President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that, despite his full-court press for tough sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, he could not promise that China and other major powers would go along.
“I am going to push as hard as I can to make sure that we get strong sanctions that have consequences for Iran as it’s making calculations about its nuclear program, and that those are done on a timely basis,” Obama said during a news conference at the end of the 47-nation summit he convened in Washington to address the dangers of nuclear terrorism.
The president met Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and afterward White House aides portrayed China’s willingness to discuss the mechanics of a sanctions plan as major development and a sign of international unity on the issue. But, on Tuesday, the president himself was more sanguine about prospect of achieving sanctions with bite.
Obama said he was “mindful” that many countries have trade and energy ties to Iran that could be disrupted, but that “a strong number of nations” on the United Nations Security Council support sanctions.
But he was quick to add, “I’m not going to speculate beyond that in terms of where we are.”
Obama also left open the possibility that the sanctions won’t be successful. “Sanctions are not a magic wand,” he said. “What sanctions can do….is to hopefully change the calculus of a country like Iran.”
Overall, the president called the Nuclear Security Summit “enormously productive,” explaining that commitments it produced for greater safeguards and centralization of dangerous nuclear materials would make it much harder for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to build a nuclear device.
“Because of the steps we’ve taken…the American people will be safer and every nation will be more secure,” Obama said.
The summit’s official communiqué called for all so-called “loose nukes,” bomb-grade separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium, to be locked down within four years.
The document is non-binding, but Obama said he was confident that Ukraine, Mexico and other countries would follow through on promises to give up their bomb-grade nuclear materials.
“Do we have an international, one-world law enforcement mechanism? We don’t,” the president said.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) made clear he was not impressed.
“The summit’s purported accomplishment is a nonbinding communiqué that largely restates current policy and makes no meaningful progress in dealing with nuclear terrorism threats or the ticking clock represented by Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said in a statement after the summit.
And he had similarly dismissive words for Obama’s Iran sanctions campaign.
“Despite the talk at the security summit, it appears we are no closer to tough sanctions or a meaningful Security Council resolution today, seven months after the president said that the regime would face sanctions,” Kyl said. “The president’s policy to deal with Iran is failing.”
Obama said the conference was a step toward his stated goal of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons, but he stepped gingerly when a reporter asked a question about Israel’s nuclear program and the Non-Proliferation Treaty the Jewish state has never signed. (continues here)