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U.N. Ambassador: No Guarantees On Iran Sanctions

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U.N. Ambassador: No Guarantees On Iran Sanctions


U.N. Ambassador: No Guarantees On Iran Sanctions

U.N. Ambassador: No Guarantees On Iran Sanctions

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The United Nations Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran this week, in the hopes of pressuring it to give up its nuclear program. Western nations suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists it's only interested in peaceful energy projects. Host Guy Raz speaks with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who led the intensive U.S. efforts to get the sanctions passed.

GUY RAZ, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

One year ago today, Iranians went to the polls to elect a new government. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected, but his opponents suspected fraud, and it led to weeks of street protests that came to be known as the Green Revolution.

(Soundbite of protest)

RAZ: We begin this hour with a look at Iran, the government's tenuous grip on power. And later, whatever happened to the opposition? But first to diplomacy.

This week, the U.N. Security Council passed another round of sanctions against Iran in the hopes of halting that country's nuclear program.

The top officials in Tehran say they are undeterred. And earlier today, the head of its nuclear program said he'll announce a new breakthrough in the coming weeks. Critics of the U.N. sanctions have said they are toothless.

Susan Rice made the case for passing that resolution. She is the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Welcome to the program.

Dr. SUSAN RICE (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations): Good to be with you, Guy.

RAZ: This is now the fourth round of sanctions passed by the Security Council against Iran. None of the previous measures stopped Iran from producing nuclear fuel. What makes you think this one is going to be different?

Dr. RICE: Well, Guy, first of all, these sanctions are cumulative. They're additive. So each round adds a new layer of pressure and pain. This particular sanctions resolution is the toughest and the broadest of any of the ones passed to date. It has a range of new penalties and measures in it that we think and believe Iran really wants to avoid and failed to avoid.

Iran spent a lot of diplomatic capital and a lot of its own money trying to buy votes and persuade many of our colleagues on the Security Council to oppose this resolution because they saw it as tough and as harmful to their efforts to pursue their nuclear program.

RAZ: Do you think they're strong enough?

Dr. RICE: I think they're very strong. Now, the aim of these sanctions is to change Iran's cost-benefit analysis and make Iran see that the cost of pursuing its nuclear program and staying away from the negotiating table and refusing to deal seriously with its nuclear program exceeds the benefits that it perceives to pursuing it.

RAZ: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called these latest sanctions, and I'm quoting him, "Annoying flies like used tissues." It seems like Iran has managed to remain resilient and even stronger in its position in comparison with where it was last year at this time. Can you explain why that is?

Dr. RICE: I think that's not the case. I don't see them as strong at all. It's domestically weakened with large portions of the population opposed to the government for its repressive behavior for squashing of the Democratic process for its abuse of human rights. It is isolated and now faces a fourth round of sanctions from the international community.

The international community has been very clear that Iran has failed to meet its obligations and is stepping up the pressure on Iran. So I think quite the opposite.

RAZ: You say isolated, but this resolution was not passed with unanimity. Turkey and Brazil, of course, voted against it. These two countries brokered a deal last month with Iran in which it agreed to chip some of its uranium overseas in exchange for access to fuel. Why not endorse that plan?

Dr. RICE: Because, Guy, that plan did not address the core problem. And the reason why Iran is under sanctions and now another round of sanctions, which is it continues to enrich uranium in violation of Security Council resolutions and in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations.

The interesting thing is the rest of the Security Council, minus Turkey and Brazil, understood that and were not persuaded by Turkey and Brazil's energetic efforts to suggest that this Tehran Research Reactor deal to, in some fashion, substitute for Iran meeting its obligations under international law.

RAZ: How do you respond to critics who have argued that, you know, this is just another round of the U.N. resolutions of sanctions that looks more like a default reaction that kind of arises from not quite knowing what else to do to stop Iran from pursuing this project?

Dr. RICE: Guy, the international community is a matter of practicality has -only a handful of levers that has diplomacy, that has pressure which is manifested in the form of sanctions, and it has potentially the use of military force to try to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear program. The United States' view is that one can't exclude any option, but certainly it has been our aim and that of the other members of the international community to try to the maximum extent to use diplomacy combined with pressure to change Iran's calculation and halt this nuclear program. We would be foolish not to try these means and to pursue them to the ultimate extreme.

RAZ: Do you think it will work?

Dr. RICE: There are no guarantees. But with each cumulative increase in pressure, the cost to Iran goes up and the cost of pursuing its nuclear capability ultimately may become unsustainable.

RAZ: That's Susan Rice. She is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She spoke with me from the State Department.

Susan Rice, thank you so much.

Dr. RICE: Thank you, Guy.

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