U.S. Warns Wary UN Security Council on Iran Ballistic Missiles

(Bloomberg) -- Accusing Iran of intensifying its efforts to develop ballistic missile technology, the U.S. is renewing calls on the United Nations Security Council to take action.

Iran “has conducted several activities that defy” a UN resolution urging it to refrain from actions related to “ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” Jonathan Cohen, the acting U.S. representative, wrote in a letter obtained from a Security Council diplomat.

The letter, dated Thursday, underscores the Trump administration’s increasing emphasis on Iran’s ballistic missile development. Most council members, including U.S. allies France and the U.K., say President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the multinational accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program makes it harder for the Americans to lecture Iran.

Cohen cited Iran’s test-firing of a medium-range ballistic missile in December and two failed attempts to place satellites into orbit.

“Iran has carried out these three launches in defiance of the expressed will of the UN Security Council, and such provocations continue to destabilize the entire Middle East region,” Cohen wrote. “Iran’s further development of missile technology risks a regional arms race and heightens the possibility that a miscalculation could spark a confrontation that is in no one’s interest.”

No Prohibition

Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, note that the 2015 resolution endorsing the nuclear deal contains no prohibition against ballistic missile testing -- it merely “calls upon” Iran not to do so -- and therefore there’s no reason to punish the country. A stricter UN resolution on missile testing was eased as part of the negotiations during the Obama administration that yielded the nuclear agreement.

In the letter, Cohen also argued that any UN member states that support Iran’s ballistic missile program are violating the resolution. All countries “have an obligation under that resolution not to supply, sell, or transfer to Iran ballistic missile-related items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology absent advance, case-by-case approval from the Security Council,” he said.

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

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