Today the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) began to meet regarding last week’s Iranian ballistic missile launches. Yesterday The Hill that outlined how what’s being said in DC and on the campaign trail, with lawmakers from both parties and even Sec. Clinton calling for new sanctions.
Sadly the only thing that happened today is more proof John Kerry and Barack Obama got snookered in the P5+1 deal. Because what the The U.S. sees launches as illegal violations of UNSC resolution (UNSCR) 2231’s language against ballistic missile development but Iran’s allies on the Security Council- Russia, China, and Venezuela – say the launches are not illegal. And since Russia and China both have vetoes, nothing will happen.
According to What in Blue (which is to the UNSC what the SCOTUS blog is to the Supreme court). The disagreement stems from the U.S. collapse on ballistic missile sanctions that happened in the final negotiation round in Vienna last summer. When the talks began UNSCR 1929 was in force and banned Iran’s program: “Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles.” A few days into Vienna the Iranians demanded that the ban be lifted. The Americans collapsed in two ways: 1st, they agreed to sunset the entire ban in 8 years, 2nd they agreed to change the language that would apply over the next 8 years from “Iran shall not” to the “Iran is called upon not to” develop ballistic missiles.
According to What’s In Blue, the Iranians and their allies are interpreting the new language as legalizing ballistic missile launches:
[V]iews among Council members are likely to differ as to whether they are permissible under resolution 2231. The language in the resolution, which reflected the need to overcome Iranian resistance to any mention of its ballistic missile activities, is intentionally ambiguous. In particular, the use of the term “calls on Iran not to undertake” instead of “decides that Iran shall not undertake”… The US position is probably shared by a number of other Council members… On the other hand, China, Russia, Venezuela and perhaps some other Council members, are more likely to be sympathetic to Iran’s position.
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Indeed this afternoon the Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin
…made clear that in the view of veto-wielding Russia, Iran’s ballistic missile tests did not violate council resolution 2231, adopted in July, that endorsed an historic nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers. “A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” Churkin said. “The legal distinction is there.”
Interestingly at a July Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Sec. Kerry was questioned by Sen. Menendez about the change in wording. What followed was a conversation proving that Kerry was either lying or totally clueless. Menendez kept reading out loud from the old and new resolutions, switching from “shall not” to “called upon not to,” while Kerry kept insisting that the different words were exactly the same.
Menendez : Mr. Secretary, I’m seriously concerned about the lifting of the arms embargo that creeped its way into this deal. As I read the Security Council resolution on page 119, the ban on Iranian ballistic missiles has, in fact, been lifted. The new Security Council resolution is quite clear. Iran is not prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile work. The resolution merely says, quote, “Iran is called upon not to undertake such activity.” Now previously, in Security Council Resolution 1929, the council used mandatory language where it said, quote, “It decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Why would we accept inferior language that changes the mandatory shall to a permissive call upon. We often call upon a lot of countries to do or stop certain actions in the U.N., but it doesn’t have the force of shall not which has consequences if you do. Can you answer simply, is Iran banned from ballistic missile work for the next eight years?
Kerry: That is not accurate. The exact same language in the embargo is in the agreement with respect to launches. And that is under article 25 of the U.N. And that is exactly where it is today in the language. But in addition to that, Iran did not want it, and we insisted on it. They are restrained from any sharing of missile technology, purchase of missile technology, exchange of missile technology, work on missiles. They cannot do that under article 41, which is chapter 7 and mandatory. And it does have the language still.
Menendez: It seems — I’m reading to you from the Security Council resolution that was adopted, codifying the…
Kerry: Yes, this agreement. The security council resolution.
Menendez: And that security council resolution says Iran — Mr. Secretary, I’m reading you explicit language. I’m not making this up. Iran is called upon…
Menendez : … not to undertake…
Kerry: That’s the article 25, it’s exactly what it is.
Menendez : That’s far different than shall not.
Kerry: Senator, that’s exactly what it is today. It’s the same language as it in the embargo now. We transferred it to this and that’s what it is.
Menendez : Not the same language as Security Council resolution 1929. I don’t know why you wouldn’t just keep the same language which is that you shall not. Because there shall not exist, there are consequences if you do
As noted above Russians are taking the Iranian position that the language in UNSCR 2231 makes prohibitions on missile launches non-binding. The Iranians demanded at Vienna that any agreement remove the traditional language prohibiting launches – “Iran is called upon not to” – and that any replacement language be weaker. Americans negotiators conceded to the demand, and the the new UNSC resolution was written so that Iran was only “called upon” not to conduct ballistic missile work.
The Iranians took a victory lap after the talks about removing lifting the ban. Iranian FM Zarif boasted that the once-binding prohibition had been transformed into a “non-binding restriction” because Iran had imposed a redline against “any restrictions in the defence and missile spheres, which has been fully achieved through the deal. This is even stipulated in a UNSC resolution in an acceptable form”
It makes one wonder what other problems with the deal Kerry and Obama got fooled on…or what else did they lying to America about. There’s probably much more. But as of now the United States can stomp up and down all it want’s but the UNSC will not impose any sanctions based on Iran’s ballistic missile test.