Asks U.N. to Bar Iran from Ballistic Missile Testing
By Carol Morello
December 12, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ramped up the campaign
against Iran another notch Wednesday by urging the U.N. Security Council to
prohibit the Islamic republic from conducting ballistic missile tests.
In a speech to the Security Council, Pompeo trained his
criticism on Iran’s ballistic missile activity, saying it had increased since
the nuclear deal took force in 2016.
“Our goodwill gestures have been futile correctives to
the Iranian regime’s reckless missile activity and all other destructive
behaviors,” he said.
Pompeo specifically said the United States will work to
impose prohibitions on Iran’s ballistic missile tests that were in effect
before the nuclear deal — prohibitions that were largely ignored by Tehran.
“Iran has been on a testing spree and a proliferation
spree, and this must come to an end,” he told reporters after the meeting
Pompeo’s high-profile appearance at the
Security Council underscored the laser focus the administration has placed on
painting Iran as the epitome of evil in the world. Almost every day in recent
months, officials from the State Department and the Treasury Department have
issued statements, imposed sanctions or designated Iranian individuals and
entities for their bad behavior.
But while envoys from other nations expressed concern about
Iran’s behavior in the region, the Security Council session also demonstrated
the isolation of the United States after its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear
deal with Iran and the decision to reimpose sanctions. Diplomats from eight
European Union countries reiterated their commitment to the agreement, their
regret over the U.S. withdrawal and their determination to establish a financial
vehicle that can be used to circumvent U.S. sanctions and trade with Iran.
Pompeo acknowledged the differences with European allies
over the nuclear deal, which he characterized as a failure or worse. “We have
different views of the JCPOA,” he told reporters, using the abbreviation for the
deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “They
view it as the linchpin. I view it as a disaster, and I think President Trump
does as well.”
The threat posed by Iran is often cited by U.S. officials
as the top reason to maintain friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, which is
Iran’s biggest regional rival, despite U.S. intelligence conclusions that the
Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of journalist Jamal
Iran backs the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has
been a threat to Israel. Its support for the Syrian government has helped
President Bashar al-Assad cling to power despite a civil war. And Tehran is
believed to have sent missiles, training and money to Houthi rebels fighting in
But many Middle East experts say the administration
overstates the threat Iran poses to the United States.
“My view is, Yemen is about Yemen,” said Doug Bandow, a
senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “Their view is, Yemen is about Iran.
Everything’s about Iran. It’s a real problem with their foreign policy.”
Dina Esfandiary, a fellow in the Belfer Center at Harvard
University, said many officials in the Trump administration believe the
theocracy in Iran is on the verge of collapse.
“It makes sense for them to focus all their foreign
policy efforts to squeeze and isolate Iran as much as possible,” she said.
The Khashoggi killing has made it more difficult for the
administration to portray Riyadh as a natural ally in the fight against Tehran.
“It muddies administration efforts to turn the Iran
campaign into a morality play that pits the forces of darkness (Iran) against
those of goodness (Saudi),” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department
official now with the Wilson Center. “The fact is there are no heroes here.
The choice for the U.S. is between bad allies and very bad adversaries.”
The immediate cause for the Security Council session was a
Dec. 1 test of a ballistic missile that Pompeo said was capable of carrying
nuclear warheads to parts of Europe. Iran has confirmed that it conducted the
Pompeo mistakenly claimed that such a test already was
banned and in violation of the U.N. resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear
deal. In fact, the resolution “calls on” Iran not to undertake ballistic
missile tests, weaker language that was criticized by opponents of the deal.
“Notwithstanding the changed language, the world’s
concerns remain,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo sat staring at Iranian Deputy Ambassador to the
United Nations Eshagh Al Habib as he castigated Washington for reimposing
“The council should consider the U.S.’s illegal act,
and hold it accountable,” Al Habib said. “Any leniency will only embolden
the United States to continue its unlawful practices and irresponsible