Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power at the UN Security Council Briefing on Iran Nonproliferation and the Implementation of Resolution 2231

July 18, 2016

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Feltman, for your briefing today. And thank you, Ambassador Oyarzun, both for your briefing, and for the leadership you and your team have demonstrated in supporting the implementation of Resolution 2231.

It has been one year since the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, and the EU concluded a deal with Iran to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is, and will remain, a peaceful one. Despite a long history of deep mistrust on both sides, commitments have been kept. Despite dire predictions to the contrary, the deal has held. That is a truly significant achievement. In the time since, Iran has dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges and filled the core of its plutonium reactor at Arak with concrete. More than 98 percent of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has been moved out of the country; the remainder is under continuous monitoring to make sure that Iran stays within the stockpile limit. As a result, Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed, and Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months before the deal, to at least a year today. We know all this and more because the deal granted the IAEA unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facility and supply chains, allowing for effective monitoring and evaluation. If and when questions or concerns arise in this monitoring, we have a process to address them.

The United States acknowledges and welcomes Iran’s swift implementation of this historic deal, which has produced real, tangible change; change that, without question, has improved international peace and security, which is the primary purpose of this Council. We also recognize that negotiating this deal – and implementing it – has required overcoming great skepticism in some Iranian quarters. The world is safer because of this deal.

It has been six months since the IAEA’s verification that Iran completed its key nuclear-related commitments under the deal, and since the simultaneous lifting of UN, EU, and U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. While Member State implementation of JCPOA commitments is a subject for the Joint Commission rather than this Council, let me be clear that the United States, our P5+1 partners, and the EU have thus far fully and unequivocally implemented all our commitments under this deal, by lifting nuclear-related sanctions specified in the deal, and by providing clear and timely guidance to government and private sector partners about engagement with Iran that is now permitted.

Consistent with the terms of the deal, and directly resulting from the choices its leaders have made, the economic burden on the Iranian people has been eased. And the United States will continue to implement its commitments, in good faith and without exception, under the JCPOA.

Yet while it is undeniable that the deal has led to significant, verifiable progress in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, it is also true that Iran and other Member States have at times taken actions that, while not violations of the JCPOA, are inconsistent with Resolution 2231. The report released today by the Secretary-General documents a number of such actions. These include Iran’s repeated ballistic missile launches, which this Council called upon Iran not to undertake. The report states that these launches have the “potential to increase tensions in the region.” Iran does not hide these launches. The report also notes violations by Iran of Resolution 2231, such as arms transfers to other parts of the region, some of which have been interdicted. And the Secretary-General’s report documents violations of asset freezes and travel restrictions applicable to Iranian entities designated by this Council, such as the participation of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization in an arms exhibition in Iraq.

No one – and in that I would include UN Member States, the Security Council, and the Secretariat – should turn a blind eye to such actions. As we have said all along of this resolution – implementation is everything.

That means that when the resolution is violated, or actions are taken that are inconsistent with it, those actions must be documented and condemned. And it means that all Member States – especially the members of this Council, and the P5+1 countries, and Iran, who negotiated the deal – must do their part in implementing the resolution. That is why the United States commends the actions of the Royal Australian Navy and the French Navy, which intercepted and confiscated Iranian arms shipments on February 27, and March 20, respectively – and as the U.S. Navy did on March 28. And it means that this Council and the international community must call out Member States when they do not fulfill their responsibilities under this resolution.

The United States disagrees strongly with elements of this report, including that its content goes beyond the appropriate scope. We understand that Iran also disagrees strongly with parts of the report. For our part, while some have argued that, to be balanced, the report should give Iran a chance to express complaints about sanctions relief under the deal, the Security Council did not mandate the Secretariat to report on issues unrelated to implementation of Annex B of Resolution 2231. It was instead the Joint Commission that was carefully designed by the JCPOA participants to discuss and resolve any such implementation issues, and that is the appropriate channel to raise such concerns.

The United States has fully implemented all of our sanctions-related commitments under the deal – and we’ve responded to questions about them both through the Joint Commission and through extensive bilateral engagement with Iran. Even beyond fulfilling our JCPOA commitments, the United States has engaged with governments, businesses, and banks around the world that have questions about our changed sanctions environment.

To be clear: the deal has not resolved all of our differences with Iran. We continue to be profoundly concerned about human rights abuses that Iran commits against its own people, and about the instability Iran continues to fuel through its destabilizing activities in the region, including repeated threats against Israel.

But we are undoubtedly in a better place to address these and other challenges without the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. And the lines of communication we developed with Iran over the course of our negotiations have already proven useful to engaging in other areas of vital interest, as occurred in January, when Iran detained ten U.S. sailors and two U.S. Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. The sailors were released in less than a day – in no small part because Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif are able to work constructively. Iran has joined the ISSG, which is trying to resolve the horrific conflict in Syria – a goal that would be impossible without all the countries that are involved in the conflict in Syria at the table.

Let me conclude. As you all know, it took the P5+1, the EU, and Iran two years of grueling negotiations to reach a deal designed to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. At several points, negotiations nearly collapsed due to distrust and the inability of participants to find a compromise. But we persisted, knowing that the instability that would come from a potential conflict demanded that we exhaust all options in seeking an effective diplomatic solution. The deal is a reminder of what we can achieve when we come together to confront shared threats, and engage our adversaries through robust, principled diplomacy.

Yet building on the progress made – progress that critics of the deal said the world would never see – is not guaranteed. And it is not irreversible. Rather, it continues to depend on the willingness of the Security Council, the Secretariat, and each of our individual countries to do its part in implementing the resolution. Our collective security demands nothing less.

I thank you.