U.S. urges UN to punish Iran over missile activity; Russia opposes sanctions

Special to WorldTribune.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Amb. Nikki Haley urged the United Nations Security Council to punish Iran for what she called “destabilizing behavior” and “dangerous violations” of UN arms embargoes, but Russia ruled out sanctions and said dialogue is needed.

Speaking before the council late on Dec. 19, Haley said a ballistic missile strike on Saudi Arabia by Yemeni rebels earlier in the day was “a flashing red siren for this council,” and said the strike had “all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, right, with Vladimir Safronkov, Russian Deputy UN Ambassador. / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP

Riyadh, which backs the Yemeni government in its war against the Houthi rebels, said it intercepted the missile, which was targeted on the palace of Saudi King Salman, and accused Iran of supplying it to the rebels.

“It is only a matter of time before one of these missiles hits the target,” said Haley. “If we don’t do something, we will miss the opportunity to prevent further violence from Iran,” she said.

Haley last week paraded before reporters in Washington what she called “undeniable evidence” that Iran had supplied missiles for two previous Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, and said she would bring the matter before the UN.

Haley told the council on Dec. 19 that it should consider sanctions over what she called Iran’s “clear violation” of a UN embargo on weapons sales to Yemen, and she said it should also hold the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accountable for violating numerous council resolutions.

Other options for pressuring Iranians “to adjust their malign behavior,” she said, include adopting a resolution prohibiting all Iranian ballistic missile activity, and strengthening a UN council resolution carrying out the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal to prohibit ballistic missile activity.

But Russian Deputy UN Amb. Vladimir Safronkov quickly ruled that out, urging the council instead “to abandon the language of threats and sanctions, and to start using the instruments of dialogue.”

Safronkov said the council should “concentrate on broadening cooperation and mutual trust” with Iran.

The council meeting was called to discuss a report this month from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that found Iran was complying with the nuclear deal, which requires curbs on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

But the report said Tehran may be defying the UN council’s call for Iran to halt ballistic missile development, which was included in the resolution carrying out the nuclear deal. Iran and Russia have maintained that part of the deal was not binding on Tehran.

Guterres said the UN is investigating whether Iran provided the ballistic missiles Houthi Shi’ite rebels in Yemen have used in strikes against Saudi Arabia.

Safronkov accused the UN Secretariat of carrying out investigations without prior council approval, saying it “has neither the authority nor the expertise,” and he said the information obtained “cannot be considered accurate.”

Last week, Haley displayed fragments of what she said were the missiles that hit Saudi Arabia earlier this year, saying they provided “undeniable” evidence that Iran manufactured the,missiles and was supplying them to the Shi’ite Houthi rebels.

After the Houthi missile strike on Dec. 19, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it was “deeply disturbed by aggressive Houthi actions supported by Iran’s provision of advanced weapons, which threaten regional security and prolong the Yemen conflict.”