WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Jewish groups welcomed the announcement of the unified front by major world powers on Iran sanctions.
But they want to know the details — and they’re still pressing for unilateral sanctions by the U.S. Congress.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council had agreed on "strong" Iran sanctions.
The announcement came partly in response to Iran’s attempt this week to defang international efforts to monitor its nuclear development by agreeing to a nuclear exchange with Turkey and Brazil.
"We have been working closely with our P 5+1 partners for several weeks on the draft of a new sanctions resolution on Iran," Clinton said, referring to the five Security Council members and Germany. "Today, I am pleased to announce to this committee we have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China."
Those two countries have been the most reluctant to expand existing U.N. sanctions on Iran.
The American Jewish Committee, one of the groups at the forefront of efforts to galvanize international support for multilateral sanctions against Iran, welcomed the announcement.
"Secretary Clinton’s announcement is very encouraging," said David Harris, AJC’s executive director. "We hope the U.N. 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."
Clinton did not outline the proposed sanctions, noting that the draft resolution must circulate among all 15 members of the Security Council. Reports in recent months have suggested that the sanctions under consideration would expand the list of individuals and entities already sanctioned in earlier resolutions and also target Iran’s financial sector.
The U.S. Congress is considering its own set of expanded and tougher unilateral sanctions that would target third-party entities — companies, individuals and countries — that deal with Iran’s energy sector.
The Obama administration is wary of the package, fearing it would drive away partners from multilateral sanctions.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called on the Obama administration to embrace the congressional package — likely to pass within weeks — as a complement to the multilateral sanctions.
"American and international sanctions on Iran must be overwhelming to change the dynamic within Iran and to alter the policies of Iranian leaders," AIPAC said in an analysis it distributed after Clinton’s announcement. "Sanctions should target Iran’s finance, insurance, shipping, transportation, natural gas and manufacturing industries in addition to Tehran’s dependence on refined petroleum.”
Clinton drew a direct link between her announcement and Iran’s attempt this week to head off additional sanctions by agreeing to a diluted version of an earlier U.S.-initiated proposal to enrich some uranium to medical research levels in exchange for transparency. Under the agreement, Iran would export half its low-enriched uranium to Turkey and Brazil for enrichment to medical research levels.
The Obama administration has rejected the deal as inadequate. U.S. officials noted that under the original U.S. proposal, Iran would have had to relinquish its entire existing store of uranium and make its program more transparent. Under the Brazil-Turkey deal, Iran would retain enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture a single nuclear bomb should it obtain the means to further enrich it.
AIPAC called the deal a "stalling tactic."
"The Iran-Brazil-Turkey deal fails all counts," AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said. "It leaves them with enough material to make a bomb, Iran has said it plans to continue enriching nuclear fuel and there is no indication that Iran is even willing to talk about suspending enrichment as called for by four U.N. Security Council resolutions."
Clinton said the administration’s announcement of an agreement on Security Council sanctions against Iran “is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide."