This is worth a read.
Remarks at Foreign Press Association in London
R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
February 11, 2008
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much. The question was about Iran. Let me just say, first of all, I agree with everything that Secretary Rice said here in London last week. I know you’re surprised to hear me say that. (Laughter) She’s my boss, so I agree with her.
Secondly, I thought there were two developments last week in Iran that were particularly interesting, noteworthy and troubling. The first was the attempt to launch a rocket . You all saw the photographs of President Ahmedinejad with his 3-D glasses. The FT had a cover-story on that. The second were the very interesting — and I would say troubling — press reports that appeared in the U.S. press on Friday – there was a New York Times story, I believe, there was an AP story – about a new centrifuge device, centrifuge mechanism that the Iranian government may or may not be employing at their plant in Natanz. Now, on the second story, we – the U.S. Government – have not corroborated that. These are press stories. But I think that both are troubling because the international community has sent a rather clear message to the Iranians
over the last three years.
The IAEA Board of Governors has twice passed resolutions calling on Iran to suspend all of its enrichment and reprocessing activities at Natanz. The Security Council has passed one resolution, in July of 2006, and since then two sanctions resolutions, Chapter 7, asking Iran to suspend its nuclear efforts at Natanz.
Iran seems to be willfully disregarding the Security Council, as well as the IAEA. It is now moving ahead, by its own admission, in broad daylight, to expand the number of centrifuges under operation at Natanz, and is not suspending in any way, shape or form. This tells us that a third sanctions resolution must now be passed by the Security Council. That resolution, presented by the European Union countries, is being debated in New York. I suspect we’ll have to debate it for a little bit of time in New York, but it is now imperative that it be passed, because Iran is so willfully out of compliance, and these are troubling developments.
I would then think that there would be a process, after the Security Council votes the sanctions resolution, of other countries stepping forward to sanction as well. We hope very much that the European Union, following the passage of a third sanctions resolution in New York, would adopt its own sanctions resolution, which would be obviously much tougher than what the Security Council will do. And we hope that other major trading partners of Iran, in Asia as well as the Middle East, will think about what they can do to contribute to this international sanctions effort. There has to be an international response to what the Iranian government is doing.
So, on the nuclear issue, I believe that that’s where the focus of the diplomacy is going to be – to strengthen the sanctions effort, both the overt sanctions, but also some of the efforts made through private financial institutions to dry up lending and investment activities in Iran. We’ve seen quite a bit of that over the last year.
There’s another issue concerning Iran. That is its outright support in arming and funding most of the Middle East terrorist groups, from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, to the aleban in Afghanistan, to the Shia militant groups in Iraq. And there, think, there’s been universal, international condemnation of this Iranian policy to support the violent groups in the Middle East, in a region that clearly needs greater stability and greater peace.
I was interested to read The Economist, I’m a great admirer of The Economist, I think it’s one of the most intelligent news magazines, if not the most important news magazine in the world. But I disagreed with its cover story last week, when it essentially said that Iran has gotten the better of the international community diplomatically. I think that’s the conventional wisdom. That’s certainly the conventional wisdom in the press. But it’s hard to find a country in the world that’s more isolated than Iran right now. The only countries that are really sticking up for Iran: I think Syria does, I know that Cuba does, I know that Chavez and Venezuela does. But when you have an international reaction on the nuclear issue where China and Russia are the lead countries sanctioning Iran, with Britain, France, Germany, the United States; where all of the non-aligned partners of Iran are now sanctioning it: India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia, Egypt, just to name a few countries, are all, of course, fulfilling the UN sanctions regime, due to resolution 1737 and 47. So I think Iran is a country that is perilously in isolation from the rest of the world.
And these revelations last week – the rocket launch and the stories about the centrifuge — mean that the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to conduct a very vigorous and comprehensive review of what the Iranians have been up to. I know Doctor El-Baredei’s going to present a Report at some point in the month of February, and we’re looking forward To that report, we have great respect for him. But it really is ncumbent upon the IAEA to leave no stone unturned and to look at all These allegations and to make sure there’s a bright spotlight being shone upon the Iranian government.
AMBASSADOR BURNS: I would just say in response to your question that I don’t think anyone is gleeful about the IAEA reports. I don’t think anybody inside the IAEA is. The fact is that the IAEA is looking into some very serious questions. What is the extent of Iran’s past research and development into nuclear technology, into enrichment, P1, P2? What is the status of the Arak heavy water reactor? If you go Google the IAEA reports when you return to your office, and you read them, what really is striking about them is the number of times in the past reports that the IAEA has to say ‘Iran didn’t answer that question; Iran didn’t provide any information on that question’. So this is not just an American concern that Iran is not being straightforward. Physicists will tell you, and some leading European politicians will say, ‘Isn’t it curious that — in a country that has exactly one nearly functioning nuclear reactor, and that’s Bushehr, where Russia will ship in the fuel and take out the spent fuel — isn’t it curious that they should spend all this time and effort and flagrantly violate the UN resolutions to learn how to enrich and reprocess uranium?” One of the largest oil and gas producers in the world, not a single functioning indigenous nuclear reactor and they’re spending all this time and money and suffering these international sanctions and isolation to enrich and reprocess uranium. Doesn’t that lead you to believe that there’s something else happening here? That Iran is not actually telling the truth about its nuclear research? So that’s how I’d answer your very good question.
And the second way I’d answer your question would be to say — because you asked the question, it deserves a good answer and a full answer — is that the UN Security Council resolutions and the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions were not focused on the issue of weapons. Go back and look at them. They’re all focused on the issue of what Iran is doing in broad daylight — enrichment and reprocessing. IAEA and Security Council. What I’ve found as the American negotiator is that within two days of publication of the unclassified National Intelligence Estimate – the unclassified document that we released – within two days, all the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council had reconfirmed their interest in sanctions and a third sanctions resolution. And now you have Russia and China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States, all saying we need to sanction Iran because it’s wilfully ignoring what the Security Council has been saying. I think that’s a powerful argument.
Released on February 11, 2008