President Obama this afternoon heralded the sanctions against Iran passed “overwhelmingly” – but not unanimously — by the United Nations Security Council. Calling them “the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government” the president said they send “an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.”
These are the fourth sanctions against Iran passed since 2006. The move will ban Iranian investments in certain nuclear activities abroad, such as uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities; prohibit sales of heavy weapons such as tanks and combat aircraft to Iran; and create a new framework for cargo inspection of vessels suspected of carrying prohibited items. The sanctions also freeze the assets of 15 companies related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), 40 Iranian companies, and Javad Rahiqi, head of the Ifshan Nuclear Technology Center.
Standing alone in the Diplomatic Room, the president today said “this day was not inevitable. We made clear from the beginning of my administration that the United States was prepared to pursue diplomatic solutions to address the concerns over Iranian nuclear programs.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the Iranian Student News Agency saying: "This resolution is not worth a penny for Iran and I sent a message to each one of them (UN Security Council members) that your resolution is like a used handkerchief which should go into a garbage can.”
The president argued that he started his term by offering to engage with Iran “on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect” and made efforts with the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.
But Iran made that impossible, the president said. “The Iranian government has failed to live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he argued. “It has violated its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has ignored U.N. Security Council resolutions. And while Iran’s leaders hide behind outlandish rhetoric, their actions have been deeply troubling.”
Those actions, he said included Iran concealing a nuclear enrichment facility in Qom “that raised serious questions about the nature of its program,” violating its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment, and refusing to comply fully with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Indeed, Iran is the only NPT signatory in the world — the only one — that cannot convince the IAEA that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes,” the president said. “Let me repeat: We recognize Iran’s rights. But with those rights come responsibilities. And time and again, the Iranian government has failed to meet those responsibilities.”
He added that the sanctions “do not close the door on diplomacy. Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path. “
Two countries on the UN Security Council – Turkey and Brazil – voted against the sanctions, and Lebanon did not vote. But all five permanent members of the Security Council – the US, UK, France, China, and Russia – voted for the sanctions, the latter two countries having been the most difficult to convince.
“These sanctions show the united view of the international community that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is in nobody’s interest, and that nations must be held accountable for challenging the global non-proliferation regime,” the president said, though the vote was not “united.”
As ABC News’ Kirit Radia reported yesterday,experts so far are cautious about the resolution’s ability to dramatically alter Iran’s calculus, given how Tehran has responded to sanctions in the past.
“At first blush the list looks modest,” said Jackie Shire, a nuclear expert at Institute for Science and International Security. “I would note that there’s only one individual added to the list of individuals under existing sanctions.”
Two Sundays ago, Gen. Colin Powell (ret.) told ABC News’ THIS WEEK that he didn’t think these sanctions would be effective.
“The Iranians have been around for thousands of years trading and selling and getting around various constraints and whatnot,” Powell said. “They're very clever. And they know what sanctions might be coming. And I'm sure that they have done their own planning and have their own counter-sanctions strategy. So I don't see that this causes sufficient pain that will cause them to say, ‘Gee, why didn't we realize we were so off on this and we're going to stop all of our nuclear program?’ The nuclear program is there. It's operating. And I don't think they're going to give it up easily.”
The president mentioned that Saturday will mark the one year anniversary of the Iranian elections that “captivated the attention of the world -– an event that should have been remembered for how the Iranian people participated with remarkable enthusiasm, but will instead be remembered for how the Iranian government brutally suppressed dissent and murdered the innocent, including a young woman left to die in the street.”
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller