Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the United States feared Iran was drifting toward a military dictatorship, as she said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was seizing key positions in Irans political, military, and economic establishment. That is how we see it, Mrs. Clinton said on Monday to a televised town hall meeting of students at a university here in Doha. We see that the government in Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship. The United States, she said, was aiming a new set of tougher United Nations sanction squarely at the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls Irans nuclear program, though she reiterated that the United States had no plans to carry out a military strike against the Iranian government. Mrs. Clintons remarks about the role of the Revolutionary Guard Corps were remarkably blunt, given her audience here in Qatar, a Persian Gulf emirate that maintains close ties with Iran. She also made it clear that the United States would protect Gulf countries from Iranan aggression, echoing a reference she made last year to the United States erecting a so-called defense umbrella around the Persian Gulf. We will always defend ourselves and we will always defend our friends and allies and we will certainly defend the countries who are in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran, she said. We also are talking at length with a lot of our friends in the Gulf about what they need defensively in the event that Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions. Mrs. Clinton spoke before flying to Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. Her comments on Monday underscored the Obama administrations determination to single out the elite corps as a way to curb Irans nuclear program. Only last Wednesday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a commander and four companies linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, underscoring the Obama administrations determination to single out the elite corps as a way to curb Irans nuclear program. The Treasury said it froze the assets of four affiliates of a sprawling construction conglomerate owned by the Revolutionary Guards, as well as those of Gen. Rostam Qasemi, who oversees the companies, because they are accused of being involved in Irans effort to manufacture nuclear weapons. The designations, which come two and a half years after the United States first imposed sanctions on the corps, illustrate the scope and limitations of the presidents pressure campaign. The Obama administration is also working on a series of sanctions that would take aim at the Revolutionary Guards Corps, publicly singling out the organizations vast array of companies, banks and other entities in an effort to curb Tehrans nuclear ambitions. Senior White House officials described what they said would be a systematic effort to drive a wedge between the Iranian population and the Revolutionary Guards, which the West says is responsible for running Irans nuclear program and has a record of supporting militant Islamist organizations and cracking down on antigovernment protesters. In putting together a United Nations Security Council resolution that names specific companies and the wide web of assets owned by the Guards, which include even the Tehran airport, the administration is hoping to substantially increase pressure on the organization, which one senior administration official described as a new entitled class in Iran. We have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and re-enter as full members of the international community, President Obama said in a news conference on Tuesday. They have made their choice so far. The United States, Mr. Obama said, will be working on developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole. The goal would be to increase the cost for those who do business with Iran so much that they would cut off ties. Previous resolutions have designated a handful of senior figures in the Iranian nuclear program, including the man believed to run much of the military research program for the Revolutionary Guards. But the administrations latest push would name dozens, if not hundreds, of companies. She arrived in Qatar on Sunday to plead for patience, conceding that the Obama administration had not yet delivered on some of its signature foreign-policy goals. From the stalled Middle East peace process to the still-open prison at Guantnamo Bay, in Cuba, to the diplomatic deadlock with Iran over its nuclear program, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged a list of unfinished projects, which she said had sowed suspicion that the American commitment was insufficient or insincere. I understand why people might be impatient, Mrs. Clinton said in an address to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, a conference jointly sponsored by the Qatari government and the Brookings Institution. Building a stronger relationship cannot happen overnight or even in a year. But Mrs. Clinton threw some of the onus for improving the atmosphere back on the Arab nations, saying they needed to assume more responsibility for helping jump-start peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and for standing up against Irans nuclear ambitions. President Obamas vision was not one of a single country seeking to write a new chapter on its own, Mrs. Clinton said of the presidents speech last June at Cairo University. It was a call for all of us to take responsibility for retiring stereotypes and outdated views. Some of those stereotypes were plainly on view at this elite conference, an assembly of 300 Muslim and Western government officials, businesspeople, scholars and religious figures. When Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian social scientist and human rights advocate who was imprisoned from 2001 to 2003, rose to challenge Mrs. Clinton to take a tougher line with the Egyptian government over its repressive tactics, it bought a nervous chuckle from Qatars prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who was sharing the stage with the secretary. You know, I have enough problems with your government, the prime minister said to Mr. Ibrahim. He made a tongue-in-cheek show of disavowing Mr. Ibrahims comments, saying the Americans could handle the backlash from an unhappy Egypt, but not a little neighbor like Qatar. Smiling, Mrs. Clinton said, We will take responsibility. It was a lighthearted exchange in an otherwise solemn gathering that underscored how little has changed since Mr. Obama pledged to improve relations between the United States and the Muslim world. The Israelis and Palestinians have not moved toward talks, and after a year of overtures by Mr. Obama, Iran has not softened its position. Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama had made extraordinary efforts, even sending messages to the Iranian leadership an apparent confirmation of media reports last year that the president had written letters to Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to which he did not reply. While Mrs. Clinton did not make specific requests of Irans neighbors, she said they needed to take an active role in helping curb the Tehran government. Given that she was a guest in a neighboring country with close commercial ties to Iran, she used unusually blunt language about the Iranian nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful energy purposes. She referred to Irans pursuit of nuclear weapons without any caveats, and said, we welcome any meaningful engagement, but we dont want to be engaging while theyre building their bomb. Qatar is one of four Persian Gulf countries, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait, that have accepted missile-defense batteries, according to American military officials. The batteries are designed to shoot down short-range Iranian missiles. (NYT)