In testimony before Congress, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns described the series of challenges presented to the U.S. by the government of Iran:
"A nuclear armed Iran would severely threaten the security and stability of a part of the world crucial to our interests and to the health of the global economy. 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 strengthen it."
These risks are reinforced by the wider actions of the Iranian leadership, said Mr. Burns:
"Particularly its long-standing support for terrorist groups, its opposition to Middle East peace, its repugnant rhetoric about Israel, the Holocaust and so much else, and its brutal repression of its own citizens."
In the face of these challenges, he said, U.S. policy is straightforward:
"We must prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We must counter its other destabilizing actions in the region and beyond. And we must continue to do all we can to advance our broader interests in democracy, human rights and development across the Middle East."
Under Secretary of State Burns said that over the past eighteen months, the United States has pursued these policy goals through a combination of engagement and pressure, as well as active security cooperation with America's partners in the Gulf and elsewhere.
The U.S. embarked on an unprecedented effort at engagement with Iran's leaders to create opportunities for Iran to build confidence over its nuclear program. That effort was spurned by Iran, which instead engaged in behavior that caused increasing concern over its nuclear intentions, including building a clandestine enrichment facility at Qom and enriching uranium to higher levels, in direct defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Iran's intransigence left the international community little choice but to increase economic and political pressure on Iran to persuade the latter to change its strategic calculus and return to discussion to address questions over its nuclear program. On June 9th it adopted U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposes the most comprehensive sanctions that Iran has ever faced.
Under Secretary of State Burns reaffirmed that the international community stands ready to pursue serious negotiations to resolve the nuclear issue if Iran is prepared to proceed. The adoption of Resolution 1929 significantly sharpens the choice Iran is facing: pursue a diplomatic solution and live up to its international nuclear nonproliferation obligations or face growing international pressure and isolation if it refuses.