Broad international sanctions aimed at thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions could be a step closer, thanks to a U.S.-brokered deal that includes Russia and China, countries that have balked at tough economic penalties.
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire [UN] Security Council today.”
Clinton called the agreement “as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”
Those efforts include Monday's agreement to ship some Iranian nuclear fuel to Turkey – a deal Jess Hordes, Washington director for the Anti-Defamation League, said “threatened to undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts” on Iran.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project – an organization that has pressed hard for tough international sanctions – lauded the tentative agreement between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
“It's a really significant step forward,” she said. “Russia and China have, over a period of time, dramatically resisted sanctions; now they've said 'enough,' and that's fabulous.”
The draft resolution has not been released; Laszlo Mizrahi said “We assume these are not the really biting sanctions we would have liked. But that may not be relevant; the point is, you now have international consensus among the major Security Council members to move forward on sanctions. Now you can layer on top of that.”
She said the agreement reached this week will be strengthened by additional U.S. sanctions and by additional European Union measures that may follow the diplomatic breakthrough.
“This was not an easy diplomatic feat for the administration to accomplish,” she said. “To their credit, they worked very hard; a lot of people thought this wouldn't happen.”
In a statement, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, called Clinton's announcement “very encouraging...we hope the UN Security Council will accelerate its deliberations and adopt a new resolution to significantly tighten the sanctions regime to thwart Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons capability.”
Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), wasn't as impressed.
"Any set of sanctions that will get the agreement of Russia and China is probably too weak to make any difference to Iran," Bryen said. "I continue to argue that sanctions are irrelevant to the reduction of the threat posed by Iranian nuclear weapons."
But she said the U.S. diplomatic effort was not a wasted exercise.
"Is it worthwhile in diplomacy to get disparate countries to agree to something? Yes, probably. So this agreement is not without merit, but it is probably without practical effect."
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, called today's announcement "welcome news that will send an unmistakable message: the international community will not sit idly by in the face of Iran’s threat to global security."
In a statement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the lobby group that has made Iran sanctions a top priority, said it "commend[s] the Obama Administration's leadership effort to secure agreement on this measure, a 5th Security Council resolution demanding Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. However, America's effort can only succeed if followed by tough national and multilateral sanctions. In this context, Congress must complete its work on sanctions legislation at an early date and bodies like the European Union need to dramatically step up penalties on Iran."
The draft agreement must still be approved by the Security Council
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