Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Requests for the UN Secretariat to Investigate Violations of UNSCR 2231

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 26, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General Miguel de Serpa Soares, for your briefing.

The claim Russia is making is dumbfounding. Simply dumbfounding. Once again, Russia has wasted the Security Council’s time to deflect attention from its own egregious wrongdoing.

Russia claims that requests from the United States and other countries that the Secretary-General investigate Russia’s and Iran’s violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 are a supposed violation of Article 100 of the Charter. Article 100 provides that “the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive any instructions from any government.”

The requests of the United States and other Council Members were not “instructions.”

They, similar to countless other requests made to the Secretary-General by UN Member States, were requests that he take appropriate action. Many Member States make requests like this to the Secretary-General, including Russia. Indeed, as recently as August of this year, Russia requested that the Secretary-General investigate killings at a prison in eastern Ukraine. The Secretary-General, in response to this request, decided to conduct a fact-finding mission. Far from constituting “instructions” to the Secretary-General, such requests for investigations are common, appropriate, and by no means in violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter.

But this situation is even more clear cut given the unique language and mandate in Security Council Resolution 2231. As colleagues will recall, this important resolution was adopted in July 2015 as the Iran nuclear deal was finalized. It established critical restrictions on Iran that would last for a period of years. All Council members, including Russia, voted for it. Russia was involved in negotiating its provisions.

In this case, Russia and Iran teamed up to violate Resolution 2231. Iran, in violation of Resolution 2231, provided Russia with drones to wreak havoc and inflict destruction on Ukrainian civilians. Russia, in violation of Resolution 2231, procured them. Iran has been open and vocal about its support. And there is no doubt that the transfer occurred without approval by the Council, and thus in violation of Resolution 2231.

The Security Council itself asked the Secretary-General to play a vital role reporting on violations of this resolution. It is therefore well within the authority of the Secretary-General to investigate Russia’s and Iran’s violations of Resolution 2231. That resolution explicitly asked the Secretary-General to report every six months on the implementation of that resolution’s provisions. At the time it was adopted and in the seven years since, Council members have understood this mandate to include investigations of alleged violations of that resolution, typically following reports of concerns by Member States.

In fact, there is ample precedent for the UN Secretariat to carry out independent investigations as a part of this mandate to report on implementation. Over the past seven years, the Secretary-General has submitted to the Security Council 13 reports summarizing its investigations and findings on non-compliance.

For example, in the report contained in S/2017/1030, the Secretary-General reported on an investigation of allegations that Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles were used by the Houthis in attacks against Saudi Arabia. The Secretary-General reported on a visit to Saudi Arabia, examination of the weapons debris and other investigative actions taken by the Secretariat in response to the allegations.

More recently, in response to an invitation from the authorities of Saudi Arabia, the Secretariat traveled to Riyadh in October 2021 to examine the debris from six ballistic missiles tied to the Houthi attacks.

The Secretariat’s team also went to Israel in 2021 to inspect Iranian UAVs that had infiltrated Israeli airspace.

In each of these cases, crucially, the Secretary-General’s report did not just consist of verbatim repetition of allegations of violations of Resolution 2231 and/or assertions of denials of the same by Member States. Instead, the Secretariat engaged in its own investigations in order to evaluate the allegations, so that it could report – as it is mandated to do – on the extent to which the alleged violations impacted the implementation of Resolution 2231 by Member States.

It is thus well-established that it is well within the authority of the Secretary-General to investigate allegations of violations of Resolution 2231.

The United States’ and other requests that the Secretary-General investigate the latest violations by Iran and Russia were appropriate and urgently needed. Russia’s response – that the Ukraine report should be treated differently and that UN leadership should block the investigations typically undertaken in these cases – is deeply troubling and inconsistent with years of this Council’s practice.

Now we see Russia making threats against the United Nations. For reasons that are obvious to all, Russia seeks to obstruct and confuse.

But yielding to these threats – and acceding to Russia’s demand that the Secretariat not carry out its 2231 mandate in this instance – would be extremely problematic. It would undermine implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and give all countries, including Russia, a free pass to flout Security Council-imposed obligations.

The United States regrets that Russia has once again abused its position as a Council member to waste this body’s time and seek to hide its own violations of our resolutions.

Thank you, Mr. President.