Remarks on U.N. Sanctions on Iran
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: This was a very important decision by the international community to demonstrate resolve and unity in the face of Iran’s continuing defiance of the rules and norms of the IAEA and the expectations of the Security Council. This set of sanctions, the first agreed to under the Obama Administration, adds to and strengthens the sanction regime. We are gratified by the positive response that our year of engagement has produced.
When we started this effort, there was no appetite in the international community for further pressure in the form of sanctions on Iran. The challenge that President Obama faced in trying to reach out and engage Iran was politically difficult, but it served a very important purpose: to demonstrate clearly that the United States was willing to pursue diplomatic engagement and therefore our efforts were always on a dual-track approach.
And starting in September and October of last fall, we began to see greater awareness on the part of our P-5+1 partners, particularly China and Russia, about the continuing recalcitrance and refusal by the Iranians to abide by existing obligations or fully engage diplomatically as we had offered. As you remember, we disclosed the secret facility at Qom during the United Nations General Assembly and the G-20 meeting last September. And we held our first P-5+1 meeting in October in Geneva and there was unanimity among the P-5+1 about the way forward. If Iran would meet and engage on their nuclear program, there was receptivity.
Well, we know that Iran did not and would not. It refused to engage on the nuclear program, to hold another meeting with the P-5+1, denied the significance of the Qom facility of their reaction, which was very unsatisfactory, as to why they would need a secret, undisclosed facility if their program was committed to peaceful purposes. And then the Tehran research reactor proposal, which was meant as a confidence-building measure, initially seemed to draw Iranian receptivity, and then that was not realized.
So every step along the way, we have demonstrated that our goal is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is only and can only be considered for peaceful purposes. And we set that goal and we said we would pursue it in various venues. But at the end of the day, it became clear that Iran was not willing to abide by the expectations of the international community.
Its announcement that it was going to move toward 20 percent enrichment was another wake-up call for a lot of countries that were undecided about how to proceed. So during the past months, in an intense diplomatic effort, we made a case along with others that we needed to take Iran back to the Security Council.
Simultaneously, Brazil and Turkey were pursuing an additional diplomatic effort and we appreciate their willingness to work very hard to get to some satisfactory outcome. At the end of the day, they were not successful, but we do recognize and acknowledge their good faith in pursuing their course.
So the sanctions have now been passed by an overwhelming vote, and we will move to implement them. I am appointing Bob Einhorn, our special advisor for nonproliferation, to head up our government-wide team to oversee the implementation of these sanctions. We want to be sure that we don’t just pass the sanctions and then leave it to chance as to whether or not they are being implemented.
We continue, as the President just said in his remarks from the White House, to hold open the possibility of engagement to Iran. Our goal is not to punish Iran. Our goal is not to sanction Iran. Our goal is to end any doubts and questions about the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program and to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And that is a goal that is widely embraced in the international community.
QUESTION: Can we ask you a bit more about the way forward? Obviously, you just said the President left the door open to diplomacy. On the other hand, you’ve got two important countries who voted no today. Are you concerned that as you try to strike this balance between pressure and diplomacy that that is a solidarity that could be attacked from one side or another or could be somewhat weakened over time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, we understand the reaction by the Brazilians and the Turks that their intense efforts were not able to be realized with some definitive action that was acceptable to the international community, undertaken by Iran prior to this vote. They’re members of the Security Council and we expect them to abide by the resolution, as all other member states of the UN will be expected to do so, and we have every reason to believe they will.
But in the ongoing diplomatic outreach to Iran, I think that Turkey and Brazil will continue to play an important role. They chose for whatever reason, which perhaps they will explain later, to vote no, in part, I am sure, in their minds, to keep the door open between themselves and Iran. That’s a legitimate assessment. We disagreed with their vote, but I can understand from a diplomatic perspective why they might be able to make a convincing case for how they voted today.
But we now are able to expand the pressure through these sanctions that we can put on Iran’s nuclear program, now their conventional program, the Revolutionary Guard. We have additional inspection authorities. So we have tools now that are sanctioned by the international community that we will be using, but at the same time, continuing to tell the Iranians, directly and through others, that we’re willing to engage on their nuclear program. And the sanction resolution itself holds open the door for doing so.
QUESTION: You made the point --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the sanctions resolution (inaudible) come back to the bargaining table? Isn’t that what your ultimate goal is?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our ultimate goal is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. That is our ultimate goal. And we think these sanctions give us additional tools in our arsenal to be able to achieve that. Now, we can, we believe, slow down and certainly interfere with and make much more difficult their continuing nuclear program through these sanctions. So that, in and of itself, is an important accomplishment.
At the same time, we do want them back at the negotiating table. And whether they come back with the P-5+1 or they come back in some other configuration as yet to be determined – they say now they won’t come back. But we think that the sanctions send a kind of message to the entire Iranian leadership, which is quite diverse in their assessments and reactions, that there is still an opportunity for you to participate and to work with us in the framework of being able to have a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but to give up, as Brazil did, as others have, the potential of seeking nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: And just – I’m sorry, just to clarify, you said P-5+1 or some other configuration. Are you open to adding the Brazilians and the Turks as part of some sort of --
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re open to effective diplomacy. We’re open to achieving our ultimate goal. And I think that’s what everybody is. I mean, people may have come at this from different perspectives, and it was extremely difficult to make the case for a lot of members of the Security Council over the last months. But at the end of the day, there was a supermajority who believed that this was a necessary step to take on its own. But it was also a significant and important step to take to try to get back to diplomatic engagement and, hopefully, negotiations.
QUESTION: You mentioned that the leadership is diverse. Do you anticipate some squabbling over the result that just happened in New York? What other events might you anticipate in Iran because of the --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Lachlan, I can’t predict. But I do know from reports coming from a number of other countries that have had firsthand negotiations over the nuclear program with the Iranians that there is a diversity of opinion within the leadership, not over their right to enrich to use for peaceful nuclear purposes – that is absolutely agreed to by everyone in the leadership – but whether or not there should be a move toward a breakout capacity or toward weapons. There is a lot of debate within the leadership.
QUESTION: Are you trying to make that (inaudible) Lebanese?
QUESTION: She got (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You were on the phone with the president.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I was. I was this morning. And a lot of people have been calling him. I think I probably made the last call.
QUESTION: “Oh, no, not again.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s right.
QUESTION: “Leave me alone.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, I made two points. I mean, first, that this is not only about Iran. This is about the international order, the role that the Security Council plays in enforcing the rules that govern relations between and among nations, that one of the founders of the UN was a Lebanese diplomat and that Lebanon, as much or more than any country, knows how important it is to have some kind of internationally agreed-upon norms. And it would be a vote for that, at the very least.
And then secondly, with respect to Iran, there was a vocal minority within the Arab world that was siding with Iran, but a very concerned majority that was not. And that was a responsibility that Lebanon essentially carried as the Arab member of the Security Council right now.
STAFF: All right, you guys.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.