It’s difficult to imagine any point of the United Nations Security Council when their “legally binding” resolutions are blatantly ignored. According to the U.N. themselves, their resolutions passed by the Security Council are legally binding: “In general, resolutions adopted by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, are considered binding, in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter.” Believe it or not, the U.N. Security Council is the most legally potent international body on the planet.
So, when Iran tested nuclear-capable medium-range ballistic missiles and blatantly violated Resolution 2231 — which passed in the Security Council July of 2015 — why didn’t the council take any action to address this?
The violation was partly addressed in a 2016 joint letter penned by the U.S., England, France and Germany to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon which stated, “Iran’s recent ballistic tests involved missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and were ‘inconsistent with’ and ‘in defiance of’ council resolution 2231, adopted July of 2015. Resolution 2231 ‘calls upon 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.’” Let’s focus on the latter part of that sentence — “launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
In July 2016, Iran launched medium-range missiles. Medium-range ballistic missiles are designed specifically to be nuclear capable, which prompted the aforementioned joint letter to the U.N. addressing this violation. In fact, medium-range ballistic missiles are perfectly suited for nuclear warheads. Due to the high monetary costs of using conventional warheads with medium to long-range ballistic missiles, medium to long-range ballistic missiles are ideal for nuclear capability. Iran undoubtedly violated clear, legal language banning any launches of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
For Iran to claim that the medium-range missiles launched in 2016 weren’t nuclear-capable can easily be proved false as long as one nuclear-equipped ballistic missile exists in the entire world — and shocker, there are many. As the Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee states, “Many ballistic missiles carry nuclear warheads. Most of these warheads have an explosive force that is tens to hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs used in World War II.”
So why wasn’t Iran held accountably? After all, Resolution 2231 was legally binding and they violated it — simple, right? The better question is why the U.N. wasn’t held accountable for letting this violation occur without consequences.
Security Council diplomats claimed the “ambiguous language” in Resolution 2231 concerning the ballistic missile piece prevented it from being legally binding. But how can a legally binding resolution have non-legally binding language in its most key conclusions?
The other reason that nothing was done was because the letter of alarm alerting the U.N. concerning the violations refrained from calling the testing a violation — addressing it as “defiance” of Resolution 2231. It doesn’t take John Locke to conclude that defying something is refusing to obey or abide by something, and refusing to obey something is to violate that same something.
It was unreasonable to conclude that there was ambiguity in the language, just as it is to play semantic games about the difference between a “defiance” and a “violation.” Because the U.S. and others tiptoed around calling it a direct violation in their letter gave the rest of the Security Council the green light to do what they often do — ignore violations of council resolutions.
These reasons for neglecting to address the violation by the council are fallacious upon inspection, and reason to believe nothing was done because of political reasons and the inherent toothlessness of the council itself.
The U.S. knew that bringing a resolution to the body regarding the violation by Iran would have been fruitless because of Russia’s veto power. A resolution confirming Iran’s breach of Resolution 2231 would have resulted in new sanctions against Iran, undermining the purpose of the newly minted Iranian Deal, which relieved sanctions against Iran in exchange for putting their nuke development on a 15-year hiatus.
The United States and President Obama didn’t call it a violation or bring a resolving resolution because it would threaten the integrity of their political golden child, the Iran deal. Nothing was done, illustrating that U.N. Security Council resolutions are unenforceable.
“Legally binding” UNSC resolutions rely on an honor system when it comes to enforcement — they might as well be called suggestions instead of resolutions because often a UNSC resolution doesn’t resolve the issue at hand. They have been routinely violated, and not just by Iran. Israel too has violated UNSC resolutions. It displays a fatal flaw in the inability to enforce, across the board.
As for Resolution 2231, the Iran Deal is kaput and Secretary Mike Pompeo has again raised concerns as recent as December 2018 over Iran’s repeated violations of Resolution 2231.
Despite criticizing the US for pulling out of the Iran deal, which was only endorsed, not passed, by the Security Council, the Dec. 8 2018 U.N. Secretary General’s biannual report on implementation of Resolution 2231 stated “there is compelling evidence that Iran is violating the resolution’s prohibitions on transferring arms and ballistic missiles.”
“The report notes that the Secretariat examined several additional missiles fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia and found features consistent with Iranian ballistic missiles.” The report also described anti-tank guided missiles recovered by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and inspected by the Secretariat in September as having “characteristics of Iranian manufacture” and production dates in 2016 and 2017. The dates are significant because Resolution 2231 came into effect in January 2016, so these missiles could not have been transferred prior to the transfer prohibitions.”
Arms Control Association, an American Hewlett-Packard and Carnegie funded think tank, blatantly lied when stating on their website that “there is no binding prohibition on missile testing, and Pompeo’s arguments that Iran’s ballistic missile tests violate 2231 do not hold water. The resolution only calls upon Iran to refrain from activities on missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” They claim no binding prohibition, yet in the same breath admit the opposite by claiming it only regards “missiles designed to be nuclear capable.” How’s that for doublespeak? Resolution 2231’s language is legally binding and every medium-range ballistic missile on planet earth is in fact inherently designed to be nuclear capable.
The Arms Control Association concluded in their 2018 report that Iran’s ballistic activity is “dangerous, destabilizing and undermines Resolution 2231.” The right language is there, but the actions are not. As Resolution 2231 continues to be debated and slow-walked through the bureaucratic slog, the Security Council has done nothing to resolve the obvious violations by Iran. That is the case for many UNSC resolutions, which are violated without consequence.
What’s the point of paying for the U.N. to draft complex and time-consuming resolutions if there’s only a mere chance those resolutions will be enforced? It’s utterly pointless to pay the U.N. for mere suggestions on global disputes.
The UNSC needs to adjudicate 2231 immediately with a definitive resolution. The UNSC must also implement legal mechanisms into the body that requires timely and binding adjudication windows for every UNSC violation. It must ensure that every UNSC violation must be legally adjudicated automatically if a formal complaint is raised in decorum. The Security Council must maintain its integrity, ensuring the enforcement of every single Security Council resolution, even if it goes against U.S. interests. If not, the U.N. Security Council will be no more than an expensive and laborious paper tiger.