U.S. Will Negotiate with Iran, but Will Enforce Sanctions

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman

By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
03 October 2013

Until a verifiable resolution of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program is in place, tough sanctions will remain in place, says Wendy Sherman, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs.

At an October 3 hearing on Iran’s nuclear program, Sherman told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Let me assure you that we will continue to vigorously enforce the sanctions that are in place as we explore a negotiated resolution, and will be especially focused on sanctions evasion and efforts by the Iranians to relieve the pressure.”

The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Sherman said. In recent talks with the Iranian government at the U.N General Assembly in New York, she said, the United States pursued a dual-track policy of engagement and pressure.

“While our preference has always been diplomatic engagement, we concluded that such engagement would not work absent meaningful pressure,” Sherman said.

Acknowledging the “deep mistrust” between the United States and Iran, Sherman said, “Any productive path forward must start with mutual confidence building through meaningful, transparent and verifiable steps.”

“We will be looking for specific steps by Iran that address core issues, including but not limited to the pace and scope of its enrichment program, the transparency of its overall nuclear program and stockpiles of enriched uranium. The Iranians, in return, will doubtless be seeking some relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are now in place.”

According to Sherman, the current sanctions regime applied to Iran is one of the toughest the world has ever seen. “As a result,” she said, “23 economies have united in significantly reducing or eliminating purchases of Iranian crude oil.”

Over the past 24 months Iran’s currency, the rial, has depreciated by about 60 percent as Iran’s access to the international financial sector has been largely severed, she said. The devastating effect of the sanctions on the Iranian economy, Sherman said, was recognized by Hassan Rouhani in the run-up to his election as Iran’s president in June.

Sherman cautioned that although Rouhani may have won his country’s presidential election as a “moderate” willing to take a different approach to the West, he is still a hard-liner by U.S. standards.

“Rouhani is very much part of the religious cleric class in Iran,” Sherman said. “He is very tough. He is very conservative.”

U.S. engagement efforts with Iran will include addressing concerns such as Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations, human rights abuses and destabilizing activities across the region, Sherman said.

“We will remain in close consultations with our allies and partners in the region,” she added, “including Israel, whose security remains a paramount focus.”

“We seek an agreement,” she said, “that respects the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy while ensuring to the world that Iran meets its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.”