On December 12th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the U.N. Security Council to once again Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and to maintain the arms embargo.
The arms embargo is scheduled to be lifted in 2020 under the Iran Nuclear Deal. He also asked the UNSC to prevent Iran from circumventing the existing arms restrictions by authorizing the inspection of ships in ports and stopping them on the high seas.
Pompeo accused Iran of building the largest ballistic missile force in the region, one capable of threatening the Mideast and Europe, saying it has more than 10 ballistic missile systems in its inventory or in development.
He quoted Amir Ali Hajzadeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s airspace division who claimed that Iran is capable of building missiles with a range of beyond 2,000 km.
“Iran has exploited the goodwill of nations and defied multiple Security Council resolutions in its quest for a robust ballistic missile force,” Pompeo said. “The United States will never stand for this. No nation that seeks peace and prosperity in the Middle East should either.”
Before the council meeting eight European nations underlined their commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal and urged Tehran to stop its “destabilizing regional activities” especially the launch of ballistic missiles.”
Despite US calls, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom said that “it has been confirmed that Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments.” Warning that “ballistic missile related activities such as the launch of nuclear capable missiles and any transfers of missiles, missile technologies and components … would be in violation of Security Council resolutions.”
Following Pompeo, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia claimed that “Iran is ready for a dialogue,” but the United States and other Security Council members appear to be more interested in further escalating what he calls “anti-Iran hysteria and to demonize Iran.”
He said that this worsens the already difficult situation in the Middle East. Nebenzia further claimed that “to lower the crisis, what we need to do is pool international and regional efforts.” One way to start, according to him is to hold a conference with countries in the region, and then broaden it to the entire Middle East.
He also defended Iran and said that the Islamic Republic is not banned from conducting ballistic missile launches and that there is no proof that the missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Following that, Eshagh Al Habib, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN spoke and he accused the US lying:
“Through fabrication, disinformation and invoking irrelevant criteria, the U.S. tries to create ambiguity and confusion in order to misinterpret the resolution with regard to Iran’s missile launches.”
He further said that “Iran’s ballistic missile program is designed to be exclusively capable of delivering conventional warheads required to deter foreign threats.” He said it is not to deliver nuclear weapons.
He urged the council “to hold the US accountable” for recently re-imposing sanctions it lifted after the 2015 nuclear deal, after the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement.
Earlier, on December 3rd, the US urged the EU to introduce its own set of sanctions on Iran regarding Tehran’s test of missiles.
“We would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program,” Brian Hook, the State Department official who oversees Iran policy said.
On December 1st, Mike Pompeo said that Iran had tested a medium-ranged ballistic missile which is in violation of a UN resolution.
Iran responded by saying that its missile program was purely defensive and adhered to the UN resolution.
On December 11th, Iran confirmed that it had conducted missile tests earlier. “We confirm the recent test of our ballistic missiles,” air force commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Amir Ali Hajizadeh said.
Hajizadeh said that the test was “for the defense of our country, our legitimate right and as such Iran needs no permission from foreign countries.” Further claiming that “Iran needs no permission” for these tests.
“We will continue our missile tests and this recent action was an important test. The reaction of the Americans shows that this test was very important for them and that’s why they were shouting.”
Following the tests to answer US accusations, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, the senior spokesman of Iranian Defense Forces Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif all defended Iran’s right to test its defensive capabilities.