Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing Called by Russia on Threats to International Peace and Security

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
February 5, 2024


Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo, for your briefing.

Colleagues, on February 2, and at President Biden’s direction, the United States conducted precision airstrikes on February 2 in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and affiliated militia groups. This necessary and proportionate action was taken in exercise of the United States’ inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Less than a week ago, on January 28, Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq attacked a Jordanian facility hosting U.S. forces taking part in the fight against ISIS/Da’esh. Three U.S. service members lost their lives that day, and many others were wounded. This loss is devastating. This is unacceptable. And attacks like it cannot continue.

Colleagues, Russia called this meeting under the false pretense that the United States has no ground to respond to attacks that have killed U.S. personnel. It bears repeating, therefore, that the actions U.S. forces took on February 2 are necessary and proportionate, consistent with international law, and in exercise of the United States’ inherent right to self-defense. We also repeatedly stated in previous letters to this Council that the United States would take further action to respond to future attacks – or threats of attacks – against U.S. nationals and U.S. personnel and facilities.

These recent strikes certainly fall into that category. They are aimed at protecting and defending U.S. personnel including those in Jordan who are supporting operations against ISIS to ensure the terrorist group can never resurge. The strikes successfully degraded the capabilities of Iranian-backed militias, deterring and undermining their ability to conduct further attacks. The facilities struck included command and control operations and intelligence centers; rockets, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicle storage; and logistics and munition supply chain facilities.

The IRGC and affiliated militias have used these facilities to attack U.S. and Coalition forces. These targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on U.S. personnel in the region. President Biden has made clear that these strikes were the start of our response to the deadly attack on Tower 22 in northeastern Jordan.

I also want to stress that these strikes are separate and distinct from the coalition strikes in Yemen, which were in response to the Iranian-backed Houthis’ lawless attacks on naval vessels and international shipping in the Red Sea.

Let me be clear: the United States does not desire more conflict in a region when we are actively working to contain and de-escalate the conflict in Gaza. And we are not seeking a direct conflict with Iran. But we will continue to defend our personnel against unacceptable attacks. Period.

The U.S. and Coalition forces are deployed in our shared effort to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. As we have reported in numerous letters to the Security Council President, since October 18, Iran-aligned militia groups have attacked those forces in Iraq, Syria, and now Jordan, over 165 times – 165 times. Iran has provided support for many of these attacks, which were similar to the one on January 28. Many of them have resulted in casualties, including among our Iraqi partners.

The United States has repeatedly, and, in some instances, directly warned Iran about attacks on U.S. personnel. And yet, Iran has failed to rein in its extremist proxies. On the contrary, Iran continues to escalate tensions across the region by enabling these proxies’ deadly attacks. Iran cannot deny its role in enabling these attacks against U.S. forces, or its responsibility for this escalation.

And so, we call on every member of this Council – and especially those with direct channels to Iran – to press Iran’s leaders to rein in their militias and stop these attacks. They should also press the Syrian regime to stop giving Iran a platform to de-stabilize the region.

Colleagues, as President Biden has made clear, we will not hesitate to defend our personnel and hold responsible all those who harm Americans. That certainly goes for Iran and its proxies. And so, we will continue to exercise our right to self-defense at a time and a place of our choosing, and we will continue hold Iran and its affiliates accountable for their destabilizing actions.

Thank you, Madam President.