President Barack Obama’s National Security Council adviser Dennis Ross, who holds a broad portfolio that ranges from Iran to the Arab-Israeli conflict, addressed the liberal Israel lobby group J Street over the weekend.
Ross closed his remarks, mostly about Arab-Israeli peace, with a few minutes on Iran. Here’s that section of his comments:
Let me close with a few words about Iran. Many of you probably noticed that the Iranian regime has tried to claim credit for the events in Egypt, but we know two things: first, that their claims fell on deaf ears in Egypt where a nation rose up seeking only to improve their own lives under national – not sectarian – ideals; and second, Iran’s claims fell on deaf ears to many Iranians who once again took to the streets this week in an open act of defiance against their government. Indeed, Iran has only exposed its own hypocrisy. As the President Obama said, “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people were who trying to express themselves peacefully.” And following Iran’s continued suppression of peaceful dissent, Secretary Clinton said that “It has been made clear to the world that Iran denies its citizens the same fundamental rights it continues to applaud elsewhere in the Middle East.” We support the universal rights of people to express themselves freely and peacefully – the very rights Iran denied in June 2009 and again these past weeks. We will continue to speak up on behalf of those rights when they are so brazenly denied.
In the meantime, we are keeping our eye on the ball with Iran. We will keep the pressure on and we will increase it with our partners as Iran continues to face serious hardships as a result of international sanctions. Over the past two weeks, the United States has designated an additional Iranian bank for supporting prohibited proliferation activities and imposed sanctions on two Iranian officials for human rights abuses. While the door will always remain open for diplomacy, Iran must know that delay tactics and obfuscations will only lead to more pressure. Iran’s continued unwillingness to engage seriously with the P5+1 and its continued failure to respond fully to inquiries by the IAEA will only add to that pressure. Let me be very clear about one thing: we are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and we will not be deflected from that goal.
We clearly have a full plate of challenges in the Middle East today. But our agenda is clear: help Egypt to conduct a successful, orderly, and credible transition; encourage others in the region to undertake meaningful reform now before they too face destabilizing unrest; continue the push for peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors; and build the pressure on Iran. This is a complex and demanding agenda, but it has the complete attention of the President and his full national security team.