Remarks by Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Briefing by the Chair of the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee

December 15, 2015

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Thank you, Ambassador Oyarzun, for your briefing. We are grateful for your leadership during this important transition period.

Five months have passed since the P-5+1 countries, the EU, and Iran concluded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA. I, like others, am pleased to note that the JCPOA participants are making progress in fulfilling their commitments under the deal. Iran is taking key steps outlined in the JCPOA, such as removing centrifuges, and it has begun work to eliminate 98 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile.

When the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed these steps – we call this “Implementation Day” – then we will enter a new phase of this landmark deal. After this day, however, this Council will continue to have a crucial role to play in JCPOA implementation and in monitoring compliance with Security Council Resolution 2231.

Prior to JCPOA Implementation Day, all the current UN Security Council sanctions have remained in place. Nevertheless, we have seen a troubling tendency to look the other way when these measures have been willfully violated in recent months.

For example, this past October, Iran launched a ballistic missile that was obviously capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. Security Council resolution 1929, still in force, prohibits this kind of launch. After reviewing this incident, the UN's own independent Panel of Experts also concluded definitively that it was a violation of this resolution. Yet instead of an effective, timely response, the Security Council has dithered. We intend to keep working with Council members so as to acknowledge and respond appropriately to this serious incident.

And there have been other violations. Just last week the international affairs advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader acknowledged, said outright, that General Qasem Soleimani, who is subject to a UN Security Council travel ban, visited Russia. This advisor called such travel "absolutely normal." That’s a direct quote. Also, in late September, a shipment of arms from Iran was intercepted off the coast of Oman – this shipment was a violation of Resolution 1747.

We don’t see how Council members can cast doubt on these violations. In many cases, Iranian officials have boasted publicly about taking prohibited actions, leaving them no plausible deniability. No desire on their part for deniability. After the October launch, Iran’s Defense Minister even declared, “We don’t ask permission from anyone” as he went on to describe the ballistic missile’s technical capabilities.

This Council cannot allow Iran to feel that it can violate our resolutions with impunity. Some Council members may not like those resolutions, but they are our resolutions.

Furthermore, we reject the notion that those countries that raise these violations in the Security Council – countries like the United States - are somehow responsible for destabilizing the JCPOA. Implementing Council resolutions is the sine qua non of a credible, enforceable nuclear deal and to suggest otherwise is to miss the point of the JCPOA – and the point of the UN Security Council. A sense of impunity for violators will not help this deal.

The Council members who raise violations of our resolutions, who seek action from this Council in response to violations of our resolutions are not the destabilizers. We are not the rule breakers. Iran is when it violates Council resolutions. It’s not allowed under the resolutions and they’re admitting it.

The United States, as well as other Council members, has appropriately and firmly condemned these violations. We will continue to dedicate resources and work with international partners to make sure that UN measures are better enforced. We will continue to intercept and seize Iranian arms exports in accordance with international law. We will continue to identify and obstruct shipments to Iran of prohibited ballistic missile-related items. And we will continue to hold Iran accountable for violations of the measures imposed by this Council.

But this isn’t enough. The Security Council itself – we here, we 15 – must take responsibility to respond to violations of our resolutions. This will be a long-term challenge. After JCPOA Implementation Day, there will still be measures imposed under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter – this is part of the JCPOA – these measures, enforced by the UN Security Council, will remain for many years; this includes restrictions relating to arms transfers and ballistic missile-related items. The United States and our partners will continue to bring violations to the Security Council's attention and press for this body to respond appropriately.

All of us are very pleased by the JCPOA. We are glad this exists. We think it’s good for peace and security. But we have to remember how we got this deal. Decisive Security Council action played a major role in getting Iran to the negotiating table. But our job here is not done. We have to work together -- in that same spirit of resolve that led to the JCPOA – to support the implementation of this nuclear deal and to enforce this Council's resolutions.

Thank you.