RAWDAT KHURAYIM, Saudi Arabia — Iran is increasingly acquiring the attributes of a "military dictatorship," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted repeatedly Monday, pointing to how the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has grabbed ever-larger chunks of the country's economic, military and political life.
Clinton's statements, made first in Qatar, then to reporters traveling with her, and again after meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at his desert winter retreat here, were a calculated effort to stir the waters in the administration's stalled effort to win support for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
She appeared to be trying both to sound the alarm within Iran about the Guard's increased influence — perhaps hoping to drive a wedge between the Guard and the rest of the political elite — and to sow doubts about Iran in nations that are wary of additional sanctions, such as China and Brazil.
Iran insists that it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, but in recent months — as political turmoil in the Islamic republic has mounted — the leadership has shunned offers of engagement by the United States and refused to discuss its nuclear program with major powers.
U.S. officials have said they plan to target the sanctions on the Guard, which is heavily involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, because such tactics would damage the nation's power structure while in theory not affecting many ordinary Iranians. Clinton suggested that the sanctions being contemplated are also designed to thwart the growth of the Guard's role in Iran's internal political dynamics.
"That is how we see it," Clinton told students on the Doha, Qatar, campus of Carnegie Mellon University at a televised town-hall-style meeting. "We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship."
The Guard, which has been instrumental in the suppression of opposition protests, has received at least $6 billion worth of government contracts in two years, according to state-run media, but the total is probably much higher because many contracts are not disclosed. Working through its private-sector arm, the group operates Tehran's international airport, builds the nation's highways and constructs communications systems. It also manages Iran's weapons-manufacturing business, including its controversial missile program.
In a joint appearance with Clinton, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal seemed to express doubt about the usefulness of seeking more sanctions. "Sanctions are a long-term solution. But we see the issue in the shorter term because we are closer to the threat," he said, without identifying a preferred short-term resolution.