Russia vetoes UN resolution to condemn Iran

UN members prepare to vote on British-drafted resolution condemning Iran for supplying missiles to Yemen. (Screenshot)
Updated 27 February 2018

Russia vetoes UN resolution to condemn Iran

UNITED NATIONS: Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations, lashed out at Russia and threatened “to take actions” against it on Monday, after Moscow vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Iran for supporting Houthi militia in Yemen.
Haley blasted Russia for blocking censure of Tehran, saying it flew in the face of a report by a panel of UN experts, which found that Iran had failed to stop the transfer of drone and ballistic missile technology to the Houthis.
“If Russia is going to use its veto to block action against Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing conduct, then the United States and our partners will need to take actions against Iran that the Russians cannot block,” Haley warned, after the vote.
Although the British-drafted document was blocked on Monday, the 15-member council unanimously adopted a rival, Russian-proposed text that did not name Iran and extended a targeted sanctions regime over Yemen’s civil war until 2019. 
The British-drafted document won 11 favourable votes at the 15-member Security Council but was blocked by Russia’s veto. China and Kazakhstan abstained, while Bolivia joined Moscow in voting against the measure.
The 329-page report by a UN panel of experts was formally released this month and concluded that Iran had violated a 2015 arms embargo after determining that missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.
Russia says the report’s findings are not conclusive enough to justify censure of Iran. While the report found that Tehran had broken the embargo by not blocking shipments, the experts said they could not identify the supplier.
“We cannot concur with uncorroborated conclusions and evidence which requires verification and discussions within the sanctions committee,” Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told council members after deploying the veto.
“There’s a grave danger of toying with geopolitical maps, including with the use of the most volatile material, namely relations in the Islamic world, and relations between the Sunnis and Shiites,” he added, referencing two branches of Islam.
Saudi Arabia leads an Arab coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government against the Iran-allied Houthi militia.
Sigurd Neubauer, a Washington based Gulf expert, told Arab News the spat between Russia and the western council members was a “game-changer” for the UN council, as it marked the first major division on Yemen.
“Until recently, the council was not divided on Yemen. Now that US President Donald Trump is pushing Iran and not accommodating Russia, the Yemen issue is becoming part of the wider US-Russia strategic competition,” Neubauer said.
“Going forward, this new dynamic between Washington and Moscow will complicate the already difficult UN peace process for Yemen. It marks a strategic failure on the part of Trump administration.”
James Farwell, a former Pentagon advisor, told Arab News that Britain, the US and other western powers were getting behind Riyadh with a view to constraining Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.
“The Western partners are falling in behind Saudi Arabia out of concern that the Houthis do have a closer relationship with Iran,” Farwell said. “It’s about what can be done to checkmate Iranian expansion.”
Russia, which is aligned with Iran in its support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, shows no signs of getting seriously involved in Yemen, but is seizing an opportunity to thwart its western rivals without investing any resources, Farwell, an expert connected with the Middle East Institute, said.
“Moscow is happy to sew chaos and disrupt what the US and its allies are doing,” said Farwell.
“But they are also treading careful because they’re wooing Saudi Arabia, which is a potential market for their arm sales and a country they could forge a stronger relationship with by raising suspicion that the US is not a reliable ally.”


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

Updated 12 min 18 sec ago

Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.