Hillary Clinton: Russia, China to back new Iran nuclear sanctions

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council favor a fourth round of sanctions over the Iran nuclear program. It's seen as a response to Monday's nuclear fuel swap deal.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. The US is pushing a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

The United States is to begin circulating today at the United Nations in New York a new resolution of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and continued enrichment of uranium.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s surprise announcement during Senate testimony Tuesday morning – and her elaboration that both Russia and China are on board in supporting the new resolution – is seen in part as a Big Powers’ response to a deal struck with Iran Monday by Brazil and Turkey to move a portion of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile out of the country.

Officials from both Turkey and Brazil said the plan to swap the uranium for fuel rods – which Iran needs for a research reactor – nullified any need for additional sanctions on Iran.

IN PICTURES: Who has the nukes?

But the US, Russia, and European countries quickly rained doubts on the proposal and dampened hopes that the swap deal – modeled after an earlier deal brokered by the UN and involving a uranium transfer to Russia – would sideline the international push for sanctions.

Secretary Clinton used testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to announce an agreement by the five permanent and veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on what would be a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Russia and China onboard with the US

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Clinton said. “And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

The agreement among the six countries – the US, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany – does not yet mean that the resolution is guaranteed passage. A Security Council resolution requires a minimum of nine votes to pass, so the five permanent members, or “P5,” said to be on board (Germany is not a permanent member of the Security Council) would still require the support of 4 of the 10 rotating council members.

“The fact the P5 agree is extremely politically consequential, but it is not legally consequential,” says Michael Doyle, a former senior UN official now teaching international relations at Columbia University in New York. “They still have to get the four extra countries somewhere and honestly they ought to be able to get them given the inequality of world politics,” he adds, “but the fact is we’re not there yet.”

Complicating the effort to get the four extra votes is the fact that both Turkey and Brazil are currently non-permanent members of the council. The other current rotating members are: Austria, Bosnia, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Clinton did not elaborate on the specific sanctions the new resolution includes. But US officials have said that a draft resolution the US circulated among permanent council members picked up elements from a resolution sanctioning North Korea last year that allows inspection by any country of cargo ships destined for or departing from North Korea. Officials also said the draft Iran resolution included sanctions targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is believed to be increasingly involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile development programs.

The text of the new resolution was to be introduced at a meeting of the full council at 4 pm Tuesday, a UN-based diplomat said. As for the timing of an eventual vote on the resolution, the diplomat said, “All the members have to first consider [the resolution], and then we’ll see from there.”

Complicated bargaining

Announcement of the Big Powers’ accord diminishes the “V” for victory sign Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashed following the signing of the swap deal with Brazil and Turkey, Mr. Doyle says. But he adds that the deal also complicates not just the bargaining that will go on to secure the nine votes on the council, but also eventual enforcement of the sanctions in a new resolution.

“What [the deal reached by Brazil and Turkey with Iran] does is complicate the argument that the sanctions regime is necessary and just,” Doyle says. “It’s going to be much more difficult for the US and its allies to convince the court of international public opinion that enforcement of a new set of sanctions against Iran is essential for international security.”

A senior administration official said Tuesday in previewing Wednesday’s state visit to Washington by Mexican President Felipe Calderón that Obama would address the Iran issue in his discussions with the Mexican leader.

IN PICTURES: Who has the nukes?


US answer to Iran nuclear swap: Overnight deal on sanctions

Iran nuclear fuel swap deal: What it involves, and how it will affect US push for sanctions

Iran nuclear fuel swap: Who can make the fuel rods?

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