On Tuesday last week, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels were found to have fired a ballistic missile provided by Iran, which targeted the royal palace in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. By providing the Houthis with arms, Iran has severely violated UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit the Islamic Republic from being involved in military activity related to the supply and production of ballistic missiles. Iran had previously agreed to halt the escalation of its missile program in exchange for the relief of sanctions on Iran’s financial and oil industries, which had a severe impact on their economy. Iran’s illegal transfer of weapons has thereby violated the resolution, prompting the U.S. to urge the UN to impose strict sanctions.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley stated to the UN that Iran’s actions are “absolute and undeniable” evidence of violation of UN resolutions. While Iran denies that it provided arms to the Houthis, pieces of the weapons fired by the Houthi militants were recovered, proving that the armaments were indeed an Iranian-made Qiam ballistic missile. Haley has also argued that the nuclear deal currently in place with Iran is ultimately ineffective and does “nothing to moderate Iran’s nuclear regime.”
It is unquestionable that Iran must incur consequences as a result of its actions, but the severity and nature of the consequences are currently being discussed by UN member states. While U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley has suggested that further sanctions be imposed, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkow, has argued that further sanctions will do little to improve the current situation and only worsen the rift between the UN and Iran. Safronkow argued that in order to promote cooperation and mutual trust, dialogue and negotiations should ensue. A healthy balance must be struck between the two tactics, as it is evident that mistrust has caused Iran to transgress against Security Council resolutions. Negotiation alone, however, will not restore trust or prevent Iran from breaking deals again in the future.
Following the Iranian revolution of 1979, the U.S. had imposed economic sanctions against Iran that limited the escalation of its nuclear program and missile supply. Regardless of these sanctions, Iran has continued its uranium enrichment operations and the production and supply of nuclear weapons and missiles. As a result, the U.S. has urged the UN to further tighten sanctions. It is undeniable, however, that the imposition of strict sanctions is only creating resentment in Iran, worsening international relations and paving the way for future conflict. Alternative solutions must be discussed, as they were in 2015 when the Security Council endorsed the JCPOA, a resolution that planned to monitor the limits on Iran’s nuclear program while incrementally easing UN sanctions on Iran. Recent events prove the ineffectiveness of the JCPOA, highlighting the necessity for confidence-building measures in Iran to prevent the country from rebelling against the UN again in the future.
Iran’s supply of missiles to the Houthis is indicative of the spiraling conflict that is characteristic of the Middle East today. While the UN’s intention is to ease tensions within the Middle Eastern region, it is evident that distrust between the UN and Middle Eastern countries ultimately prevents them from being effective. To prevent similar breaches to peace by Iran in the future, the UN must consider alternative tactics to foster mutual trust and cooperation with the country.
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