Russia Vetoes UN Resolution Citing Iran Arms Embargo Violation

On Monday, February 26, Russia vetoed a United Nations (UN) resolution citing Iran for an arms embargo violation. The British-drafted resolution was based on a UN report that targeted Iran for funnelling weapons and missiles into war-torn Yemen. The draft exposed Iran’s violation of a 2015 arms embargo on Yemen, as the country did not do its part to prevent the flow of weapons, either directly or indirectly, to the Houthi rebels. The U.K. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Jonathan Allen, implored council members to hold the international community to a higher standard on this matter. “This council needs to stand firm in the face of state non-compliance and send a clear message that it will not be tolerated,” said Allen.

Britain attempted to draft a resolution that was both effective at upholding global accountability and agreeable to the Russian council. While the draft openly referenced violations of sanctions, a direct condemnation of Iran was removed from the text. Britain also excluded any mention of the “additional measures” that would be taken against violators of the arms embargo on Yemen. Despite these amendments to the draft resolution, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, accused Britain of creating a “contentious” environment by introducing this draft. According to Nebenzya, “This will inevitably escalate regional tensions and lead to conflicts among key regional players.”

It is widely speculated that Russia vetoed the resolution in an attempt to introduce its own draft to the council. The Russian draft proposes an extension of the sanctions against Yemen, yet it fails to address any of the UN report’s findings on Iran. Russia does not acknowledge Iran as the source of the Houthis’ missiles, stating instead that the investigation of the origin was inconclusive. The United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters, “If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran, then the U.S. and our partners need to take action on our own. If we’re not going to get action on the council then we have to take our own actions.”

The United States and France were two major proponents of the British-drafted resolution, which ultimately received 11 votes in favour, two opposed, and two abstentions at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The United States has often adopted a strict stance on Yemen, calling for a renewed embargo several times. In November 2017, Ambassador Haley presented recovered missile debris from Yemen at a military base in Washington. She stated that the missiles “might as well have had ‘made in Iran’ stickers” on it. Nevertheless, despite the efforts of the United States, the situation in Yemen has yet to improve; this lack of progress can be partially attributed to the fact that Russia and Iran have a history of supporting each other’s interests. Both Tehran and the Russian military have worked to give President Bashar Hafez al-Assad the ability to take control in Syria, and they continue to enable the fighting in Yemen. In order for positive change to occur in Yemen, these nations will need to look beyond their personal interests, focusing instead on the interests of the Yemeni people.