WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration sidestepped a congressional deadline Wednesday and an opportunity to unilaterally ratchet up economic pressure on Iran by punishing foreign firms that do business there.
Top officials instead pointed to success in persuading friendly countries and financial institutions to cut ties with the Islamic republic on their own.
The White House hopes that tough commitment to financial pressure will persuade Israel to back away from the possibility of launching a military strike on Iran, an approach the U.S. believes is shortsighted. President Barack Obama will make that case directly to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday when the two leaders meet at the White House.
The decision also reflects concerns over what effect those actions would have on the fragile world economy.
Some in Washington expected Obama to strengthen his position ahead of the high-stakes meeting by announcing fresh economic penalties that went into effect Wednesday. The penalties were included in a law Obama signed on Dec. 31.
But the administration chose not to immediately take action available to it to go after foreign firms.