Thank you, Mr. President.
Our goal in discussing the Middle East is to work on peace, security, and human rights for the region. We can’t talk about stability in the Middle East without talking about Iran. That’s because nearly every threat to peace and security in the Middle East is connected to Iran’s outlaw behavior.
For the international community’s engagement with Iran, this is a time of clarity and opportunity. The United States has now embarked on a course that attempts to address all aspects of Iran’s destructive conduct, not just one aspect. It’s critical that the international community do the same.
Every six months, the Secretary-General delivers a report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Council unanimously passed. The report has always noted the IAEA’s findings that Iran is implementing the nuclear deal. But then it goes on: it lists the regime’s multiple, flagrant violations on the resolution’s non-nuclear provisions. Every six months, the Security Council is presented with this laundry list of bad news, but somehow manages to only hear the good news. Some countries, to their credit, have called out Iran for its malign behavior. But as a Council, we’ve adopted a dangerously short-sighted approach.
Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat. Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish.
This clarity brings opportunity. It gives the Council the chance to defend its integrity. It gives us the chance to work together as a community of nations to uphold the provisions of resolutions we have all worked so hard to pass. The Security Council has repeatedly passed resolutions aimed at addressing Iranian support for terrorism and regional conflicts. But Iran has repeatedly thumbed its nose at those efforts.
Worse, the regime continues to play this Council. Iran hides behind its assertion of technical compliance with the nuclear deal while it brazenly violates the other limits on its behavior. And we have allowed them to get away with it. This must stop.
The list of the Iranian regime’s violations of Security Council resolutions is too long to repeat here. So I will confine myself to the highlights.
Resolution 2231 bans the transfer of conventional weapons from Iran. Yet today we see Iran identified as a source of weapons in conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria and Lebanon. The United States, France, Australia, Ukraine, and others have intercepted Iranian shipments of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank missiles, among other weapons, that are bound for Yemen.
The Iranian regime has been a key source of arms and strategic military support to the Houthi rebels, both directly, through its military, and indirectly, through its Hizballah proxy forces. Not only is this a violation of Resolution 2231, it also violates Resolution 2216, which imposes an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels. Iran has repeatedly and brazenly violated not one but two UN Security Council resolutions in Yemen. And yet few on this Council have said anything at all.
Resolution 2231 also bans travel outside Iran by senior Iranian officials, including Major General Soleimani. And yet the Secretary-General’s report lists multiple press photos and reports of the general traveling to Syria and Iraq. You can even find pictures on social media of him visiting Russia. This is an open and direct violation of Resolution 2231. And yet, where’s the outrage of this Council?
There’s more. Plenty more.
In Resolutions 1701 and 1559, the Council unanimously called on Hizballah to disarm. Nonetheless, Hizballah is building an arsenal of war in Lebanon with weapons supplied by Iran. Again, none of this is going on in secret. The leader of Hizballah talks openly about the support Iran provides. He has reportedly boasted that sanctions can’t hurt Hizballah because “everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
And these are only the Iranian regime’s activities on which the Security Council has taken a clear position.
What about Iran’s support of arms, financing, and training and fighters to the bloody Assad regime in Syria? And there’s the consistent Iranian threats to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. And there’s the Iranian regime’s cyber attacks against the United States, Israel, and other UN Member States. And then there’s Iran’s imprisoning of foreign journalists and tourists on made-up charges. Some Americans, like Bob Levinson, have not been heard from in over a decade.
Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. The Iranian regime abuses its own people. It imprisons or murders political opposition. It persecutes Christians and other religious minorities. It denies freedom of speech. It executes gays and lesbians.
And there’s one more thing. The list of Iran’s dangerous and destructive behavior that I just outlined does not even include the regime’s most threatening act: Its repeated ballistic missile launches, including the launch this summer of an ICBM-enabling missile – that should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations. When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands. If it is wrong for North Korea to do this, why doesn’t that same mentality apply to Iran?
With our decision to take a comprehensive approach to confronting the Iranian regime, the United States will not turn a blind eye to these violations. We have made it clear that the regime cannot have it both ways. It cannot consistently violate international law and still be considered a fit and trusted member of the international community.
This Council now has the opportunity to change its policy toward the Iranian regime. I sincerely hope it will take this chance to defend not only the resolutions, but also peace, security, and human rights in Iran.