The UN’s Political Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, briefed ambassadors first, warning that esclating attacks across Middle East fuel chances of miscalculation.
She said that as everyone in the diplomatic world is all too aware, “the tensions that have engulfed multiple countries in the Middle East continue to rise.”
She said the Secretary-General António Guterres had repeatedly warned about the risk of further military escalation “and miscalculation” since the Hamas terror attacks of 7 October set the region aflame.
“We have witnessed near daily incidents in the region. These include some 165 attacks on United States facilities in Syria and Iraq, prompting US strikes in the two countries”, Ms DiCarlo said.
On 28 January, a drone attack killed three US service members and injured 40 others at a US base in northeast Jordan, she said, adding that on 2 February the US carried out 85 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against reported Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Forces and affiliated groups.
“The US said it had targeted command and control operations, intelligence centers and weapons facilities, among other sites, and that it was not seeking conflict in the Middle East or elsewhere,” she reported, noting also that both Syria and Iraq condemned the strikes.
The two countries also claimed the strikes resulted in deaths and injuries of civilians.
Blue Line to the Red Sea
Ms. DiCarlo described the febrile situation elsewhere in the region, including between Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah across the Blue Line, which separates the armed forces of Israel and Lebanon.
Repeated rocket fire also took place over the occupied Golan between Israel and militias reportedly linked to Iran, as well as airstrikes attributed to Israel by Damascus on multiple locations in Syria, she added.
She also noted the Houthi drone and missile attacks against ships in the Red Sea, and the retaliatory strikes by the US and UK.
“I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call on all parties to step back from the brink and to consider the unbearable human and economic cost of a potential regional conflict,” she urged.
“I appeal to the Council to continue to actively engage all concerned parties to prevent further escalation and the worsening of tensions that undermine regional peace and security,” she said.
US attacks illegal and unjustified: Iran
Iran’s Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani strongly condemned the US strikes against Iraqi and Syrian territories.
“The US military action is illegal, unjustified and blatantly violates the basic norms and principles of international law, and the UN Charter,” he said, also denouncing the joint US-UK strikes against Yemen.
“These illegal actions which targeted civilians and vital infrastructure, jeopardized regional peace and security as well as pose a serious to international peace and security,” he continued.
Ambassador Iravani noted the “desperate attempt” made by the US and UK to “distract attention” away from the root cause of the current situation in the Middle East by falsely blaming Iran.
“It is regretful that the US, a permanent member of the Security Council, has failed to fulfil its obligations under the UN Chapter,” he said, accusing it of playing a destabilizing role in the region and supporting separatist groups in Syria.
He condemned the US role in Iraq where it is continuing its “illegal activities” and presence under the guise of fighting terrorism.
“The US and NATO must respect the Iraqi Government’s decision to terminate their military presence there and withdraw their forces from the country,” he said.
He said Iran had never sought to contribute to the spillover in the region and that it has no military presence in Iraq, and that its military advisers are legally present in Syria, invited by Damascus to fight terrorism.
“Claims that Iran’s bases in Iraq and Syria were attacked are rejected as unfounded and regarded as attempts to shift attention away from the US aggressive actions,” he said.
“It is evident to everyone that the root causes in the region are occupation, aggression and continued genocide and horrific atrocities committed by Israeli regime, and fully supported by the US, against innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank,” he said.
The Council must protect the territorial integrity of all States: Iraq
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Abbas Kadhom Obaid Al-Fatlawi, Charge d’Affaires of Iraq, addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
The Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq Abbas Kadhom Obaid Al-Fatlawi said the crises in the Middle East were all linked.
We have already cautioned against escalation, he said, and Iraq is carrying out a balanced foreign policy to ensure its natural role as a leader in the region and around the world.
He said Iraq had been working very hard to become a factor of stability and to bridge differences throughout the Middle East.
The American attacks are not in line with our relationship with the US, he stated adding that Iraq condemns and categorically rejects any attack on its territory based on futile and illogical pretexts.
We reject all type of attacks against our military bases which are a violation of our sovereignty and security. This Security Council must protect the territorial integrity of all States, he added.
‘Flimsy pretexts’ by US: Syria
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Ambassador Koussay Aldahhak of the Syrian Arab Republic addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Koussay Aldahhak said the arguments heard at the meeting were the “same flimsy pretexts and misleading claims the US administration is promoting to justify its repeated attacks”.
This included presenting a “distorted and wrongful interpretation” of the provisions of the Charter, especially Article 51, and that the root causes of conflicts, suffering and instability in the Middle East region are the “wrongful and destructive policies” of the US.
This includes Washington’s “blind and unlimited” support for the Israeli occupation and the atrocities Israel is committing against the Palestinian people, he added.
Ambassador Aldahhak said successive US administrations have misused their permanent membership of the Security Council and interfered thoroughly in the internal affairs of other countries, including Syria.
The US has formed military coalitions outside the umbrella of the United Nations and international legitimacy, perpetrating acts of aggression and occupation.
He stressed that Syria completely rejects all the “pretexts and lies” that the US administration is trying to use to justify its aggression which aims to protect its agents in the region.
Syria also categorically rejects that the territories of Member States become a platform for US election campaigns and for displaying a brute force that undermines the principles of collective security on which the UN was founded, he said.
Attacks on US service members ‘cannot continue’
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States addresses addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
Robert Wood, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, said his country’s “necessary and proportional” actions on 2 February in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Republic Guards Corps and affiliated militia groups was taken in exercise of the US’s inherent right to self-defence, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
He said the loss of three service members on 28 January together with dozens injured, had been “devastating”.
“This is unacceptable, and attacks like it cannot continue,” he said, stating that the actions that the US forces took on Friday were necessary and proportionate, consistent with international law and in exercise of its right to self-defence.
“We also repeatedly stated in previous letters to this Council that the US would take further action to respond to future attacks or threats of attacks against US nationals or US personnel and facilities,” he added.
He noted that the targets struck by the US were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and were based on clear and irrefutable evidence that they were connected to the attacks on US personnel.
“President Biden has made clear that these strikes were the start of our response to the deadly attack on Tower 22 in northeastern Jordan,” he said, stressing that the strikes were “separate and distinct” from the coalition strikes in Yemen which were in response to Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.
“Let me be clear, the US does not desire more conflict in the region when we are actively working to contain and deescalate the conflict in Gaza, and we are not seeking a direct conflict with Iran”, he said, adding that the US will continue will continue to defend its forces against unacceptable attacks.
UK stresses importance of working with Iraq and Syria to counter terrorism
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Ambassador Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
Barbara Woodward, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN, said her country “fully supports” all efforts to maintain and enhance international peace and security, including in Iraq and Syria and that it is committed to de-escalation.
She added that the UK fully supported the right of the US to self defence and their right to respond to attacks on its troops and bases.
“Da’esh continued to pose a grave threat to those countries and to the wider region and conducted its biggest attack in years in Iran,” in recent weeks, she said, noting that the group’s ability to “direct, enable and inspire attacks” continues to represent one of the most significant global terrorist threats.
She highlighted the “sole objective” of the global coalition, of which the UK is a member. is to counter Da’esh.
“The UK remains committed to working with our counter-terror partners in Iraq and Syria to counter the threat of Daesh and prevent their resurgence,” she said.
Ambassador Woodward noted that Iran’s political, financial and military support to militant groups was destabilizing the region and hampers efforts to counter Da’esh.
“We call on the regime to reign in these groups and to act now to prevent further attacks by its proxies and partners in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”
She said the Houthis’ continued attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea are illegal and unacceptable.
The UK’s actions and presence in the Red Sea is designed to protect innocent lives, preserve freedom of navigation and deter further attacks on shipping.
No military solution: China
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Ambassador Zhang Jun of China addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun said that action taken by the US was creating new turmoil in the Middle East.
History has shown that using military means would not provide any solutions to the problems roiling the Middle East. He said the action by the US would only exacerbate a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat.
He urged the various parties to remain calm, abide by the Charter and international law, cease illegal military operations and prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.
The fundamental reason for the current situation is the failure to implement a ceasefire in Gaza which is a prerequisite for any progress.
He called on all countries concerned to stop acting out of self-interest. “We are standing at a critical crossroads”, he told ambassadors and should not forget that we are all in the same boat.
All nations must remain committed to the common goal of regional stability.
Unlawful and irresponsible attacks by US: Russia
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the actions of the US in the region were just the latest in a litany of unlawful and irresponsible attacks, against the backdrop of an unprecedented escalation of violence.
Massive airstrikes by the US once again demonstrated to the world the aggressive nature of US policy in the Middle East and Washington’s complete disregard for international law, he continued.
The participation of the UK should not create the illusion of some kind of “international coalition”.
London has yet to answer for its zeal in supporting the purely provocative actions of its “big brother” in Washington.
Mr. Nebenzia said the US was deliberately trying to drag the largest countries of the Middle East, including Iran, into a regional conflict.
He strongly condemned the aggression by the US against sovereign nations which have increased the level of instability in an already “burning” region.
He called on the international community to unconditionally condemn the reckless actions of Washington and its allies in the Middle East, which have violated the sovereignty of the both Syria and Iraq.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a series of strikes by the United States on targets in Iraq and Syria on Friday.
The US alleges the sites were used by Iranian-backed militias to launch attacks on troops stationed in the region. Three US service members were killed in one such attack on their outpost in Jordan in late January and dozens were injured.
According to US military officials, more than 85 targets were struck in Iraq and Syria, including command, control and intelligence centres, munition and logistics supplies, and rockets, drones and missile sites.
The US has also been joined in recent days by the United Kingdom in what they describe as a defensive operation aimed at Houthi rebel targets in Yemen, which have been used to launch attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.