On June 1, the United States condemned Iran’s election as rapporteur for the U.N. First Committee—focused on disarmament and international security issues—and as one of 21 U.N. General Assembly vice presidents. A “representative of Iran’s government is unfit to serve in a leadership position…even if such a position is largely ceremonial,” asserted Ambassador Robert Wood, the alternative U.S. representative for special political affairs at the United Nations. Iran was elected to both positions on the same day.
Wood cited Iran’s ballistic missile and drone programs, nuclear advances, human rights violations, support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, and disruptive behavior in the Middle East. “It is especially troublesome to see a representative of Iran’s government serve in this committee’s leadership, which aims to address the very security problems Tehran itself perpetuates,” he said at the United Nations.
The First Committee is one of six U.N. General Assembly committees. It debates topics ranging from disarmament to nonproliferation and international security. It also proposes resolutions and decisions to the General Assembly. All 193 U.N. member states are also members of the First Committee. The committee bureau is led by a chairperson, three vice chairs, and a rapporteur.
Ambassador Chris Lu distanced the United States from Iran’s election as a vice president of the General Assembly. “Iran cannot act as an honest broker in its role…because it has shown, time and time again, that it does not seek to enhance global peace and security, but rather works against it,” the U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform said. The United States would “continue to oppose Iran’s leadership throughout the UN system.”
The United States has previously opposed Iran’s involvement in U.N. bodies. In December 2022, the United States introduced a resolution that led to Iran’s removal from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Tehran had cracked down on nationwide protests triggered by Mahsa Amini’s death in detention for “improper hijab.” The commission could not conduct “its important work if it is being undermined from within,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Iran’s membership at this moment is an ugly stain on the Commission’s credibility.” The following are statements from Ambassadors Wood and Lu.
Ambassador Robert Wood
“Thank you Mr. Chair, and congratulations on your appointment. While the United States has ultimately decided not to disrupt the First Committee’s important substantive work with procedural actions at this morning’s meeting, we must express our deep concern over the selection of Iran as Rapporteur for the First Committee Bureau.
“Given Iran’s persistent violations of UN Security Council resolution 2231, including pertaining to its ballistic missile program, its ongoing efforts to undermine international security, and its failure to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a representative of Iran’s government is unfit to serve in a leadership position within this committee, even if such a position is largely ceremonial.
“Again and again, Iran continues to take actions within its borders and throughout the world that inflict violence, violate human rights, and incite conflict. Moreover, it continues to transfer arms in violation of UN arms embargoes.
“It is especially troublesome to see a representative of Iran’s government serve in this committee’s leadership, which aims to address the very security problems Tehran itself perpetuates.
“Iran’s direct support for Russia’s war against Ukraine is just one example of its active efforts to undermine international peace and security. Iran has transferred at least 400 armed UAVs to Russia, which Russia has used to target critical infrastructure and kill civilians in Ukraine. UN Security Council resolution 2231 prohibits the transfer of certain types of UAVs, including some that Iran has transferred to Russia.
“Such support is characteristic of the destabilizing role Iran has played abroad, including in the Middle East. It has consistently exported violence and weaponry to neighboring countries, causing death and destruction from Syria to Iraq to Yemen, and elsewhere.
“Finally, Iran has continued to expand its uranium enrichment activities, operate advanced centrifuges, and accumulate stocks of highly enriched uranium. The IAEA continues to report outstanding concerns regarding the possible presence of nuclear material at some locations in Iran. Iran’s continued failure to provide its full cooperation means that the IAEA remains unable to confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement or to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.
“The first resolution this committee ever passed aimed to address the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy. That Iran will now serve as Rapporteur of this committee, while failing to fully cooperate with the IAEA, undermines the credibility of this committee’s work.
“While we fully respect the prerogatives of the regional groups to select their candidates for UN offices, we ask the groups to consider those selections carefully and responsibly. It is absurd beyond contemplation that Iran would serve in a position of leadership on the General Assembly’s committee on disarmament and international security. We call on the Iranian government to end its contravention of UNSCR 2231, to stop undermining international peace and security, and to cooperate fully with the IAEA. Until it does, we will continue to oppose Iran’s attempts at leadership throughout the UN system.
“I thank you, Mr. Chair.”
Ambassador Chris Lu
“Mr. President, the United States dissociates from the election of Iran as a Vice President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.
“Iran’s record, unfortunately, speaks for itself. It defies UN Security Council arms embargoes, violates the human rights of its own citizens, and exports violence and weapons, fostering insecurity and inciting violence throughout the Middle East and across the globe.
“It is a country that has repeatedly demonstrated a clear lack of respect for the UN Charter and the authorities of various UN bodies.
“Iran cannot act as an honest broker in its role as a Vice President of the General Assembly, because it has shown, time and time again, that it does not seek to enhance global peace and security, but rather works against it.
“The United States stands opposed to holding Iran in this position, and we will continue to oppose Iran’s leadership throughout the UN system. Thank you.”