Despite signals that Iran and the US were working towards a nuclear deal, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday that sanctions against the Islamic Republic would remain in place until the US and its allies are satisfied Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
“Obviously, we and others in the international community have every reason to be skeptical of that and we need to test it, and any agreement must be fully verifiable and enforceable,” said Rice in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
She said it had been clear to Iran that it “had to meet its international obligations under Security Council resolutions and that the sanctions would remain until those obligations were satisfied.”
The White House national security adviser and former ambassador to the UN said the US wouldn’t agree to let Iran enrich its own uranium. She said US President Barack Obama made clear that Washington accepted Iran’s right to use enriched uranium for peaceful energy purposes — apparently from supervised overseas sources — but not to enrich the material itself.
Asked whether the US shared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four demands — that Iran halt uranium enrichment, remove already enriched material, close the Fordo nuclear facility, and discontinue the plutonium track in Arak — Rice replied: “Obviously, we are in constant contact and communication with our Israeli allies and other key allies in this process. And we have been largely united in agreeing on the process going forward, and on what is necessary to give us a shared degree of confidence. And when I say us, I mean all of us in the international community, a shared degree of confidence that at the end of this process, that Iran’s nuclear program, if there is to be one, is only for peaceful purposes.”
She said she would not “get into the contours of a negotiation that really hasn’t gotten underway in any meaningful way,” but stressed “that we have been on this program in the P5+1 and with Israel and other partners in the region, and, indeed, within the entire international community, as enshrined in Security Council resolutions on insisting on the steps that need to be taken.”
Concerning the UN Security Council resolution to strip Syria of its chemical weapons, Rice said the demand was worded strongly enough, but noted that military action against Syria in case of noncompliance would require Security Council approval.
“I think it’s important for people to understand what this resolution accomplishes,” Rice said. ”In fact, it does say, in very clear-cut terms, that if there is noncompliance on the part of the Syrians, there will be action taken under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Chapter 7 is the only chapter of the Charter that calls for — and allows for — enforcement action.”
Rice admitted, however, that before the UN could act under Chapter 7, the Security Council would have to reconvene and approve military action.
“Obviously, in any circumstance, we would need to come back to the Security Council if we sought multilateral endorsement of such enforcement action in the circumstances, [and] have a negotiation about what that action ought to be,” she said.
On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to eliminate all of Syria’s estimated 1,000-ton chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014.
Rice said that the threat of further action if Syria doesn’t follow through with relinquishing its chemical weapons was a key aspect that US Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when they met in Geneva earlier this month.
Besides the UN resolution, Rice warned, the US reserves the right to act of its own accord, including using military force.
“The president has been very clear that we remain postured to act if the choice is taken by him and if the necessity arises,” she said. “We’re not taking any options off the table. And the president has been very clear that, as commander-in-chief, he has the authority to act in the interests of the United States and to use force if necessary.”