Clinton set to depart for Gulf ahead of Iran talks

US looking at ways to help Gulf countries strengthen the sanction regime against Teheran and cut down on smuggling.

311_ Hillary Clinton hand gesture (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_ Hillary Clinton hand gesture
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to the Gulf Saturday with discussions about Iran sanctions high on the agenda ahead of an anticipated meeting of world powers with Iran in Turkey later this month.
The US is looking at ways to help Gulf countries strengthen the sanction regime against Iran and cut down on smuggling and other methods employed by Iran to evade sanctions.
RELATED:Iran claims to have increased stock of enriched uraniumGulf States discuss Iran following WikiLeaks revelations
“We are willing to put pretty much anything on the table in terms of helping these countries meet their UN obligations to enforce sanctions against Iran,” said a senior State Department official previewing Clinton’s trip. “We appreciate the opportunity to talk frankly about what is working, what is not working, how we can help them better adhere to the UN sanctions.”
She pointed to possible American technical assistance, training and other means the US could provide to help the Gulf states enforce the sanctions regime.
The Gulf states, as shown in the WikiLeaks cables, fear a nuclear Iran and are hoping the US takes action to stop it. At the same time, however, the region is a major trading point for its Iranian neighbors as well as the site of much of the illicit smuggling and other black market enterprises Iran uses to try to circumvent the sanctions.
The senior official acknowledged that the Gulf countries’ proximity to Iran means they will pay a financial price under the sanctions regime.
“Sanctions, frankly speaking, we understand do hit hard countries that have had economic and commercial relations with the country being sanctioned,” she said. “So undoubtedly this regime is going to have an impact on these countries.”
Clinton’s six-day trip will hit the UAE, Oman and Qatar, where she will seek to bolster civil society as part of the Forum for the Future regional conference promoting economic opportunity and good governance. In each country she will also meet with the countries’ leaders to address Lebanon, Iraq and the peace process as well as Iran.
“She’ll want to talk a bit about where the Arab Peace Initiative is certainly, and she’ll want to perhaps get a better sense of how the region sees the situation on the ground, both in terms of the Palestinian Authority but also in terms of the talks,” said the senior official on Clinton’s agenda concerning the peace process.
Another pressing issue concerns the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the anti-Syrian Lebanese leader, which is expected to issue indictments against members of Hizbullah in the near future.
The US has been trying to support the tribunal’s work as Syria and Saudi Arabia have discussed possible deals with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that could help keep the peace between different Lebanese factions but might undercut the tribunal’s work.
Clinton met with both Saudi King Abdullah and Hariri in New York Friday night. State Department spokesman P.J.
Crowley, speaking ahead of her trip, said Clinton’s primary purpose in visiting Abdullah, who is recovering from surgery, was “a social one.” But he also noted that “she will emphasize to the king as well as to the prime minister our support of the democratic government in Lebanon as well as our ongoing support for the special tribunal.”
The message was reiterated in the meeting with Hariri, according to a source present at the half-hour visit quoted by Reuters.
“Secretary Clinton very clearly expressed her support for the Hariri tribunal,” Reuters reported that the source said. Asked if the Lebanese premier also supported it, the source replied, “That goes without saying.”