Explanation of Vote on the U.S. Resolution Extending the Iran Arms Embargo

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 14, 2020

Explanation of Vote on the U.S. Resolution Extending the Iran Arms Embargo

One of the enduring truths of the last 75 years is that the United Nations rarely lives up to its own ideals, and far too often falls victim to the narrowest political interests of its membership.

Well, today was one of those days. When the worst tendency of the United Nations was on display in the Security Council.

When I assumed this position almost exactly a year ago, I made a point to underscore to all Council members that this body’s credibility was in tatters. There was too much at stake, I said, to let the Security Council fade from relevance by getting lost in its own dysfunction.

This body was formed to advance global peace and security, and none of us should struggle to understand what that requires of us.

And yet, today, the United States stands sickened – but not surprised – as the clear majority of Council members gave the green light to Iran to buy and sell all manner of conventional weapons. The Council’s failure today will serve neither peace nor security. Rather, it will fuel greater conflict and drive even more insecurity.

Failing to step up to this moral challenge validates the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, just to save face and protect a failed political deal made outside the Council. A flawed deal, it is worth noting, under which Iran remains in significant non-performance of its commitments.

I’ve spoken in the Council about Iran’s malign behavior. I’ve spoken of the risks in allowing the Iranian regime to import and export new and more powerful weapons. I’ve spoken to each of you about American determination to contain the Iranian threat.

Today, I would prefer that those Security Council members who opposed or stood silently by on this resolution do the speaking.

Speak to the mothers in Yemen watching their children wither and die as a direct result of Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels. Tell them how the Security Council works in their interests.

Speak to the families in Syria that have been shattered as a direct result of Iran’s support for the Assad regime. Tell them that the Security Council hears their pleas.

Speak to the people of Lebanon, who are still reeling from the disaster in the Port of Beirut, and know all too well the poisonous influence of Iran and Hezbollah on their nation.

Speak to the countries in the region, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel who have pleaded with this Council to do the right thing, the obvious thing, the moral thing and extend the arms embargo on Iran.

Tell them that the Security Council acknowledged the urgent threat posed by Iran, and recalls that they have been the targets of Iranian missiles and other aggression, as confirmed by the Secretary General in his recent 2231 Report.

Tell them that the last thing the Security Council would ever do is to trigger a regional arms race by unlocking Iran’s ability to purchase sophisticated missile batteries, fighter jets, tanks and other modern weapons.

And finally, speak to the people of Iran, who have been living under this regime’s violent and unrelenting repression for more than 40 years. Tell them that the Security Council understands their plight and supports their desperate cries for freedom.

I have yet to hear a single member of this Council make the national security argument that Iran should be able to freely buy and sell weapons, and don’t think for one minute I’ve grown weary of trying to coax this Council to return to its original purpose, to focus on the human implications of its actions.

The defeat of this resolution outlines perfectly this Council’s current condition of paralysis and inaction in the face of growing threats. The questions before us were simple today. Has Iran done anything to warrant reconsideration of its status as the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism? Should UN arms restrictions that have been in place for 13 years be lifted?

Rather than acknowledge these questions, members of this body sought refuge in the remnants of the failed Iran nuclear deal. Preserving the last threads of that deal became the objective, not the interests of humanity or the pursuit of peace.

And even in this context, I remind my colleagues from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom that their governments made clear just this June that, and I quote, “…we believe that the planned lifting of the UN conventional arms embargo established by Resolution 2231 next October would have major implications for regional security and stability.”

That belief appears to have been short-lived.

The United States has acted in good faith throughout this process, and made clear to all parties that failure was simply not an option. Under Resolution 2231, the United States has every right to initiate snapback of provisions of previous Security Council resolutions. In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo.

The Trump administration’s vision for peace in the Middle East will endure the abject failures of the UN Security Council. Just yesterday that vision was again validated in the historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States is a force for good in the world. And when multilateralism fails, we will not.

History will easily trace the path of leadership in this era, and unfortunately it will not go through the UN Security Council.