Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns says that the Iranian government's defiance of its international obligations poses "as profound and complicated a challenge as any we face in the world today." Testifying before the Senate Arms Services Committee, Mr. Burns said Iran's leaders are expanding Iran's nuclear program, and that a nuclear-armed Iran would severely threaten the security of the Middle East, and cause additional damage as well:
"It would seriously undermine the credibility of the United Nations and other international institutions and seriously undercut the nuclear nonproliferation regime at precisely the moment we are seeking to strengthening it."
These risks, said Under Secretary Burns, are only reinforced by the wider actions of the Iranian leadership: "Particularly, its longstanding support for terrorist groups; its opposition to Middle East Peace; its repugnant rhetoric about Israel, the Holocaust and so much else; its brutal repression of its own citizens, and its efforts to choke off the free flow of information -- a universal right of all Iranians."
Over the past year, the United States sought engagement with Iran to demonstrate the benefits Iran could enjoy if it changed its behavior, met its international obligations, and adhered to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations.
Offers of engagement were rejected by Iranian leaders. Under Secretary of State Burns said that Iran's intransigence has resulted in increased international concern about Iran and increased cooperation to apply pressure for change:"We saw last November, for the first time in four years, a tough new IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Board of Governors' resolution, sharply criticizing Iran. We saw a strong U.N. General Assembly Iran human rights measure in December, and a similarly strong European Council declaration later that same month. Now, we are moving urgently toward a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution."
The five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany are currently meeting in New York over the text and content of a new resolution. "Our purpose is to send a unified message of international resolve with a range of concrete measures that will affect Iran's strategic calculus," said Under Secretary of State Burns. "We cannot and we will not tolerate actions that undermine the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], risk an arms race in a vital region, and threaten the credibility of the international community and our collective security."