Iran Day at the UN

Lots of goings on around the UN and Iran.  As it happened, I attended a small press briefing with Ban Ki Moon at UN headquarters yesterday. He described the recent Brazil/Turkey fuel exchange deal as a potentially “positive step in building confidence if followed by broader engagement with the IAEA and international community.”  Meanwhile, moments before the conference began, Secretary Clinton declared to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that all five members of the Security Council have agreed on a draft sanctions resolution on Iran.

Ban, predictably, could not comment on that. But at a press stakeout, Susan Rice had much to say:

Ambassador Rice: Good evening everybody. The United States has just tabled, in consultations, a draft resolution that would impose strong and broad-based sanctions on Iran. It is a text that reflects the discussion and agreement among the P5+1, and we just had a useful meeting interrupted by some technological gliches, in which every member of the Council had the opportunity to speak. The goal of this resolution is twofold: first to increase the cost to Iran’s leadership for their continued defiance of the international community, and second to persuade Iran that it is in its interest to peacefully resolve concerns about its nuclear program. This draft seeks to support, and not replace, our efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. We have said throughout this process that the door remains open to Iran to live up to its obligations and achieve a better relationship with the international community.

The draft resolution would both build on existing UN sanctions on Iran, and give them additional teeth, while expanding the breadth and reach of UN sanctions on Iran by creating new categories of sanctions. If I might briefly share with you the key elements of the draft. The draft resolution restates the Council’s demand that Iran suspend its enrichment activities and other proliferation sensitive nuclear activities. It then would impose broad-based sanctions, targeting a wide range of pressure points associated with Iran’s nuclear and proliferation activities. It would create new expectations on Iran to comply with its IAEA obligations. It would ban Iran’s investment in sensitive nuclear activities abroad. It would impose new binding restrictions on Iran’s import of conventional arms. It would ban all activities related to Iran’s ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. It would impose a comprehensive cargo inspections framework to deter or detect and stop Iran’s smuggling and acquisition of illicit materials or sensitive nuclear items. It has provisions to help block Iran’s use of the international financial system—particularly its banks—when they may be use to fund proliferation and nuclear activities. In preambular language, it alerts states to the potential link between Iran’s energy sector revenues and energy-related technologies and proliferation. It addresses the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, elements of which have been involved in proliferation. It establishes a UN Panel of Experts to help monitor and enforce sanctions implementation. And it will include an Annex of specific individuals and entities who will be subject to targeted sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans. This annex remains a work in progress. We are confident that the P5+1 agreed draft resolution, when it’s adopted, substantially strengthens the current Iran sanctions regime, and we’re looking very much forward to continued discussions and consultations among Security Council members to achieve agreement on this draft.

Reporter: How can you say that the draft is a draft while the annex itself with the individuals and entities is non-existent. Why do you insist on presenting it now while it is not complete?

Ambassador Rice: That is the way it is has been done in the past, this is not a new method. We will work these drafts in parallel along with the annexes, and all members of the council will have the opportunity to work on both as they converge in a final package.

Reporter: Ambassador, in October the P5+1 asked Iran to ship all its enriched uranium outside the country in one shipment and wait for the 12 month period to get fuel back. Why can’t the United States say yes for an answer since Iran agreed to all three yesterday?

Ambassador Rice: First of all we need to be clear that the Tehran Research Reactor proposal as tabled in October had nothing to do with Iran’s sanctioned activities to date and its international nuclear obligations. Iran has remained in violation of previous Security Council resolutions, it is in violation of its IAEA obligations, and that is why we are here today, making manifest and real the dual track approach that we have pursued. We continue to believe that this ought to be resolved through negotiation and dialogue, engagement remains on the table, but the dual track to be viable has to have a pressure component as well. And since October 1 where Iran not only agreed to the Teheran deal, only to subsequently back off that agreement, it also agreed that it would sit down with the P5+1 and meet to discuss its nuclear program. That has not happened. It also agreed to provide full and complete access to the Qom facility and the scientists and experts working in it. That has not happened. In the meantime Iran has continued to enrich uranium in violation of Security Council Resolutions, in violation of its international obligations.

It has now enriched to 20 percent, and has said that it will continue to enrich at 20 percent, even in the context of the Teheran Research Reactor deal. That is completely disconcerting because of course the only purpose—the alleged purpose that they provided for enriching to 20 percent was to provide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Enriching to 20 percent, as you know, substantially increases the speed with which Iran can produce highly enriched uranium. So any confidence building value of the Tehran Research Reactor deal is diminished not only by the time that has elapsed, but substantially by Iran’s insistence that it will continue to enrich at 20 percent with or without a Tehran Research Reactor deal.

Reporter: In terms of timing would you say that the deal that was struck by Brazil and Turkey was a further incentive to table that resolution today specifically?

Ambassador Rice: No, we tabled this resolution once we had agreement among the P5+1. We have been working hard, as you know, among this group, on a draft resolution. That agreement has been arrived at and we have swiftly tabled the resolution. We will continue to work with the sense of urgency in the Security Council, with the entire Council, to move forward toward agreement on this draft resolution.

 Here’s a pretty good video summary of the happenings at the UN yesterday: