U.S. Says European Allies Back Protest at UN on Iran Rocket

  • France, the U.K. and Germany don’t back quitting nuclear deal
  • Letter calls Iran’s launch ‘inconsistent’ with UN resolution

The Simorgh satellite launch at the Imam Khomeini National Space Centre on July 27, 2017.

Photographer: Iranian Defence Ministry/EPA

The U.S. says it persuaded France, Germany and the U.K. to join in signing a letter of protest to the United Nations Security Council about Iran’s “threatening and provocative” launch last week of a rocket that can carry a satellite into space.

The four powers, which brokered the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with China and Russia, called the launch “inconsistent” with a Security Council resolution that accompanied the nuclear agreement, which eased economic sanctions in exchange for a reduction of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. 

The European allies backed Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, even though they oppose President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. will quit the nuclear deal. Trump has indicated that he’s unlikely to again certify Iran’s compliance, as required under U.S. law every 90 days, because the country’s missile program is an affront to the spirit of the pact.

“The world must not allow Iran to act in defiance of the Security Council and its resolutions,” Haley said in a statement Wednesday, after condemning Iran before the council for its support of “terrorist” organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The U.S. “will be vigilant in ensuring that Iran is held accountable for such behavior.”

UN Resolution

In the letter, the four nations called on Iran “to immediately cease all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” They said Iran’s “long-standing program to develop ballistic missiles continues to be inconsistent with” the UN resolution and has a destabilizing effect in the region.

The letter echoes provisions in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” until eight years after the agreement was adopted.

Russia and China, which have veto power in the Security Council, didn’t sign the U.S. letter and have rejected the Trump administration’s contention that Iran is undermining the nuclear accord.

The launch “is not a violation of the agreement because it concerns other things which were not directly written into the agreement,” said Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s new ambassador to the UN.

Defensive Purposes

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly said it’s not violating the resolution because his nation isn’t seeking nuclear weapons and its missile program is for defensive purposes only.

On July 27, Iran launched a missile, known as “Simorgh,” or Phoenix in Persian, capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds) into a 310-mile low earth orbit, according to Iranian state television.

Such rockets could deliver a 500-kilogram payload “if configured as a missile, and are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” the four nations said in the letter.

Last week, the U.S. sanctioned six Iranian companies of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group in retaliation for the launch.

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