WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration is preparing a broad new effort to weaken Iran by persuading reluctant allies to cut off loans, investments and arms sales to what American officials regard as a permanently hostile government.
The plan, drafted as part of an intensive policy review, reflects a conclusion that Iran must be isolated if it is to be prevented from emerging as a substantial threat to Western interests. Thus, the plan rejects Reagan and Bush administration policies that offered to reward Tehran for good behavior.
Administration officials said the new approach aimed at denying Iran access to the money and weapons needed to complete a military resurgence. They said it was based on a decision that the United States and its allies should now treat Iran as harshly as it treats Iraq.
For much of the 1980s, the United States sought to play Iran and Iraq against one another. But with U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq since the end of the Persian Gulf War, the administration has concluded that the wiser policy is "dual containment."
Secretary of State Warren Christopher hinted at the emerging shift earlier this year by denouncing Iran as an "international outlaw" and a "dangerous country" for its support of terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. But the new policy is far more sweeping than Mr. Christopher indicated when he said the United States would seek to block loans to Iran by international organizations.
Administration officials say the isolation of Iran should end only if Tehran halts its support for terrorism, curtails its military buildup, stops its subversion of other governments and ends its quest for nuclear weapons.
Among the antagonistic activities that U.S. officials attribute to Iran is active support for efforts by the Hamas and Party of God organizations to use violence to disrupt the Mideast peace talks.
The United States already subjects Iran to stiff sanctions that prohibit military and most commercial ties. Administration officials said their new policy could succeed only if other countries could be persuaded to change course.
Among the top priorities, administration officials said, are efforts to convince Russia and China to cancel deals to provide Iran with weapons and nuclear reactors, and to persuade Japan, Germany and Britain to cut off loans.