As the UN Security Council held a session on Iran, Britain says it is mulling over a new sanctions regime giving it greater powers to target the regime’s decision makers. 

The Thursday session was held to brief the Council on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the implementation of resolution 2231, whose clauses are justifying the UK, France and Germany retaining ballistic missile sanctions set to expire in October under the defunct 2015 nuclear deal. 

Member states argue that both Iran and Russia have violated their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by participating in the transfer of UAVs without obtaining advance approval from the UN Security Council. The United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom say the arms supplies breach a clause of the resolution, justifying the possibility of snapback, under which multilateral sanctions would come back onto Tehran.

Resolution 2231 is a 79-page document submitted at the time by the US – S/2015/546– that listed categories of weapons needing prior Security Council approval. S/2015/546 refers to drones “capable of delivering at least a 50kg payload to a range of at least 300km,” and while Iranian-made drones can have a range of over 1,000km they carry a slightly lighter payload. There would be a clearer violation if Iran transferred Fateh-110 and Zulfiqar missiles. 

US envoy to the UN Robert A. Wood said at the session that Washington remains gravely concerned with “Russia’s use of Iranian drones against Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure in its unprovoked war against Ukraine.”

Robert A. Wood, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

He said Russia’s use of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones must be investigated as it clearly constitutes a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Annex B, Paragraph 4, urging the council to send teams of investigators to Kyiv to examine the debris from these weapons and to review material recovered by the United Kingdom. 

“It is no secret that Iran’s UAV development and proliferation pose a global threat. That is why the transfer of these items was prohibited under 2231,” he added, noting that despite proof of Iran’s complete disregard for its obligations under Resolution 2231, Tehran continues to deny its role in the damage caused by its weaponry in Ukraine.

The US called on the Council to address “any and all violations of Resolution 2231 given the implications for not only peace and security in the Middle East, but also in Ukraine and the rest of the world,” reiterating “calls for the Secretary-General to update the Council on his assessment of Iranian made UAVs recovered in Ukraine within the next 30 days.”

He also referred to Iran’s test of a medium range ballistic missile in May, saying that the launch was inconsistent with “paragraph 3, which calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity involving ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

“Iran’s ballistic missile activity – especially in light of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its threatening rhetoric – is an enduring threat to regional and international peace and stability,” he said, stating that even after certain restrictions in Resolution 2231 terminate, the United States will continue to take vigorous measures to counter this threat and block the proliferation of sensitive ballistic missile-technology to and from Iran. 

Rosemary A. DiCarlo, the UN Security Council’s Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that the council “examined information related to paragraph 4 of annex B,” pertaining to the supply, sale or transfer to or from Iran of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology. 

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation on July 6, 2023

She added that they received information from the United Kingdom about ballistic missile parts seized by the British Royal Navy in February 2023, in international waters in the Persian Gulf. 

“The United Kingdom shared imagery of the seized components and its analysis that the components were of Iranian origin and transferred in a manner inconsistent with resolution 2231,” she said, adding that France, Germany and the United Kingdom also conveyed their view that some of the seized components are controlled items listed in the Document S/2015/546 and that their transfer without prior approval of the Council was therefore inconsistent with the resolution. 

However, she added that Iran and the Russian Federation have “stated that there was no evidence linking the intercepted vessel and its cargo to Iran, and no clear indication that the seized components were of Iranian origin. “We continue to analyze the available information," she said. 

DiCarlo also expressed serious concerns about Iran’s highly enriched uranium as presented by the UN nuclear watchdog’s latest report but reiterated that the JCPOA remains the best available option for ensuring a peaceful nuclear program by Iran, urging dialogue among its parties. 

“Iran now has a total enriched uranium stockpile of more than twenty times the allowable amount under the (JCPOA). This includes increased quantities of uranium enriched to 20% and 60%,” she said. 

She also welcomed the March agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “to expedite… the resolution of outstanding safeguards issues” and “to allow the IAEA to implement further appropriate verification and monitoring and reporting activities”.

Earlier in the day, Cleverly said Britain seeks more leeway in targeting the Islamic Republic’s authorities, including those involved in weapons proliferation and threats against British nationals.

Britain had seen an "unprecedented level of aggression" from Iran and accused the country of trying to "silence dissenting voices" in the UK, he said. 

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