WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration continues to favor multilateral sanctions when it comes to pressuring Iran, senior officials have said.
"We want to create coalitions," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a Dec. 10 interview with Al Jazeera when she was asked if the United States was nearing the point when it would impose sanctions unilaterally to persuade Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent. "We want to find common ground with people. There are many things we could go off and do unilaterally, as the prior administration certainly demonstrated. That’s not our chosen path. We would prefer to take some more time, to be more patient, to bring people together to make the case."
Clinton rebuffed claims that the United States and Europe had failed to persuade other major powers to make a common cause on the Iran issue, referring to the recent resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, condemning Iran for failing to cooperate with its inspectors.
"The vote that was accumulated condemning Iran, calling for Iran to act, was shocking to some people because it was so unified," she said. "It wasn’t just the United States. It was Russia, it was China and many other countries. That’s because we have spent time listening and working hard to create this common ground and these common interests, and we’ve done it out of a sense of mutual respect."
Congress is pressing forward this week with a package of unilateral sanctions. Clinton’s spokesman, Ian Kelly, denied reports that the State Department was lobbying against the package, but added that the Obama administration prefers the multilateral route.
"We want to make sure that whatever kind of package is being considered, that it’s the right kind of package," Kelly said in a briefing last Friday. "And I think we also want to be sure that whatever we do, we do it multilaterally. I mean, that just makes good practical sense. Any kind of pressure is going to be more effective if it’s implemented broadly and not simply bilaterally."
Representatives of the major powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China — will meet before year’s end to consider the next steps with Iran in the wake of its rejection of an offer to enrich its uranium to medical research levels in exchange for greater nuclear transparency.
Last Friday, the White House endorsed a statement issued by the Council of European Union, the EU’s foreign policy arm, that warned of a "clear response" to Iranian recalcitrance, an allusion to enhanced sanctions.
"Iran’s persistent failure to meet its international obligations and Iran’s apparent lack of interest in pursuing negotiations require a clear response, including through appropriate measures," the EU statement said.
The White House endorsement echoed that language.
"If Iran continues to fail to bring its nuclear program into full compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Security Council and the IAEA, there will be consequences and we will be consulting closely with our partners to ensure those consequences are credible." the White House said. "We will continue to assess Iran’s responses, and together with our partners will take appropriate measures in keeping with our common approach to the Iranian nuclear program."