WASHINGTON (CN) – The United States has reached an agreement with China and Russia for placing sanctions on Iran to discourage it from advancing its nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday. She said the new sanctions resolution would send an “unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran.”
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation with both Russia and China,” which will serve “as convincing an answer to the activities in Tehran over the last few days as any we can provide,” Clinton said in a Senate hearing Tuesday morning. She said the draft would be circulated to the entire U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a hearing on the new START treaty, Clinton said the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which include Russia, China, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, plus Germany — agreed to place stricter sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program in response to recent “efforts in Tehran.”
Clinton acknowledged the efforts of Turkey and Brazil to avoid a global standoff with Iran on its nuclear policy, referring to the deal brokered by Iran with Turkey and Brazil Monday in which Iran would send low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher grade fuel for a research reactor.
Clinton said she talked with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Tuesday morning about finalizing the resolution, and said the agreement would be discussed later that day.
It is the fourth round of sanctions the United States has placed on Iran. Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is purely designed for developing nuclear energy sources, not nuclear arms.
Flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, Clinton made the announcement in a hearing beginning the ratification process for the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START treaty, which was signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in April. The treaty is an update to the 1991 START treaty, which marked the end of the Cold War.
The new START treaty calls for the United States and Russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals to the lowest levels in 50 years. The countries agreed to limit their stockholds to 1,550 nuclear warheads, 700 deployed strategic vehicles and 800 launchers and heavy bombers each. Clinton said the move reduced “levels sized for the Cold War to levels appropriate for today’s threats.”
All three members of the national security leadership heartily endorsed the new START treaty. They said its enables the United States to maintain nuclear deterrence while strengthening its relationship with Russia and sending a message to other nations about the United States’ commitment to nonproliferation.
Speaking to those who opposed the treaty, Clinton said, “The choice before us is between this treaty and no treaty.” She emphasized that without the treaty, Russia had no legal requirement to limit its nuclear weapons.
“The U.S. is better off with a treaty than without one,” Clinton said.
Gates echoed her a few minutes later. “The U.S. is better off with this treaty than without it,” he said.
Mullen added, “This treaty has the full support of your military.”
Committee chair Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also strongly advocated the treaty, promising that it “will make America safer” as well as “revitalize” relations with Moscow, which have “daily been losing visibility” since the treaty expired in December.
Clinton insisted that the treaty does not threaten the United States’ missile defense system, noting that nothing in the treaty prevents the United States from ratcheting up its deterrent program. Russia had fought to include such measures during treaty negotiations.
“I take a backseat to no one in missile defense,” Clinton said.
In conjunction with the signing, the Russian government made a unilateral statement that they would withdraw from the treaty if the United States aggressively built up its missile defense system. Clinton said during that hearing that she disagreed with Russia’s statement.
“It does not constrain our missile defense programs in any way,” Clinton said of the treaty.
Gates also said the treaty will “in no way compromise our nuclear deterrent.” He argued that the success of the United States’ nuclear defense “is one that we control ourselves” by determining how much we invest in the nation’s “aging” nuclear infrastructure.
Obama’s budget calls for an $80 billion infusion into the nation’s nuclear program.
Clinton also said the treaty helped “reset” relations with Russia, echoing Obama’s terminology after the signing. Clinton described the United States’ current relationship with Russia as “pragmatic and clear-eyed.”
Mullen reiterated that the United States is “keeping our eyes wide open” in its relationship with Russia.
Together, the United States and Russia control 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Clinton said the treaty has already had a tangible impact on the United States’ global posture on the nuclear issue. She said that at the opening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in Manhattan in early May, the treaty “made it more difficult for other countries to shift the conversation back to the United States.”
The treaty has to get 67 votes in the Senate to be ratified. The original START treaty was approved 93-6.