Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Iran, Resolution 2231

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 19, 2019


Thank you very much to our briefers today.

The 8th report of the Secretary-General on Resolution 2231 describes an abundance of Iranian activity carried out in flagrant disregard of Security Council resolutions. We appreciate the Secretary-General’s detailed report on the September 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities. As we have said numerous times, Iran is responsible for these attacks. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany have joined us in that assessment. There is simply no other plausible explanation. Only Iran could have carried out an attack of this complexity and scope. The weapons used in the attack did not have the range to come from Houthi territory. The UAVs had numerous characteristics in common with Iranian designs. And the damage at the oil facilities shows that the attack came from the north, not from the south, as you would expect if the Houthis were responsible. The Council should pause and consider what this means. The Islamic Republic of Iran attacked a sovereign nation from its own territory. This provocative act must be condemned by all nations, regardless of your stance on the nuclear deal. The Council must hold Iran accountable.

The Secretary-General’s report also confirms that Iran continues to destabilize the region; prolong violence in Yemen; and support the expansion of terrorist groups and proxies. For instance, the Secretary-General highlights Iranian transfers of advanced missile technology to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Further, Iran continues to saturate the Middle East with arms, in violation of Resolution 2231. Among numerous examples are rocket-propelled grenade launchers shipped to Aden, cruise missiles passed to the Houthis, and drones and explosives provided to Syria by the IRGC. The United States has interdicted a vessel carrying arms off the coast of Yemen in late November. This follows a pattern of the Iranian shipments to the Houthis. In this shipment was a large amount of advanced weapons, including sophisticated components of anti-ship cruise missiles, land attack cruise missiles, air defense missiles, UAV components, and anti-tank missiles. Our investigation into these weapons is ongoing, and we expect to provide additional details in the near future. We have also given UN arms experts access to this material. Imagine what the Houthis might have done with these Iranian weapons. With a cruise missile, they could once again attack a civilian airport, like they did in Abha, Saudi Arabia last year. With an Iranian anti-ship missile, the Houthis could take aim at the world’s shipping, like they did when they hit a Turkish ship carrying wheat in 2018.

When Iran supplies weapons to its proxies, the [threats] are not abstract. Just one of these missiles could spark a regional confrontation none of us want. Iran also continues to defy the Security Council’s call in Resolution 2231 to refrain from activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, IRGC Quds Force Commander General Soleimani travels freely around the region to help Iran’s proxies plan attacks and crush peaceful protests. We remind all Member States that they are obligated to prevent Soleimani’s entry into, or transit through, their territories pursuant to Resolution 2231.

Regarding the asset freeze, IRGC firms on Resolution 2231’s sanctions list to continue work in third countries – in violation of the resolution. This shows the importance of updating the resolution’s list of sanctioned individuals and entities with accurate information. Such updates will help Member States ensure full compliance with the asset freeze. Iran’s provocations are relentless, and their attempted explanations for each of the ones I have just discussed strain credibility. In this way, Iran repeatedly demonstrates its contempt for the Security Council. As noted in the report, following Iran’s announcement that it would begin uranium enrichment activities in the Fordow facility, the United States announced the termination of the sanctions waiver regarding the centrifuge cascade modification project, effective December 15, 2019. The United States rejects Iran’s use of nuclear brinksmanship to normalize its destabilizing behavior. Iran originally constructed Fordow as a fortified, underground bunker to secretly enrich uranium. There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this site. Iran must immediately cease its enrichment activity there.

The United States is willing to engage in dialogue with Iran to negotiate a deal that will better serve international peace and security. But we will not sit idly by while Iran continues to destabilize the region. We will do everything in our power to curb malign Iranian behavior, and we urge our partners on the Council to do the same. I also want to raise an issue of grave concern to the United States. Iran’s response to recent protests across the country has been brutal. The United States strongly condemns Iran’s response, and we stand in solidarity with the Iranian people. Although we still do not have a full picture of the regime’s repression and human rights abuses during these protests, we are deeply troubled by what we do know. Videos from the scene show that 40 to 100 protestors were [massacred] by IRGC forces in Mahshahr. It is likely that the regime’s crackdown has been even more brutal than the reports to date indicate.

The United States welcomes recent statements of concern by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, but more must be done. We urge the UN to focus on this matter, and we stress that the relevant UN entities and special rapporteurs should conduct a thorough investigation into the Iranian government’s response to these protests.

Thank you.