Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Non-Proliferation (Iran)

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 26, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you to Under Secretary-General DiCarlo, to the Permanent Representative of Belgium, and to the Head of the EU Delegation for your briefings.

The seventh report of the Secretary-General reflects the same tone of concern and increasing alarm of many Member States over the past several weeks. The report comes as Iran continues to destabilize the Middle East not only through support to terrorist groups and proxy forces, but now through attacks on commercial shipping. The findings and information presented in the Secretary-General’s report add to the deeply troubling picture of Iran’s behavior.

The report details the Secretariat’s inspection of arms and related material recovered in Yemen that were clearly manufactured in Iran, including a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle and a new unmanned surface vessel. The inspection negates the repeated excuse that this weaponry was in Yemen’s arsenal prior to the adoption of Resolution 2231. It clearly was not.

Mr. President, groups supported by Iran still openly talk of the military assistance they continue to receive from Tehran in violation of the UN arms embargo. The report cites a televised speech by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and an Al Quds Brigades spokesperson in May, each of whom spoke of Iran’s military shipments to Hamas and to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Under the arms embargo in Resolution 2231, all Member States must take the necessary measures to prevent arms transfers from Iran unless they are approved by the UN Security Council.

Coordinating Iran’s military support efforts is IRGC Qods Force Major General Qasem Soleimani, whom the report notes continues to travel freely in the Middle East despite the travel ban provisions of Resolution 2231. This is not the first time the Secretary-General has reported to the Security Council on his travel. The report notes that other designated Iranian officials are also traveling in violation of the travel ban. The fact that these violations continue for years on end is evidence of lax implementation of the restrictive measures outlined in Annex B of Resolution 2231.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, we see the latest concrete examples of how Iran is destabilizing the region, by threatening international shipping and airspace, prolonging the violence in Yemen, and supporting the expansion of terrorist groups and proxies throughout the Middle East. These data points lead us to the conclusion that Iran continues to send weapons across the Middle East, in blatant violation of the Council’s resolutions.

On May 8, Iran announced that it would take steps to cease performing certain core nuclear commitments, a step that most agree threatens to undermine peace and security in the region and beyond. As a first such step, Iran said it plans to expand its stockpile of low-enriched uranium beyond 300 kilograms by June 27. It also said that, if its conditions are not met, Iran will also start enriching uranium to higher levels and may return to a nuclear reactor project at Arak that was well-suited to producing plutonium. The IAEA has already reported that Iran has installed additional advanced centrifuges and is operating them in numbers that violate its agreed limits on such mechanical testing. Iran is taking these steps even as it refuses to acknowledge that it hid and preserved a secret nuclear weapons archive from the world. Had Israel not removed that archive from Iran, it could have been a source from which Iranian scientists could have drawn, should the regime decide to re-initiate its previous nuclear weapons program. Iran’s actions are deeply counterproductive, and will increase Iran’s isolation. Notably, Resolution 2231 provides a mechanism for the Council to address significant non-performance by Iran of its nuclear commitments.

Mr. President, Iran’s defiance of the Security Council, and its reckless behavior threatening peace and security globally, must not be down-played in the name of preserving a deal that doesn’t fully cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Iranian provocations have been relentless, and their excuses for every provocation – from launches using ballistic missile technology to procurement of prohibited items to support for the Houthis to flagrant violations of the arms embargo – strain credulity.

Responsibility for Iran’s economic woes belongs to Tehran. Whether through gross economic mismanagement, corruption, or the redirection of its money for militaristic purposes around the region, Iran’s own behavior has caused its economic decline.

Mr. President, the false narrative – that the United States is to blame for Iran’s economic woes – strays beyond the bounds of annex B’s intention in Resolution 2231. References in the report to other governments’ efforts to work around those measures are inappropriate.

This report outlines in detail some important facts: that Iranian arms and related material are showing up beyond its borders in conflict zones in the region; that its missiles and related technologies are hitting civilian targets; and that its terrorist proxies Hezbollah and PIJ are speaking openly of the support Iran provides to them.

Does anyone really believe that Iran is not behind these transfers?

Mr. President, the United States has made clear its willingness to engage in dialogue with Iran to negotiate a deal that will better serve international peace and security, but in the meantime, we will not and this Council should not sit idly by while Iran perpetrates attacks on our partners in the region and on commercial vessels in the Gulf.

We intend to do everything in our power to curb malign Iranian behavior – including through updates to the 2231 sanctions regime, which the Secretary-General’s report highlights are necessary to ensure implementation. We hope our partners on the Council will join us.

I thank you.