President Obama is awaiting an expected United Nations Security Council vote on Wednesday that would impose a fourth round of multilateral sanctions on Iran. It will be the culmination of months of tough negotiations in which the U.S. sought support from fellow permanent Security Council members Russia and China for a sanctions resolution, as Iran worked to slow or stop the process.
Weeks, not months was how President Obama at one point described his timeline for achieving approval of the resolution the Security Council is scheduled to vote on.
Reporters have repeatedly pressed the president, his spokesman Robert Gibbs, and other administration officials, for progress reports on negotiations in which the U.S. worked to bring Russia and China on board.
The president acknowledged the difficulty of this process when he responded to one such question at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington in April. "I think these negotiations can be difficult and I am going to push as hard as I can to make sure we get strong sanctions that have consequences for Iran as it is making calculations about its nuclear program and that those are done on a timely basis," he said.
In May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told country delegations at a conference in New York reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that Iran had defied the international community regarding its nuclear program and uranium enrichment: "Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has been found by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board of governors to be currently in non-compliance with its nuclear safeguards obligations. The only one," she said.
Clinton's remarks followed a lengthy diatribe delivered by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he criticized the U.S, Western powers and Israel on nuclear issues.
Since then, Iran worked to slow or stop the process leading to Wednesday's Security Council vote. It also reached an agreement with Turkey and Brazil that would send a portion of its uranium stockpile to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel for civilian uses.
On Tuesday during a summit with Turkey, and Russia which is expected to support the new resolution, President Ahmadinejad said President Obama would miss an opportunity in terms of relations with Iran if the Security Council approves new sanctions.
Security Council approval of a fourth Iran sanctions resolution would also clear the way for the U.S Congress to complete work on final legislation to send to President Obama that would sanction companies supporting Iran's energy sector.
In remarks in April the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Democrat Howard Berman, underscored the urgency of action. "We need the strongest possible sanctions, and we need them fast," he said.
Speaking in Quito, Ecuador on Tuesday, Secretary Clinton said sanctions in the U.N. Security Council resolution would be the most significant Tehran has faced.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley had this response when reporters pressed him about what approval of the resolution would mean for diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran. "Is the diplomatic track still available? Of course. At the same time we are going to apply greater pressure on Iran to make clear that its failure to meet its obligations does have consequences," he said.
The new U.N. Security Council resolution would prohibit Iran from pursuing activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibit Iranian purchases of categories of heavy weapons including attack helicopters and missiles.
An annex lists more than three dozen companies, entities and individuals that would be sanctioned, including those owned, controlled, or acting on behalf of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and those involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.