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Departing U.S. ambassador, U.N. report warn of arms embargo violations by Iran

"Iran’s other actions ... continue to destabilize the Middle East," U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said Wednesday.

By
Doug G. Ware
Samantha Power, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council for the last time on January 18, 2017 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Security Council met to consider implementation of its resolution 2231 on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Photo by Rick Bajornas/UN/UPI
Samantha Power, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council for the last time on January 18, 2017 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Security Council met to consider implementation of its resolution 2231 on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Photo by Rick Bajornas/UN/UPI

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The United States' outgoing ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday warned the Security Council about what she sees as a critical under-addressed danger lingering in Iran -- the nation's failure to abide by an arms embargo.

During her last appearance at a meeting of the Security Council, Samantha Power urged the global panel to hold Tehran's feet to the fire for potentially violating a U.N. resolution that bars Iran from engaging in arms sales.

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Specifically, Power believes Iran has violated Security Council Resolution 2231 -- a restrictive measure that sealed the landmark nuclear deal struck by Tehran, the United States and western allies in 2015 -- by selling weapons to Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah.

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President Barack Obama's administration and many experts have hailed the nuclear pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a major victory for stabilization in Iran's region -- as it barred Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for dismissed economic sanctions.

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Power said that deal should not obstruct the council's view toward Iran's other activities.

"Recognizing this progress on Iran's nuclear issues should not distract this Council from Iran's other actions that continue to destabilize the Middle East," Power said in her remarks Wednesday. "This is, after all, a regime that repeatedly threatens Israel, and that continues to violate the human rights of its own people."

Resolution 2231 is not technically part of the JCPOA, but it subjects Iran to other restrictions, including arms sales and transfers and travel limitations. It also requires the U.N. secretary general's office, now occupied by António Guterres, to report every six months on any potential violations.

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"These reports include new information about ... arms exported from Iran -- transfers [Hezbollah] Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has openly boasted about in his public speeches, even as Resolution 2231 prohibits these shipments," Power added. "Israel has also reported to the U.N. that Iran uses commercial flights to supply arms."

The potential small arms violations by Iran were contained in a U.N. report that was detailed to the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday. The report, though, alleges no nuclear- or missile-related violations.

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"[The U.N.] has not received any report, nor is aware of any open source information regarding the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the provisions of the resolution," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the council.

Small arms violations by Iran would not come as a surprise to some observers, especially since Iran's top negotiator to the JCPOA in 2015 said Tehran had no intention of complying with any embargo that bars shipments of arms.

"Iran did not even deny these allegations when the U.N. asked about them," Power noted. "These arms transfers should be deeply troubling to each member of this Council ... because Iran is clearly defying a resolution this Council unanimously supported.

"Even though Iran is living up to its nuclear commitments, we on the Council need to come together to push Iran to effectively implement the binding provisions of Resolution 2231 – especially restrictions that ban Iran's export of arms and related material, and [others] that ban all Member States from [giving] Iran advanced weapon systems like missiles, tanks, and combat aircraft."

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The Security Council could vote to levy more sanctions against Iran for the arms violations, but it's unclear whether China or Russia -- panel members with veto power -- would permit them.

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It remains to be seen how President-elect Donald Trump will manage the controversial nuclear deal with Iran. He has previously expressed a willingness to walk away from the accord -- or renegotiate it.

Trump's successor to Power as U.N. ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, testified during her confirmation hearing Wednesday that she believes approved sanctions for international violations should be enforced.

Power, who has served in the post since 2013, will leave her office when the rest of Obama's administration departs on Friday.

"As I leave, I urge you all to keep pedaling. Do not give up, even when it seems hard. Especially when it seems hard," she concluded at Wednesday's meeting. "Make sure that these principles in the U.N. Charter light up. Do not let them go dark for the people who count on us."

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