Clinton Announces “Tough” Iran Sanctions

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday about the new START treaty signed with Russia last April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a draft resolution for sanctions against Iran has been agreed upon by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

According to Clinton, Britain, France and the United States “have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China.” She described the news “as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” referring to the nuclear fuel exchange deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil over the weekend.

With Turkey and Brazil, Iran has agreed to deposit 1,200 kilograms of low enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium to be provided by France, Russia and the United States.

The Western powers responded with skepticism to that accord on Monday. Both Britain and the United States expressed concern about Tehran supposedly trying to delay negotiations and split the Security Council. The French added that it “would do nothing to settle the problem posed by the Iranian nuclear program.”

Although the Chinese welcomed the nuclear fuel swap as proposed by Turkey and Brazil, Beijing last month expressly instructed its diplomats in New York to work with the Americans on drafting a resolution for tougher sanctions. Nonetheless, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated on Tuesday that, “China has always believed that dialogue and negotiations are the best channel for resolving the Iran nuclear issue.” It seems likely that China and Russia will insist that some of the tougher language be scrapped from the resolution eventually.

European and American officials have indicated that the new resolution might be just the weakest of three steps aimed at “crippling” the Iranian regime — which Clinton described as moving toward one of military dictatorship in February — and possibly isolating the country. The Europeans would follow with unified as well as unilateral sanctions, backed by the legitimizing force of UN action.

Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey, which all hold rotating seats on the Security Council at present, have expressed opposition to the new resolution.