The United States will call for “even stricter” sanctions against Iran if diplomacy fails, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a television interview with Globovision broadcast late on Tuesday. Clinton said America's goal would be “to try to change the behavior of the regime.”
America opposes business ties that strengthen the Iranian regime, but will not reject all trade with the country at this time. “We would never tell another country, 'You cannot do business with the regime of Iran in order to figure out ways of helping to change their behavior,' she continued. "But we think it is not in the best interests of the world to be doing business with Iran to promote the regime. That is not smart.”
While stating that America is “willing to engage” with Iran for the time being, Clinton expressed some pessimism at the chances of changing the situation through dialogue. “We understand that, given the problems Iran has just demonstrated, [engagement] might not be possible,” she said. However, she did not give a deadline for attempts to pursue engagement over sanctions.
Her announcement follows reports that America and Russia plan to oppose the imposition of further sanctions on Iran at this week's G8 Summit.
Clinton focused on Iran's nuclear program in particular, telling her interviewer that the program could be “very destabilizing in the Middle East and beyond.” She also mentioned Iranian support for terrorism.
Iran argues that its nuclear program is meant for civilian energy only. However, the regime has raised concerns with statements threatening Israel and American targets in the Middle East, and it has caused further worry through its rejection of international observation of its nuclear facilities.
Clinton also criticized the Iranian regime for harsh actions taken against peaceful protestors following the disputed presidential elections. “We have seen in the last weeks that Iran has not respected its own democracy,” she said.
Police and pro-government militias are accused of murdering several supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi and using other brutal tactics, including arrest and torture, against thousands whose oppose the current regime. Moussavi's supporters have accused Iran's mullahs of rigging the presidential election in favor of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
America is not interested in promoting a regime that is being rejected by much of the people it leads, Clinton explained.
Mullen: Iranian Nukes would be “Very Destabilizing”
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned against the possibility of Iranian nuclear arms on Tuesday as well. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mullen said that if Iran were to develop nuclear capability “it will be very destabilizing.”
Iran is “very focused” on proceeding with its nuclear program, he warned.
While warning against the possibility of a nuclear Iran, Mullen expressed concern over the possibility of a pre-emptive strike as well. An attack on Iran could also serve to destabilize the region, he said, explaining, “there are unintended consequences that are very difficult to predict in a very volatile, highly volatile part of the world.”
Mullen recommended diplomatic pressure as a method of dealing with the threat of Iranian nuclear arms, but warned that “the time window is closing.” Iran could be just one year away from obtaining nuclear arms, he said.
Red Light, Green Light?
American leaders have focused on Iran and its nuclear program this week, sending often-conflicting messages. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared to “green light” a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran, saying three times that Israel was free to do what it needed to do.
However, the United States Department of State quickly announced that Biden's statements did not apply a “green light,” saying, “We are certainly not going to give a green light to any kind of military strike, but Israel is a sovereign country and we're not going to dictate its actions.”
On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama came out with a stronger statement against Israeli action on Iran, saying America had “absolutely not” given the green light to a strike, and adding, “We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try to resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East.”