Samantha Power: 'Discussions Are a Form of UN Action' Against Iran

Patrick Goodenough | December 10, 2015 | 4:34am EST
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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power addresses the U.N. Security Council. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe, File)

( – Pressed Wednesday on the U.N. Security Council’s failure to respond firmly to Iran’s ballistic missile tests in violation of U.N. resolutions, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the matter was being discussed – and that at the world body, discussions were a “form” of action.

“Discussions are a form of U.N. action,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s a little bit like a hearing is a form of congressional action.”

On October 21, the U.S. and other Western nations asked the Security Council sanctions committee to investigate an Oct. 10 Iranian long-range ballistic missile launch, urging it to “review this matter quickly and recommend appropriate action.”

The matter was still under review by the time Iran carried out a second missile test, on November 21.

Power told the Senate committee that the matter had been referred to an expert panel, and that the sanctions committee was expected to discuss it again next Tuesday.

Asked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) what had been done since the first test was reported to the sanctions committee seven weeks ago, Power replied, “Beyond having Security Council discussions on the matter there’s been no follow-on action.”

Then she added, “Discussions are a form of U.N. action. It’s a little bit like a hearing is a form of congressional action.”

“We’ve have multiple discussions,” she said.

Gardner asked Power what actions could be expected at Tuesday’s meeting, to which she replied that while the committee would “probably not yet hear back from the panel of experts,” it would get an update on when the panel would report back.

When Gardner concluded that no action had been taken with regard to the October launch, Power disputed that.

“Again, we have taken actions,” she said. “We confirmed the violation, we brought it to the U.N. Security Council, and we’ve launched – the panel of experts is investigating the matter and will report back.”

“What other actions has the administration taken in response to the missile test, other than taking it to a panel, talking about it, and having a meeting?” Gardner asked.

Power said the U.S. Treasury Department was following up on “the bilateral sanctions tools that we have at our disposal.”

She emphasized that the U.S. response to the Iranian missile developments included other elements, such as “ballistic missile defense efforts” in the Middle East.

“If one is thinking in terms of regional defense one has to take measures in order to try to ensure that our partners in the region have the tools to defend themselves.”


Iran resisted attempts by the U.S. and others to include ballistic missiles in the negotiations over its nuclear program that produced an agreement last July which is soon to reach the start of its implementation phase.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said senators from both parties – whether or not they voted in favor of the nuclear agreement – want to be sure that it will be implemented as it is meant to be.

“I think there’s been a concern on both sides of the aisle that there’s an air of permissiveness that’s being developed … that will cause the likelihood of any pushback over time to become less real,” he told Power.

Corker pointed out that while a 2010 Security Council resolution (1929) said that Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology,” the language had been weakened in a new resolution adopted last July 20 enshrining the nuclear deal.

In that latest resolution (2231), he noted, Iran is merely “called upon” not to do so.

“I don’t know whether they [the Iranians] view that as permissive language,” Corker said, “but this is an issue that I think many people on both sides of the aisle are concerned about – I can’t speak for everyone – and what we’re seeing again is not very vigilant steps being taken, and it’s setting a precedent for the future.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), one of just four Senate Democrats to have voted against the nuclear agreement last September, said the U.N. response to Iran’s violations needed to be “unequivocal” and “unambiguous.”

“Conversations are not action,” he said.

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