Pompeo Seeks Tougher Restrictions on Iran's Ballistic Missiles

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called on the United Nations Security Council to re-impose measures to stop Iran from working on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Addressing the Security Council on Wednesday, the top U.S. diplomat also called for interdictions aimed at thwarting Iranian weapons exports in defiance of an arms embargo. He argued that an arms embargo against Iran shouldn’t be lifted in 2020, as called for by the 2015 nuclear deal the U.S. abandoned in May.

“Iran has been on a testing spree, on a proliferation spree, and this must come to an end,” Pompeo told reporters following his address. “We want to work with all members of the Security Council to re-impose tougher restrictions on Iranian ballistic missiles.”

Pompeo reiterated support for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, despite widespread opposition to the move from other signatories to the agreement and the rest of the Security Council.

“The United States will continue to be relentless in building a coalition of responsible nations who are serious about confronting the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity – and all other malign activities,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s exhortations won some support from European nations on the Council, which issued a joint criticism of Iran’s missile activities, but they are likely to go unheeded by the Security Council as a whole. That’s because Russia and China, both of whom wield veto power, have signaled they won’t support additional steps to pressure Iran over its missile program.

Russia and China point out that a 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal contains no prohibition against ballistic missile testing -- it merely “calls upon” Iran not to do so -- and therefore there is no reason to punish the country. The U.S., however, sees Iran’s ballistic missile efforts as inseparable from nuclear weapons development.

Iranian Ambassador Eshagh Al Habib told the Security Council that his nation’s ballistic missile program is designed to deter foreign threats, not carry offensive nuclear warheads.

The Russian envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, also pushed back on Pompeo’s comments and his defense of the U.S. move to quit the Iran accord.

“We have warned against attempts to torpedo the JCPOA,” Nebenzia said. “We are now facing a paradoxical situation in which one member of the Security Council is not only openly refusing to implement the decisions of the Council but is also seeking to force other members to go along with it.”

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