Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 20, 2020
Foreign Minister Lavrov, thank you for convening this meeting on Persian Gulf security. The topic of this discussion comes at a historic time for the United States: in recent months, we have worked with our partners in the region to broker the Abraham Accords, first between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and then between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
These normalization agreements lay the foundation for diplomatic relations, and the beginning of cooperation across a broad range of fields including education, healthcare, trade, and security.
The Abraham Accords underscore President Trump’s vision for peace and what has long been the reality on the ground in the Middle East: that the United States is at the forefront of efforts to address ongoing conflicts in the region and promote peace. Our presence has a stabilizing effect and the partnerships we have built over the many years provide a foundation for meaningful engagement and constructive cooperation.
The Trump Administration has also proposed the equally historic Vision for Peace. What makes this plan so different from past efforts is that it can be realistically implemented. To date, it is the most serious and detailed plan ever presented to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
While we understand the Palestinians may not like every aspect of the plan, it offers a legitimate starting point for negotiations and we hope they will take advantage of this opportunity. I look forward to a time soon when the Israelis and Palestinians will resume direct negotiations to reach a peaceful resolution of their conflict, and we need to see an end to outside interference including the extremist political activities from bad actors in the Persian Gulf.
The fact is the Trump Administration has brought fresh thinking and a new approach to the Middle East, and it’s paying off. The Abraham Accords and the Vision for Peace represent what is possible in the region under bold American leadership.
The root of this success lies in our efforts to rebuild trust and restore credibility with our partners in the region. Adopting the right strategy on Iran has been an important part of these efforts.
The United States recognizes that Iran is the single greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East. We know that when nations stand together and confront Iran, the world is a safer place.
Today, we are confronting the full range of Iran’s destabilizing activities, from its support of terrorist groups and proxies, to its development of ballistic missiles in defiance of the Security Council.
I understand that my Russian colleagues have proposed creating a Persian Gulf Security construct to promote stability in the region. Respectfully, I think the solution is much easier: this Council must simply muster the courage to hold Iran accountable to its existing international obligations. And it is a fact that Iran is neither abiding by the letter nor spirit of this Council’s decisions.
In Yemen, Iran continues to support the Houthi rebels who have plunged that country into a bloody civil war, now in its sixth year. This conflict has brought destitution, destruction, and untold suffering to the Yemeni people. Many now struggle to buy food and meet other basic needs. Instead of supporting peace efforts to end the conflict, Iran has continually sent the Houthis weapons to fuel the war, in violation of the arms embargo in Resolution 2216.
In Syria, the Assad regime continues to give Iran and its military proxies safe harbor to extend their terror campaign and project its military power deeper into the Middle East, threatening the lives of the Syrian people, but also the security of Israel. Iranian forces must withdraw from Syria for there to be lasting peace. Only the UN-facilitated political solution outlined in Resolution 2254 will pave the way for Syria at peace with its people and the region.
In Lebanon, Iran continues to arm Hizballah in blatant violation of Resolutions 1701 and 1559, most notably the arms embargo that this Council reaffirmed less than two months ago. Month after month, some here today turn a blind eye as Iran channels sophisticated weapons and money into Lebanon, ensuring there can never be peace. This Council must do more to address both the incomplete implementation of Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and Hizballah’s illicit activities.
In Iraq, Iran continues to support local militias, in violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and Resolution 2522. These militias are responsible for targeting and murdering peaceful Iraqi protestors, civil society activists, and members of the media. Iranian-backed militias continue to target U.S. and other diplomatic facilities, placing American diplomats and Iraqi civilians in harm, and jeopardizing the ability of the United States to fully assist the Iraqi government and people.
As long as Iran and others support the terrorist activities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, our sincere efforts to help Israelis and Palestinians reach peace and build a better future together will be threatened by terror and mired in meaningless and perpetual violence and conflict.
These are the facts. If we intend for this to be a meaningful and constructive conversation about insecurity in the region, then we must openly acknowledge the main driver of its insecurity – Iran.
Just imagine how much safer the Middle East would be today if Iran abided by existing UN Security Council resolutions. Just imagine if countries in the region were able to grow, prosper, and develop without the looming threat of Iranian drone or missile attacks, or the constant fear that Iran may sabotage international shipping lanes. Just imagine if this Council would simply muster the courage to hold Iran accountable.
Foreign Minister Lavrov, I appreciate the focus Russia has placed today on Gulf security. But, respectfully, I disagree with the solution that you have proposed. The international community does not need yet another mechanism to promote Gulf security. The Security Council has all the tools at its disposal to hold Iran accountable; we must simply decide to do so.
The United States will continue to hold Iran accountable, even if it means we must act alone. As I said in Washington on September 21 when the United States took decisive action to snap back previously lifted sanctions on Iran and restore arms restrictions after this body failed to extend the 13-year arms embargo, what makes America special is that we are unafraid to stand up for what is right. And I don’t need a cheering section to validate my moral compass.
While we will continue our maximum pressure campaign to deny the regime the means to continue fueling terror, we stand ready to meet Iran at the negotiating table to conclude a comprehensive deal, as Secretary Pompeo has outlined.
As I close, I want to remind you at the beginning of this Administration, President Trump promised he would strengthen America’s friendships and build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. He has kept his promise.
The United States is a force for good in the Middle East – and around the world – and the successes we have helped bring about recently open new possibilities for peace and prosperity that are long overdue.
Members of this Council must recognize that these milestones would not have been possible without the efforts the United States and others have made to contain Iran. We call upon this body to take every action consistent with its mandate and hold Iran accountable for its actions without delay.
Thank you, very much.