Yet, when on April 5, 2013, the P5+1 returned to Almaty to hear Iran’s formal response to our proposal, the Iranians once again fell short. While the P5+1 had a substantive exchange of views with Iran during the talks, in the end, Iran’s counterproposal to the P5+1 initiative was very disappointing. According to this counterproposal Iran would place little or no constraint on its current nuclear activities, while demanding that major sanctions be removed immediately. Given the significant gulf between the two sides, the P5+1 members did not believe scheduling another round was warranted at that time, and instead agreed to return to capitals to discuss the latest developments with their respective governments. They agreed that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton would then follow up with Iran on next steps, and indeed Ashton and Iran’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Jalili are scheduled to meet in Istanbul today, May 15.
We are looking for signs that Iran is prepared to move to address substantively all aspects of the proposal we discussed in Almaty. We are not interested in talks for talks’ sake, but we must give diplomacy every chance to succeed. And, while we leave the door open to diplomacy, we will continue to maintain unrelenting and increasing pressure.
We have approached these negotiations realistically, conscious of our difficult history. We continue to seek concrete results in our talks, not empty promises. The onus is on Iran.
Support for Terrorism
Beyond its illicit nuclear activity, we also have grave concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East, particularly its support for Bashar Asad in Syria; its support for terrorist organizations like Hizballah; and its unacceptable attacks on innocent civilians worldwide. These activities are not going unchecked.
Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, which it uses as a strategic tool of its foreign policy. Led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the “Iran Threat Network” comprises an alliance of surrogates, proxies, and partners such as Hizballah, HAMAS, and Iraqi Shi’a militants, among others. Iran funds, trains, and equips these terrorist organizations, in whole or in part, to use in attacks around the world. This clandestine threat network destabilizes countries throughout the Middle East and threatens regional security. Iran’s leaders have aimed most of their threats at one of our closest allies, blatantly declaring their desire to see the destruction of the state of Israel. We have a moral obligation to ensure that Iran never has the tools to make good on that threat.
Israel is not Iran’s only target, however. Iranian national Mansour Arbabsiar pled guilty last year to plotting with members of the Qods Force to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador by bombing a crowded restaurant here in Washington, DC. The attempt to assassinate a foreign diplomat in our nation’s capital is an intolerable escalation of Iranian terrorist activity.
Iran has also sponsored and directed terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian and diplomatic targets worldwide. On February 13, 2012, a magnetic bomb was placed under the vehicle of an Israeli diplomat’s wife in New Delhi, India, seriously injuring her and three Indian nationals. The following day, a similar device was discovered under a vehicle belonging to the Israeli embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and safely defused. At the same time, Thai police arrested three Iranian nationals in Bangkok in connection with explosions at a private residence that subsequently revealed bomb-making materials and makeshift grenades intended for use in attacks against Israeli targets.
In June 2012, Kenyan authorities arrested two Iranian members of the Qods Force. Armed with 33 pounds of military-grade plastic explosives, they planned deadly attacks on Western and Israeli targets. On May 6, a Kenyan court sentenced them to life imprisonment for terrorism-related offenses.
Lebanese Hizballah continues to be a key partner and substantial part of Iran’s threat network. Iran provides hundreds of millions of dollars to Hizballah annually and has long been Hizballah’s primary trainer and arms supplier. Hizballah and the Iranian leadership share a worldview and strategic vision and are seeking to exploit the current unrest in the Middle East and North Africa to their advantage. We remain focused on Hizballah activity worldwide, and have devoted a great deal of diplomatic effort over the past several years to raising awareness of Hizballah activity with European partners, well before last summer’s attack in Bulgaria, in which six Israeli tourists were killed in a terrorist bombing, and arrest in Cyprus of a suspected Hizballah operative.