Explanation of Vote on a Draft UN Security Council Resolution Condemning Iran for Arms Embargo Violations in Yemen

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 26, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

Today, Russia accused the majority of this Council of attempting to destabilize the region by supporting the UK’s text. This is perverse when, in fact, Russia’s veto today serves only to protect Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region and spread its malign influence.

The Security Council’s failure to pass the UK resolution today has set back our collective efforts to promote peace in Yemen. Not all Member States are responsible for this egregious failure, but we will all have to deal with its consequences: continuing conflict and suffering in Yemen, and the possibility of a wider war in the region.

The Security Council’s Yemen Panel of Experts report laid out in devastating detail the evidence of Iran’s ongoing, destructive defiance of this Council’s resolutions. The panel found significant evidence that Iran has violated the Yemen arms embargo established by this Council in 2015 in Resolution 2216. Iran failed to prevent the transfer of ballistic missiles, related military equipment, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology to the Houthi militants.

And how did the panel know? Because the ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis that struck near civilian areas in Saudi Arabia were found to be of Iranian origin. As the U.S. intelligence community has long known, Iranian weapons are getting into the hands of Yemeni militias, and these militias are using them to target the capitals of Yemen’s neighbors.

In response, the UK’s resolution was a simple common sense one. It called out Iran for giving the Houthis the tools to threaten Yemen’s neighbors and to threaten freedom of navigation through the Red Sea.

But this common sense attempt to hold Iran accountable has failed, and all members of this Council should be aware of the potential consequences. The Panel of Experts warned that the Houthis’ use of ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia has “the potential to turn a local conflict into a broader regional one.”

We talk a lot about using preventative diplomacy around here. It’s, in fact, how we fulfill the mandate of the UN Charter to maintain peace and security. Today, preventative diplomacy has failed. We have rolled over the sanctions, but we have not targeted the party that is destabilizing Yemen. The principles of the UN Charter have been betrayed. And the world is a step closer to worsening confrontation in the Middle East as a result.

Our partners have spoken often about their desire to address the Iranian regime’s regional misbehavior in the context of the JCPOA. We thank those members of the Council who stood by this commitment today. Their votes in support of the UK resolution sent the clear message that they expect Iran to live up to its international obligations.

Russia, Bolivia, China, Kazakstan sent an opposite, but equally clear, message. Instead of demanding accountability from Iran, they decided to shield Tehran from responsibility. Instead of protecting their fellow Member States, they declined to step in and defend partners like Saudi Arabia and UAE. And instead of insisting that Iran live up to its international obligations, they have invited Iran to continue promoting chaos in the Middle East. Their actions will not be forgotten. Nor will they go unanswered.

Today’s vote was a deep disappointment. But this is far from the end of the road to accountability for Iran. Across the region, Iran is entrenching itself. We see this in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. It is flouting its obligations under multiple Security Council resolutions as we speak. And it is making the world a more dangerous place.

We will not hesitate to continue to make the world aware of Iran’s misdeeds. And we will not stop until Tehran is stopped and peace is once more possible for the people of the Middle East. Thank you.