Calling the latest round of sanctions the toughest and most comprehensive Iran has ever faced, President Obama said they sent "an unmistakable message" about the international community's commitment to stop nuclear proliferation.
The United Nations Security Council today voted 12 to 2 in favor of a tighter regime of sanctions on Iran -- meant to put pressure on the country to "comply with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program," which the U.S. believes is aimed at building nuclear weapons.
Turkey and Brazil voted against Resolution 1929, which established the new sanctions, and Lebanon abstained from the vote.
"We recognize Iran's rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. And time and again, the Iranian government has failed to meet those responsibilities," Obama said, acknowledging the country's right to peaceful nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The president said the nuclear enrichment facility in Qom that the Iranian government had sought to conceal raised serious questions about the nature of the country's program. He also said Iran had failed to comply fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency's requirements and had violated its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment, enriching up to 20 percent.
"Iran is the only NPT signatory in the world -- the only one -- that cannot convince the IAEA that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes."
The sanctions are designed to "increase the cost to Iran's leaders of their current irresponsible policies," according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Office of Press and Public Diplomacy. They are not aimed at the Iranian people, Obama and other US officials stressed.
The sanctions include a ban on Iranian investment in sensitive nuclear activities abroad (like uranium mining, enrichment, and reprocessing); a ban on sales of certain conventional arms to Iran or spare parts for those weapons; and a prohibition of any Iranian activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Countries are also required to prevent transferring any related technology or technical assistance to Iran and would prohibit new banking relationships with Iran when there is a suspected link to proliferation.
The new regime -- which builds on three previous rounds of UN sanctions on the country -- imposes a new cargo inspection framework to prevent smuggling of contraband and requires countries to seize and dispose of any contraband found.
The Resolution establishes a U.N. "Panel of Experts" to monitor the implementation of the sanctions.
After the vote, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who has described the sanctions as tough and precise, spelled out Iran's alleged violations of the nonproliferation treaty. Officials from the United Kingdom and China stressed that the door for dialogue was always open -- something the president also emphasized.
"We know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight, but today's vote demonstrates the growing costs that will come with Iranian intransigence," Obama said. "These sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy; Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path."