<!-- IMAGE -->
In testimony before Congress, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said the possibility of Iran's developing a nuclear weapon endangers international security in multiple ways:
"The danger that it [a nuclear weapon] would be either deliberately or inadvertently transferred to a terrorist or non-state actor is a very serious concern; that it would be used to threaten its neighbors would be a concern; that it would be used as a cover for it to engage in more aggressive behavior in the region. We can think of so many reasons why this is such a grave danger that that's why we put such a high priority on preventing them getting it."
But Iran's nuclear ambition is not the only concern the U.S. has about the Iranian government, said Mr. Steinberg; another is how the government treats its own people:
"The Iran[ian] government's terrible repression of peaceful protesters, opposition politicians and journalists following the election revealed to the world much about the character of that government and has increased its isolation."
Deputy Secretary Steinberg said that Tehran's crackdown on dissent after June's presidential election is part of Iran's broader record of human rights abuses, which has grown significantly worse throughout the past year.
The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights in Iran documents the Iranian government's restrictions of fundamental freedoms, said Mr. Steinberg, and it cites multiple instances of the government's use of torture and other forms of inhumane treatment to quell dissent.
Quoting President Barack Obama, Mr. Steinberg said, "The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, and not coercion.