95/05/01 Press Briefing on the President's Executive Order on Iran  Return to: Index of 1995 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/05/01 BRIEFING ON EXECUTIVE ORDER ON IRAN
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN




U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman


For Immediate Release                          May 1, 1995

                        PRESS BRIEFING
                              BY
              SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
                      ON THE PRESIDENT'S
                    EXECUTIVE ORDER ON IRAN

                   U.S. Department of State
                      Monday, May 1, 1995


SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Good afternoon.  I have a short 
statement here on Iran, and I'll take just a few questions 
and then turn over to Nick for the regular daily briefing on 
the other subjects.

Last night, as you know, the President announced an important 
decision regarding U. S. policy toward Iran.  His Executive 
Order will ban all U. S. trade and investment with Iran, 
including the purchase of Iranian oil by American companies.

This action dramatically expands existing U. S. sanctions 
against Iran, which are already the toughest in the world.

The President's decision reinforces our overall strategy 
toward the Middle East.  From the outset advancing the Arab-
Israeli peace process and maintaining security in the Gulf 
have been among the highest foreign policy priorities of our 
Administration.

As many of you recall, my first trip to the Middle East 
included a stop in the Gulf.  At that time and on many 
occasions since then almost every Middle Eastern leader, Arab 
and Israeli alike, have told me that Iran represents one of 
the greatest, if not the greatest, threats to peace and 
stability in the region.

With that in mind, our policy toward Iran has been consistent 
from the start; that is, to use our diplomatic and economic 
measures and our military deterrent to contain Iran and to 
pressure it to cease its unacceptable actions.

We have had some successes working with our G-7 partners and 
other nations, but it is clear now that more must be done.  
Iran is an outlaw state.  Its repugnant behavior has not 
changed.  Let me be clear about what our main concerns are.

First, Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the 
world.

Second, through its support of particular terrorist 
enterprises, Iran seeks to undermine the Middle East peace 
process.

And third, Iran is a major proliferation threat and is 
pursuing a determined course to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran's backing for international terrorism is pervasive.  It 
has supported violence across the Middle East:  in Lebanon, 
Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, and now in Gaza.  Its 
terrorist reach is also global, extending to Africa, Latin 
America, Asia and Europe as well.

We estimate that Iran, a country that is now in the throes of 
a severe economic crisis, nevertheless spends several hundred 
million dollars a year to provide radical groups with 
weapons, equipment, training and financial support.

Iran is the primary patron of terrorists trying to derail the 
Arab/Israeli peace process.  Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizballah, 
Ahmed Jabril's Popular Front, each of those organizations 
receives funds, training and political support from Iran, 
support which they have used to leave a trail a carnage from 
Beit Lid to Buenos Aires.

A regime with this kind of a record simply cannot be 
permitted to get its hands on nuclear weapons.  Based upon a 
wide variety of data, we know that since the mid-l980's, Iran 
has had an organized structure dedicated to acquiring and 
developing nuclear weapons.

We know that Iran is seeking a capability to produce both 
plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the critical materials 
for a nuclear bomb.  For years, Iran has been trying to 
purchase heavy water research reactors that are best suited 
to producing weapons-grade plutonium, not electricity.

We know that Iran is devoting resources to various uranium-
enrichment technologies focusing on the gas centrifuge.

Iran has been frustrated so far in its efforts to produce 
weapon-grade material at home.  Therefore, it has
aggressively sought to buy them abroad.  Its agents have 
scoured the former Soviet Union in search of nuclear 
materials, technologies and scientists.  In l992, for 
example, Iran unsuccessfully approached a plant in Kazakhstan 
for substantial quantities of enriched uranium.

In terms of its organization, programs, procurement and 
covert activities, Iran is pursuing the classic route to 
nuclear weapons which has been followed by almost all states 
that have recently sought a nuclear capability.

If the international community does not take strong action to 
counter its efforts, Iran will achieve its goal.  When that 
might happen, no one can predict with certainty; but what we 
do know is that if Iran gets substantial foreign help, it 
will be able to build nuclear weapons sooner rather than 
later.

That is why we will continue to oppose any Russian or Chinese 
cooperation with Iran on nuclear matters.  We are convinced 
that the expertise and technology gained, even from 
cooperation that appears to be strictly civilian in nature, 
that cooperation will be used to advance Iran's nuclear 
program.  For that reason, all the leading industrialized 
democracies of the world have rejected nuclear trade with 
Iran because they recognize that it is simply too dangerous 
to do so.

With its proven record of terrorism and aggressive ambitions, 
Iran cannot be given the benefit of the doubt.  Increased 
international pressure must be applied to Iran to bring about 
a change in its policies.

That is exactly the goal of the President's Executive Order.  
It sends an unmistakable message to friend and foe alike:  we 
view Iran's action as a major threat to United States 
interests and international security, and we're determined to 
stop them.

In recent months, other countries have pointed to the on-
going, although heavily restricted, economic ties between the 
United States and Iran.  They've pointed to that to justify 
their broad-based commercial relationships.  Now the 
President's decision totally eliminates that excuse for their 
going ahead.

The President's decision underscores America's readiness to 
lead by example.  It puts the United States in the strongest 
possible position to urge others to take similar steps.  In 
addition to opposing Russian and Chinese nuclear cooperation 
with Iran, we'll be calling on our G-7 partners to undertake 
a comprehensive review of their economic ties to Iran.

Certainly, they should end all of their concessionary credits 
which allow Iran to divert scarce resources to military 
programs and to sponsoring terrorism.  We're also asking our 
G-7 partners to show maximum restraint across the board just 
as the United States has done.

The President has taken a bold step.  His action deserves the 
support of our friends and allies who share our interest in 
international peace and security.  I'll be redoubling my own 
efforts through various diplomatic steps and means to ensure 
that such support is forthcoming.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, have you had any indication from 
Moscow that this step is causing them to reconsider their 
position on the reactor sale?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Of course, the President just 
announced the step last night.  I intend to be raising the 
matter in Moscow, as certainly the President will.  We're 
very serious about this issue.

I feel that the President's step last night puts us in the 
strongest possible position to advocate both with the 
Russians and Chinese and with others that they do nothing to 
aid Iran in the pursuit of this nuclear weapons capability.

QUESTION:  But did you not give the Russians any advance 
notice of this?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The Russians certainly were not 
surprised by what we did last night.  We've been talking with 
them for some time about the need to take firmer action 
against Iran.  As far as the particular timing of matters, 
I'm not going to get into that.  I'm certain that they're not 
surprised by our having turned up the rheostat in our action 
against Iran, taking action to end all trade between the 
United States and Iran.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, does the Clinton Administration 
have firm evidence that Iranian-backed extremists were 
responsible for the Buenos Aires bombing and that Iran was 
indeed trying to purchase or, in some fashion, acquire the 
radioactive material in Kazakhstan?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I stand on the statement as I read 
it.  It was carefully prepared; it has my full endorsement.  
We have the evidence that justifies the statement that I 
made.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you've been calling Iran an 
"international outlaw" for more than a year.  And, as you 
said today, Iran has had the infrastructure to build a 
nuclear weapons program for the last decade.  So could you 
describe to us what motivated the President to make this 
decision last Friday?  What was behind the timing?  And is it 
fair to say that the decision is motivated by the fact that 
tomorrow the Republicans were going to begin hearings on 
their own sanctions legislation?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Our policy toward Iran has been 
evolving even since the beginning of this Administration.  We 
early on identified Iran and Iraq as international outlaws, 
commenced the dual-containment program.  We have very strong 
sanctions against Iraq at the present time, strong sanctions 
against Libya.

The policy change that the President made last -- the 
decision he made last Friday and announced last night have 
been under consideration for some time.  A number of factors 
go into any decision of that kind.

But I'd have to say, Elaine, that in my own situation one of 
the arguments that was most persuasive to me was that other 
nations were using our trade with Iran as an excuse for 
making concessionary credits or taking other actions to 
strengthen Iran.

The President felt -- certainly, I strongly felt -- that we 
did not want to give anybody a justification or an excuse or 
really even an argument against the strong position that we 
are taking.  Now I think we're in a much better position than 
we were before the President's decision to advocate in the 
strongest terms that other nations take the same kind of 
action that we have taken.

I don't say it was an easy decision.  As the President said 
last night, he did not take it lightly.  But in the long run, 
it will be the right decision for United States interests.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, how will America's relations with 
its top allies and friends be affected if they do not go 
along with this embargo, if they in effect take advantage of 
it and make more money from the situation?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We think that this will give us an 
opportunity to talk with them in the strongest terms, and I 
hope that they will take action that is parallel to ours.

As I said in my statement, I hope at least that they will not 
go forward with any concessionary credits, and there has been 
encouraging news recently from Japan on that front.  I hope 
that they'll take the steps that we've taken, but 
particularly that they'll avoid any concessionary credits 
that Iran can simply use to fuel the terrorism that they're 
projecting around the world.

QUESTION:  What are the consequences for China and Russia if 
they persist in their nuclear-related trade with Iran?  What 
will the Administration do?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  At the present time we're going to be 
using our strongest arguments to persuade them not to do 
that.  One of the points that really needs to be made is that 
this is in their interests.  They are both much closer to 
Iran than we are.

I can't imagine they'd like to have a nuclear-capable Iran on 
or very near their borders, so I'm going to be talking to 
them in terms of their own self-interest.  But I think we're 
strengthened by the sacrifice that the United States is 
prepared to make in order to ensure that it is in the 
strongest possible position to talk with them and talk with 
the others.

MR. BURNS:  Final question.

QUESTION:  In the past, the Administration has said two 
things basically:  that, one, it is almost impossible to 
trace the international oil trade through the Amsterdam 
market; and, second, that sanctions which are empty can be 
worse than no sanctions at all because they destroy the 
credibility.

What has changed to alter those two statements made in the 
past by your Administration?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Let me put it in a little broader 
context.  The President has made economic security and 
economic growth one of the hallmarks of his Administration; 
and since the President has been in office, about 6.5 million 
new jobs have been created.  This is going to continue to be 
a central aspect of the President's foreign and domestic 
policy -- that is, economic growth, economic security.  I 
think the decision here represents the fact that there are 
some instances in which our national security interests are 
so strong, our other interests are so strong, that they 
outweigh the interest in promoting in this one instance 
economic growth.

I do not think in the long term the United States will be 
disadvantaged by this.  On the contrary, I think it 
strengthens our position.  The reason the President took this 
decision was because it enables him to project American 
leadership.

This is all about American leadership.  Will America take the 
sacrifice, undertake the steps, in order to show the way to 
other countries.  I hope that other countries will respond to 
that leadership and do something which is in their self-
interest as well as the international interest in peace and 
stability.  Thanks very much.

MR. BURNS:  Thank you very much.
To the top of this page