Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Iran and Nuclear Non-Proliferation

December 14, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Yemen
  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to all of today’s briefers for providing updates on this critical issue.

The United States continues to pursue the path of diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA, and to address our full range of concerns with Iran. President Biden has been clear: He is prepared to return to U.S. compliance and to stay in compliance, so long as Iran does the same.

We are fully prepared to lift sanctions inconsistent with our JCPOA commitments, which would allow Iran to receive the economic benefits of the deal. And we’re convinced that, if Iran approaches talks in Vienna with urgency and good faith, we can quickly reach and implement an understanding on mutual return. We cannot, however, allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear program and slow-walk its nuclear diplomacy.

I am sorry to report that is exactly what appears to be happening at JCPOA talks in Vienna. Iran greeted the resumption of talks with new nuclear provocations and proceeded to stake out vague, unrealistic, maximalist, and unconstructive positions on both nuclear and sanctions issues in the talks. We made substantial progress over six rounds of talks this Spring, with all sides making difficult decisions. As all members of the P5+1 agree, the outcome of these negotiations is the only possible basis upon which to reach a conclusion. But now, Iran is seeking to reopen these compromises.

The simple truth is that, as Secretary Blinken has made clear, Iran is almost out of runway. There is a little time left, but Iran’s continued nuclear advancements and their lack of urgency in the talks are hollowing out the non-proliferation benefits that would be achieved by a mutual return to full JCPOA compliance.

Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are inconsistent with its stated goal of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. These escalations raise questions about Iran’s intentions, particularly given that the United States has made clear its willingness to lift all sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA in the context of a mutual return to compliance.

Let me be clear: Iran’s actions will not provide Iran with any leverage in negotiations and only intensify our concerns with Iran’s activities. While diplomatic negotiations continue, we remind Member States of the importance of continued implementation of the remaining sanctions measures in Annex B of Resolution 2231.

Restrictions remain in place on transfers to and from Iran of certain ballistic missile and nuclear technology, and individuals and entities on the 2231 list remain subject to an asset freeze. We support the Secretariat’s continued reporting on the implementation of these measures.

We appreciate in particular the Secretary-General’s reporting on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the region. Iran’s continued proliferation of UAV and ballistic missile technology to its partners and proxies destabilizes Yemen, Iraq, and maritime security around the region. The Houthis, for example, have launched increasingly sophisticated strikes deep into Saudi Arabia and into densely populated Yemeni cities due to Iran. We encourage the Secretariat to continue to investigate these incidents for possible violations of Resolution 2231, Annex B.

The Secretary-General’s report also finds that IAEA inspectors have been harassed by Iran while monitoring and verifying Iran’s implementation of its safeguards agreement. This is in direct contravention of their diplomatic privileges and immunities, as well as simple decency.

Iran must provide the required cooperation necessary to resolve the IAEA’s concerns related to possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without further delay. Iran must fully implement the Joint Statement negotiated with Director-General Grossi in Tehran on September 12. Despite clear calls from all of the P5+1, this has yet to be fulfilled. The IAEA has our full support in carrying out its critical verification and monitoring responsibilities in Iran for both safeguards and JCPOA purposes.

The diplomatic process currently underway remains the best approach to limit Iran’s nuclear program and to set us on a path to address the full range of concerns that we and others have with Iran’s activities in the region and beyond.

The world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance. But for the world to engage economically and expand diplomatic cooperation with Iran, Iran must first show seriousness at the table and come back to compliance with the deal in short order, as the United States has made clear we are prepared to do.

Thank you, Mr. President.