to ratchet up economic and diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic, while the nuclear program speeds relentlessly ahead, The Jerusalem Post has been told.
"There is an understanding that the game to get Iran to stop its development is a boxing match," one diplomatic official said Thursday. "Iran has not done badly; you don't see the laceration above the eye, or the bruised ribs, or the broken thumb. But [Iran would be dealt a knockout] if the international community would give them a strong blow to the head and the ribs."
The official said that the UN, which is expected to take up the idea of a third round of sanctions against Iran in September, needs to approve "strategic sanctions that would cause real damage."
The first round of sanctions was imposed on July 31 last year.
Among the steps that fall in the "strategic sanctions" category, the official said, were adding an additional Iranian bank to the financial institutions being blacklisted; imposing sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, including freezing its considerable assets abroad; and ensuring that previous sanctions - including a prohibition against dual-use material being shipped to Iran - are being upheld around the world.
The official said that over the last year of sanctions, Iran's weak spots have been identified, and that one of them is the Iranian banks.
"The inclusion of Bank Sepah in the last round of sanctions (in December 2006), and the subsequent ramifications, has demonstrated that the inclusion of leading banks in the system can have an impact on the Iranian financial sector."
Stuart Levy, the US Treasury official spearheading efforts to hit Iran economically, was in Europe last week trying to convince additional European Banks to close their ties with Iran.
According to the official, up until a couple of months ago the "international community had gained the upper hand on Iran. But now, because of tactical mistakes, the momentum is being lost."
One of the tactical mistakes, the official said, was "taking the eye off the ball." The "ball," he said, was clearly getting Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated that his country would not give in to demands to stop its nuclear development. "The acceptance of the rights of the Iranian nation, by the West, is the only solution for the nuclear issue," he said in a television interview on Wednesday.
According to the senior Israeli official, rather than focusing on getting Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment, other topics have come up during various talks between Iran and the EU, the G-8, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In order to divert attention, the official said, the Iranians create new problems, and then adeptly offer to solve those problems - thereby diverting attention from the main issue at hand.
The official pointed to the Iranian decision on Tuesday to agree to letting inspectors from the IAEA visit Iran's heavy-water reactor site in Arak as an example. Just four months ago, to protest a second round of UN sanctions, Iran banned these visits.
The Iranians have also had a degree of success in linking its cooperation with the IAEA to the process taking place at the Security Council. The official said that Russia and China have indicated that they are opposed to additional UN sanctions until all attempts to renew contacts with the IAEA have been exhausted.
According to the official, Israel's current role in the diplomatic process is to "badger as usual, and not let the process go into hibernation."
The official said that Israel was pleased with the tough stand on the issue that both new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have taken on this matter.
Brown, at his first Downing Street press conference this week, said that tougher sanctions were likely against Iran, and he did not rule out military action.
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