Kerry Repeats Claim – Evidently Wrong – About UN Resolution Language on Iran Missiles, Arms Embargo

Patrick Goodenough | July 26, 2015 | 9:42pm EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a Council on Foreign Relations event on Friday, July 24, 2015. (Screenshot: CFR video)

( – The Obama administration’s assertion that a key U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution predicates the lifting of arms and ballistic missile restrictions on Iran to Tehran’s willingness simply to come to the negotiating table, is evidently wrong.

Security Council resolution 1929 of 2010 does not say the restrictions will be lifted if Iran merely enters negotiations, as Secretary of State John Kerry and others have stated repeatedly since the nuclear deal was finalized on July 14.

Instead, paragraph 37 of the resolution says the measures will be lifted after Iran “suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities,” to allow for negotiations; and after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions passed earlier, as well as with IAEA requirements relating to its nuclear activities.

Iran has neither suspended “all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities,” nor has the IAEA determined that Iran has complied with all of the relevant obligations and requirements. On the contrary, the IAEA has stated in numerous reports that Iran is contravening its obligations to suspend uranium enrichment and other activities.

Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was announced, the administration has come under fire over the fact that it provides for a lifting of the conventional arms embargo and missile trade restrictions.

The two areas – conventional arms and ballistic missiles – are not directly linked to the nuclear program (even though they were included in earlier Security Council resolutions relating to the nuclear issue). This prompted critics to ask why the U.S. allowed Iran to insert them into the nuclear talks, even as it acceded to Iran’s refusal to include other non-nuclear issues on the agenda, such as the imprisonment of U.S. citizens in Iran.

Pushing back, the administration has characterized the issue as a diplomatic victory on its part, saying that P5+1 partners Russia and China wanted those sanctions lifted immediately, but that the U.S. and European allies stood firm, and succeeded in winning a five-year delay for a lifting of the arms embargo, and an eight-year delay in the case of the missile sanctions.

And in making the argument, Kerry in particular has pointed repeatedly to resolution 1929.

Most recently, he did so at an event at the Council of Foreign Relations on Friday.

 “Read U.N. resolution 1929,” he declared. “It says that if Iran comes to the table to negotiate, all the sanctions will be lifted.”

“To negotiate, not to conclude a deal,” he emphasized.

“Well, we concluded a deal, and they [Iran, backed by Russia and China] argued you should be lifting all the sanctions. And guess what, we haven’t,” Kerry added, alluding to the five- and eight-year delays.

‘We won’

Later, he returned to the topic in response to a question from CFR president Richard Haass.

“Why were the limits or the bans on conventional arms sales and ballistic missile sales lifted over five and eight years at the same time that other issues that were not nuclear-specific, including American prisoners and hostages, Iranian terrorism, human rights abuses – why, in a sense, did we allow the agreement to be expanded in ways that look to be helpful to Iran’s agenda, but not to ours?” Haass asked.

“So if you, again, read the paragraphs of the resolution, as I cited earlier, it says specifically that if Iran comes to the table to negotiate, then the sanctions would be lifted,” Kerry replied. “This is the argument Iran was making. The Russians and the Chinese supported that.”

“So you had three of the seven nations that believed those things were extraneous to the nuclear provisions and we shouldn’t be renewing them. We had four nations – France, Germany, Britain, and the United States – who felt otherwise because of Iran’s activities,” Kerry continued.

“We won. We kept them in for eight years on the missiles … and on the arms for five years.”

The relevant portion of resolution 1929 states that the Security Council affirms (emphasis added):

“(a) that it shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations in good faith in order to reach an early and mutually acceptable outcome;

(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12 of resolution 1737 (2006), as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of resolution 1747 (2007), paragraphs 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of resolution 1803 (2008), and in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 and 24 above, as soon as it determines, following receipt of the report referred to in the paragraph above, that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board of Governors.”

The paragraphs listed include those dealing with missile and arms transfers. For instance, paragraph 7 of resolution 1737 states that “Iran shall not export any of the items in documents S/2006/814 and S/2006/815 and that all Member States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”

(Document S/2006/815 is a “list of items, materials, equipment, goods and technology relating to ballistic missile programs.”)

Likewise, the arms embargo is covered in several of the listed paragraphs, including: paragraph 6 of resolution 1747, paragraphs 8 and 11 of resolution 1803, and paragraph 8 of resolution 1929.

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