US Senators, EU voice support for Iran sanctions

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Flag of Iran

At least 15 United States senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties voiced strong support for sanctions against Iran unless it halts its nuclear program completely, and at least one senator has hinted that military action is a possibility in the future.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), said on CBS that "The United States should press for sanctions even if that led to higher oil prices." He also added that "this is the most grave situation that we have faced since the end of the Cold War, absent the whole war on terror."

Another Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking on the Fox News Channel, said there should be "tougher measures." He also stated that "all options should be kept open," which could imply the use of military force. However, Senator Graham also said that "we need to work together with our European allies."

The most well-known military action by the US against an elected government in Iran was the Anglo-American covert Operation Ajax in 1953 in which Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown and the exiled Shah was restored to the throne as a dictator.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said she "agrees with McCain's assessment of the extent of Iran's threat. Iran has much more opportunity to create devastation in the Middle East than Iraq at this time," she said. "I think it's a very serious threat." Regarding the need for continued international cooperation, Feinstein stated that the issue is a "major test of the international community."

On Thursday, Germany, France, Great Britain and the European Union officially declared an end to negotiations with Iran, a move endorsed by The United States.

On Friday, Russia renewed its call for Iran to resume cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We again call on Iran to reconsider its decisions and return to the state of moratorium and implement full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA, as is foreseen in the appropriate resolutions of the agency's board," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement to the press.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said "all efforts must be made to ensure the peaceful resolution of the crisis and that diplomatic methods had not been exhausted." He then added that Russia's "proposal" to move the final phase of Iran's enrichment program to Russian territory is "still on the table for discussion."

Mohamed ElBaradei, Chief of the IAEA, said in a press release today that he is so far unable to confirm whether Iran's controversial nuclear program is peaceful. "For the last three years we have been doing intensive verification in Iran, and even after three years I am not yet in a position to make a judgment on the peaceful nature of the (nuclear) program." He also added that Iran would only be a "few months from building a nuclear bomb if it has nuclear material at the same time as a weaponization program."

"We still need to assure ourselves through access to documents, individuals and locations, that we have seen all that we ought to see and that there is nothing fishy, if you like, about the (nuclear) program," ElBaradei said.

Iranian Finance Minister Davood Danesh Jafari said on an Iranian radio station today that "any Western sanction placed on Iran, in response to its nuclear development program could raise global oil prices... sanctions on Iran, could possibly, by disturbing Iran's political and economic situation, raise oil prices beyond levels the West expects," he told state radio.

On Saturday, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a rare press conference to address the European Union that Iran will "consider using its control over oil prices as retalliation for potential sanctions on Iran." Today he said, "only diplomacy, not threats to refer it to the U.N. Security Council, could defuse a standoff."

In a press conference on Friday, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said that he had spoken to the Iranian representative in the IAEA in Vienna, Ali Laridziani, who said "Iran is interested in serious and constructive negotiations, but without time constraints."

The United States and the E.U. harshly criticized Annan's "spin" on the Iranian response, stating that because diplomatic talks have reached their limit, the matter should be deferred to the Security Council.

Iran continues to insist that its nuclear energy is to be used to provide electricity for an "energy-needy economy, not to build (atom) bombs."

Iran announced on January 10, 2006, that it was going to "resume full nuclear research."