News / Middle East

Gates: Iran Sanctions Could Lead to Policy Change

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the draft United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran is stronger than he expected, and if nations follow through with even stronger steps of their own, it could help convince Iran to change its nuclear policy.

Secretary Gates has been calling for a U.N. Security Council resolution for months, even if it had to be a weaker version.  But he says that is not what emerged from negotiations among key countries and was circulated to council members on Tuesday.

"As best I can tell, if the resolution were to be passed in anything like its current form, it's actually somewhat stronger than I expected," he said.

Gates says the resolution accomplishes two things.  He says it serves as a reminder of Iran's international isolation and that all the major powers oppose its nuclear weapons ambitions, which Iran denies having.  But the secretary says the resolution will also have a practical impact.

"The resolution provides a new legal platform that allows individual countries and organizations, such as the E.U., to take significantly more stringent actions on their own, that go way beyond, well beyond, what the U.N. resolution calls for in and of itself," the secretary said.

If that happens, Gates says this resolution could have more impact on leaders in Tehran than the three previous rounds of Security Council sanctions.

"By itself, we've seen other resolutions before that have, obviously, not changed their behavior," said Gates.  "But as we go along in this process, I think that the ratcheting up of what other countries are willing to do on their own, using the resolution as a basis, does have the potential to change behavior," he added.

Gates says if Iran's leaders were not concerned about the impact of a resolution they would not be trying so hard to block it.

China's U.N. ambassador has been quoted as saying the goal of the resolution is to bring Iran back to the negotiating table on its nuclear program.  Officials estimate the document will be discussed at the United Nations for several weeks and may well be amended.  But they hope to get it passed next month.

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