Thank you, Mr. President, and our thanks to the Secretary-General for his important briefing this morning as well.
We are grateful to our Russian colleagues for this opportunity to explore the root causes of conflict in the Middle East. This meeting is timely because today, Russia has the ability to stop a military escalation that is happening in the region as we speak. As noted by the United Kingdom, in Syria, the Assad regime has launched an offensive in the southwest de-escalation zone negotiated by Jordan, Russia, and the United States. Yet again, we are seeing the Syrian regime launch airstrikes, artillery, barrel bombs, and rocket attacks that are displacing tens of thousands of people. And Russia itself has launched airstrikes in this zone over the weekend, in a clear violation of an agreement that was meant to save lives and promote a political solution in Syria. The ceasefire reflects a commitment between President Trump and President Putin, and the United States remains determined to uphold our commitment. On a day when Russia has asked us to talk about the root causes of conflict in the Middle East, we expect Russia to do its part to uphold the ceasefire that it helped establish.
And we have raised another major cause of conflict in the Middle East, namely, the role of Iran and its partner militia, Hizballah. In warzone after warzone, and terrorist act after terrorist act, we find Iran and Hizballah at the root of violence in the Middle East.
We have talked about the arsenal of war being amassed in Lebanon. Its source is Iran and Hizballah.
We have talked about Bashar al-Assad’s and the Syrian regime’s war against the Syrian people. These were people who protested peacefully in 2011 for economic opportunity, political rights, and basic human dignity. Their noble pursuit, however, was met with brutal violence in the form of torture, starvation, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and the denial of humanitarian and medical assistance. Standing behind Assad, and fighting alongside his troops, are Hizballah, and Iran, and Russia.
The United States has also used these monthly meetings on conflict in the Middle East to highlight Iran’s repeated and blatant violations of Security Council Resolution 2231 and others. The Security Council unanimously prohibited Iran from transferring weapons to other countries. And yet Iran is the source of weapons in conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria to Lebanon. The Security Council unanimously called on Hizballah to disarm. But the leaders of Hizballah talk openly about the continuing support they receive from Iran. In the words of one Hizballah leader, “Everything [Hizballah] eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, comes from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Later this week, the Council will meet to talk about the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of Resolution 2231. The findings of this report provide even more evidence of Iran fueling conflicts with the supply of banned weapons.
These are the root causes of conflict in the Middle East: leadership that is unwilling to compromise; Hamas terrorists who sacrifice the well-being of civilians for their own militant objectives; Hizballah terrorists who roam the Middle East like a rogue, mercenary army; and a regime in Iran that seeks political, military, and territorial advantage through the spread of violence and human misery. What ties it all together is the people’s lack of voice in their own governance. The people who pay the price of conflict have little or no say in when or if it ends. And those who stand to gain from conflict – like the regime in Tehran – pay no penalty for the suffering they cause.