US rejects Russian proposal at UN on new Gulf security mechanism

The US ambassador to the UN said the endeavor would not work until Iran meets its international obligations.

al-monitor US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a news conference to announce the Trump administration's restoration of sanctions on Iran, on Sept. 21, 2020, at the US State Department in Washington, DC. Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Oct 20, 2020

The United States rejected a Russian proposal for a new Gulf security initiative at the United Nations today.

The UN Security Council held a meeting on security in the Gulf on Tuesday. Russia is chair of the council for October, and both Russia and the United States are permanent members of the council with veto power.

There have been several security incidents in the Gulf this year, many related to the tensions the United States and its Gulf allies have with Iran. The list has included Iran harassing US ships, belligerent rhetoric from the Trump administration, and Iranian military drills focused on the United States.

At the start of the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed a new security “concept” for the Gulf, which would allow states to respond to potential conflicts amid the tensions.

“Russia submitted a collective security concept for this region … targeting the creation of mechanisms for the collective response to many threats and challenges,” said Lavrov.

The top Russian diplomat said the proposal would involve Iran and Arab states in the Gulf.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft rejected the proposal, saying that it is futile without stopping Iran’s alleged violations of international law.

“I understand that my Russian colleagues have proposed creating a Persian Gulf security construct to promote stability in the region. Respectfully, I think the solution is much easier,” said Craft. “This council must simply muster the courage to hold Iran accountable to its existing international obligations.”

The UN has disagreed with the US view on these obligations recently. The United States unsuccessfully tried to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran that expired this month. Washington also tried in August to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran that were removed by the 2015 nuclear deal. Russia and the remaining parties to the deal said the United States lacked the authority to do so since it left the deal in 2018.

The Trump administration is opposed to Iran’s development of weapons and support for proxies in the Middle East that fight the US military and its allies. The administration continues to impose a variety of sanctions on Iran as a result.

No Gulf nations are on the UN Security Council this term, though the United Arab Emirates has applied for 2022. China, South Africa and Niger welcomed Russia’s effort to defuse tensions in the Gulf.

“Security in the Gulf is intrinsically linked to global security,” said South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.

Lavrov made a veiled criticism of US policy toward Iran during his opening remarks by criticizing sanctions.

"The practice of blackmail is particularly problematic, demonizing one country in isolation,” he said. “We need to set back mutual reproach and suspicions, move away from sanctions, ultimatums and provocative actions wherever they may come from.”

The United States has some support from the Gulf and Israel on its Iran policy and is unlikely to move away from it, despite international and UN objections.

“When nations stand together and confront Iran, the world is a safer place,” said Craft.

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