Nicholas Burns Discusses U.S. Strategy Toward Iran


Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns

Excerpts from Address Regarding Iran

June 4, 2007

Unlike some countries that hope Iran will not become a nuclear weapons power, our policy is that Iran shall not become a nuclear weapons power.

And so that means that we have to marshal a wide array of options to prevent that from happening.  We've tried to provide for multiple points of pressure against the Iranians to drive up the cost to them of their nuclear ambitions and to force them to the negotiating table.

First and foremost, we have passed two Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran.

Secondly, we've tried to make those sanctions as strong as they can be. I think we're heading toward a third Security Council resolution at the end of this month or early in July, because I don't think that Iran is going to agree to suspend its enrichment program, which is what we've demanded that Iran do.  And if Iran cannot make that commitment in the next couple of weeks, we will sponsor a third Security Council resolution.

The International Community Has Sanctioned Iran

What we've tried to do in these resolutions is to say that those people that work in Iran's nuclear industry should not study in our universities, and they should not be free to travel anywhere in the world.  That's a voluntary ban right now on travel; we want to make it mandatory. 

There is a ban in the last Security Council resolution on Iran's ability to export arms-to anyone.  We think they're violating that, because they've been exporting arms, unfortunately, to the Taliban in Afghanistan as they export arms to Hizballah and to Shia militant groups operating inside Iraq.  

We've gone after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  This is the body, the organ of the Iranian state that is responsible for not just most of the nuclear weapons apparatus and the ballistic missile programs, but also the support to terrorist groups.  And we've now made them an object of international sanctions, and we'd like to expand that in the next Security Council resolution.

The United States is Working Inside and Outside the U.N. to Contain Iran

So doing as much as we can through the Security Council is going to be important.  But frankly, I think we've got to do more than that.  I think we have to go outside the Security Council as well.  Whatever we choose to do in the Security Council will be important, but if we can ask Europe and Japan and South Korea and the Gulf states to take even stronger measures on their own, that might be truly effective in signaling to the Iranians it's not business as usual. 

The Europeans had $22 billion in export credits made available to their own companies last year and the year before to stimulate trade with Iran.  And we've said to the Europeans, isn't this a little bit contradictory?  We don't support what the Iranians are doing on the nuclear side or the terrorism front, so there shouldn't be a business-as-usual, commercial attitude on the part of Europeans and the European Union with Iran.  We'd like to see those export credits not just reduced, but completely eliminated. 

Now in addition to those formal, state-to-state sanctions, Secretary [of the Treasury Henry] Paulson and we have been working to try to convince European and Asian financial institutions that they ought to restrict lines of credit and lending with the Iranian government.  We've had some success.  I don't want to exaggerate this-there's still too much money going into Iran.  But we've seen now investment channels begin to be constricted. 

And we've pointed out to some of the European banking institutions, in particular, what they might not have known, and that is that the Iranians tend to use legitimate financial institutions to launder their money to terrorist groups.  And we know that they've been doing that with Hamas and Hizballah.  And so you've begun to see some European banks shut down those opportunities. 

America Is Committed to Preserving Peace in the Persian Gulf

We've also decided that in the [Persian] Gulf itself, we wanted to demonstrate to the Iranians that that's not an Iranian lake.  And so you've seen us for the first time since the first Gulf War in 1991 deploy two carrier battle groups to the Gulf over the last month or so.  And that American naval presence, we say, is not new, and it's certainly not meant to be provocative.  We are the principal guarantor of security and peace and stability in that part of the world, and we intend to exercise it. 

We believe in encompassing 360 degrees in points of pressure on the Iranians to let them know there's a price for their behavior. 

The object of this is not just to be punitive, just for the sake of being punitive.  It's to say to the Iranians, you may think that you're doing what is in your interest, but there's going to be an increasingly high price to you for these actions.

Source: AIPAC

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