US work with regional partners, Gulf states on challenges from Iran


"These efforts are beginning to show signs of success, including the GCC-plus-three forum (Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq), inter-Arab cooperation to help address the political crisis in Lebanon, security and military talks with the Gulf states and Arab governments’ increasing support for Iraq," Steinberg told members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

The committee hearing was entitled, "Minimizing Potential Threats from Iran: Administration Perspectives on Economic Sanctions and Other US Policy Options." US officials are also working actively on a comprehensive Middle East peace process, and some regional governments have chosen to conclude model nuclear-cooperation agreements in partnership with the United States, thus disproving claims by Iran that the West seeks to block the pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy by countries, Steinberg said.

"Our goal is to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability, and we will work with our allies and partners toward that goal, as well as to counter Iranian actions that threaten to destabilize the Greater Middle East and the rest of the world," he said.

To that end, the Obama administration has pursued a dual-track strategy of economic sanctions and engagement, he noted.

" … We understand Congress’s concerns and sense of urgency that you have all expressed this morning and look forward to working with you and consulting with you on any legislative effort with the aim of maximizing our ability to pursue this two-track strategy to convince Iran to meet its obligations while preserving the President’s flexibility to carry out the strategy successfully, " Steinberg told the senators.

In the past, as the United States attempted to isolate Iran without engagement, Iran developed a growing mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle while flagrantly flouting its international obligations, he said.

"Its leaders have neglected the rights of its citizens, and its government has continued to pursue a wide range of destabilizing activities abroad," Steinberg said.

Engagement not only increases the chances of achieving US goals through negotiations, it also forges a strong consensus with others if negotiations do not produce the results that the United States seeks, he said.

"Iran must demonstrate through its actions the exclusively peaceful intentions of its nuclear program," Steinberg said. "That means allowing unfettered access to international inspectors, cooperating fully with the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency) investigation and taking up the long-standing proposals of the P-5 plus one (Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), including a halt to uranium enrichment."

In response to the unified message of the P-5 plus one in Geneva last week, Iran pledged to take several concrete steps along these lines, including IAEA inspections of the previously undisclosed facility at Qom, now scheduled for Oct. 25, and an agreement in principle regarding a supply of low-enriched uranium for the Tehran research reactor, he noted.

"If implemented, and I stress if implemented, this agreement would limit Iran’s potential to achieve a short-term breakout in developing weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, and in so doing would help demonstrate whether Iran is serious about proving its exclusively peaceful intentions," he added. "We will look for and judge by the constructive actions ahead of another meeting of the P-5 plus one with Iran, which we anticipate to take place later this month." If Iran passes up this opportunity, "our engagement will make it possible to mobilize international action more effectively," Steinberg said. "By our openness to a negotiated resolution, we can clearly increase our ability to persuade others to stand by with us, if more forceful action is needed." US concerns with the Iranian government go beyond the nuclear issue, he said.

"The Iran government’s terrible repression of peaceful protesters, opposition politicians and journalists following the elections (last June) revealed to the world much about the character of that government and has increased its isolation," Steinberg said. "We are also deeply concerned about the American citizens held in Iran and urge the Iranian government to promptly return them to their families." In recent years, Iran has benefited from and exploited instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, he said.

"Our strategy in the Greater Middle East is aimed at bolstering security for our partners while reducing Iran’s ability to exploit these challenges for its own gain," he added.

"We in the international community very much hope that Iran will make the correct choices for itself, the region and the world," Steinberg said. "Yet we will be prepared to move ahead swiftly and effectively with additional measures with the confidence that our engagement today will make such measures unified and effective."


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