The United States and Russia clashed at an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council Friday over the protests in Iran, with Russia accusing the U.S. of “abusing” the platform of the Council by calling the session over what it described as a purely internal matter.
“Today we are witnessing once again how the U.S is abusing the platform of the Security Council,” Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said at the tense meeting in New York.
The Trump administration has taken a more vocal approach than previous administrations to the situation in Iran, where at least 21 people have been killed and over 1,000 demonstrators arrested as they protest government policies.
In contrast to the U.S. response to the Iran protests in 2009, where the Obama administration took a relatively hands-off approach, President Trump has promised “great support” for the demonstrators, while the State Department has hinted at sanctions for officials who abuse protesters and said that it will use Facebook and Twitter to communicate directly with activists.
At the session, Haley urged the international community to stand up in support of the protesters, in contrast to 2009, when she said the community stood by passively.
“If the founding principles of this institution mean anything we will not only hear their cry, we will finally answer it,” she said. “The Iranian regime is now on notice, the world will be watching what you do.”
She also said that if the world would not stand with the protesters, the U.S. would do so “unapologetically.”
“Let there be no doubt whatsoever, the United States stands unapologetically with those in Iran who seek freedom for themselves, prosperity for their families and dignity for their nation. We will not be quiet.”
But Russia and other members of the Security Council argued that the protests did not fall under the Council’s mandate to deal with issues related to international peace and security, arguing instead that the protests are an internal matter to be dealt with by Iran.
“If we follow your logic, then we should have meetings of the Security Council after the events in Ferguson in Missouri or after the dispersal by forces of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan,” Nebenzia said.
While Haley was successful in preventing a possible vote to stop any discussion from going ahead, and received some support from representatives from the U.K. and the Netherlands, her call for action was dismissed by other members who appeared to side with Russia’s view that the matter was not yet one for the Security Council.
“It is up to the Iranians and to the Iranians alone to pursue the path of peaceful dialogue, a dialogue based on full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranian people,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre said. “However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be, they do not constitute a threat per se to international peace and security.”
Sweden’s representative expressed “reservations” about the timing of the meeting, while China said that the Security Council was “not the venue to discuss the human rights situation of any country.”
Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo seized on the Russian argument and slammed what it called an “abuse of its power by a permanent member and an abuse of the Council itself.” In a rambling speech, he listed a lengthy history of protests in the U.S. and other Western countries.
After the meeting concluded, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declared victory, tweeting that the Security Council had “rebuffed the US’ naked attempt to hijack its mandate” and mocking what he called “another [foreign policy] blunder for the Trump administration.”
The session was likely to disappoint activists who had hoped for more from the Security Council. Earlier, Maryam Rajavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran had called for the U.N. to take “punitive measures” against the regime.
But after the meeting, Haley said she was not bothered by the rebukes the U.S. received at the session.
“Those don’t bother me. We were fighting for the Iranian people today and they were heard and that was our goal and we won,” she told journalist Benny Avni.