WASHINGTON: The Obama administration said Thursday it would support tougher economic pressure on Iran if it doesn’t begin to slow the pace of its uranium enrichment activity and open its stockpiles of nuclear material to greater inspection.
The remarks were aimed at reassuring its critics that the U.S. would not be played for “suckers” by the moderate tone of Iran’s new leader.
The chief U.S. nuclear negotiator told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the administration could offer Iran some sanctions relief as “confidence-building” measures but that it would support new and tougher trade restrictions from Congress if diplomacy ultimately failed to ease concerns that Tehran might be trying to develop nuclear weapons.
“I’m saying this” to Iran, said Wendy Sherman, who will meet with other world powers and Iran in Geneva in two weeks. “Come on the 15th of October with concrete, substantive actions that you will take, commitments you will make in a verifiable way, monitoring and verification that you will sign up to, to create some faith that there is reality to this, and our Congress will listen. But I can assure you, if you do not come ... with that substantive plan that is real and verifiable, our Congress will take action, and we will support them to do so.”Speaking in Tokyo, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters the U.S. would not be played for “suckers” by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Still, Kerry defended President Barack Obama’s recent engagement effort.
The Senate Banking Committee is expected to draft a new sanctions package later this month, mirroring legislation passed by the House in July that blacklists Iran’s mining and construction sectors and commits the United States to the goal of eliminating all Iranian petroleum sales worldwide by 2015.
Sherman, however, asked senators to wait until after the Geneva conference before moving forward.
Kerry, responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s urging not to trust Iran, defended the recent engagement effort. Kerry met last week at the United Nations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and then Obama placed a historic phone call to Rouhani – the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders in more than three decades.
He said it would be “diplomatic malpractice of the worst order not to test at least Iran’s rhetorical promises that it is prepared to negotiate.”
However, he added, “there is nothing here that is going to be taken at face value, and we have made that clear.”
“It is not words that will make a difference. It’s actions,” Kerry said.
Also Thursday, Netanyahu warned that Iran was working on intercontinental ballistic missiles that could one day hit the United States.
“They’re not developing those ICBMs for us. They can reach us with what they have. It’s for you,” he told CBS News.