Thank you, Mr. President. I thank Mr. Mladenov for his briefing. His presentations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are always detailed and well-considered. But, as we have pointed out, as a survey of the threats to peace and security in the Middle East, Mr. Mladenov’s briefings are, by their mandate, very incomplete.
While this Council remains focused on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, it ignores other very serious conflicts in the Middle East. One has in recent months come to the doorstep of Europe and the United States. That is the continued evidence of increased international terrorist activity by the Iranian regime.
Iranian assassinations of political opponents are as old as the Islamic Republic itself. While U.S. diplomats were still being held hostage by Islamic revolutionaries in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iranian agents and proxies began a campaign of political murder in Europe, North Africa, and across the Middle East.
Iranian malign behavior does not just target one country, it targets us all.
We have seen that no more profoundly than over the last months, where multiple European countries publicly decried Iranian attempts to murder dissidents on their own soil. Just since Mr. Mladenov’s last briefing, on October 30, Danish officials revealed a plot by Iranian intelligence agents to murder three exiled Iranian dissidents on Danish soil. The Danish government arrested an Iranian regime assassin in Norway on October 21. Danish officials are outraged, and rightly so. The Iranian plot was such a blatant violation of Denmark’s sovereignty that one Danish politician compared the plot to Russia’s attempted poisoning of the Skripals on British soil earlier this year.
But Denmark is not the only country that has been targeted by the regime. The Danish allegations came just days after the French government accused Iranian intelligence of plotting a bomb attack on an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June. In this plot, a Belgian husband and wife of Iranian origin were arrested along with a high ranking Iranian diplomat in Austria. The diplomat provided the directions and the explosives for the husband and wife team to bomb the Iranian resistance gathering, which included United States citizens. All three were arrested.
And of course, all of this follows an Iranian-backed attack on the U.S. consulate in Basra, after months of the Iranian regime violating Iraqi national sovereignty.
These attempts to murder their political opponents on foreign soil reflect the true nature of the Iranian regime. These attacks are precisely the sort of behavior that led the United States to re-impose sanctions against Iran on November 5. This was the largest sanctions action against Iran ever undertaken by the United States.
Our administration long ago came to the conclusion that much more needed to be done if there was to be any chance to prod the Iranian government into the community of peaceful, law-abiding nations. We have seen the tragic legacy of appeasement before. The Council was, in many ways, created as a counter to that failed diplomatic strategy. The Tehran regime has proven itself to be the same violent and predatory group of murderers that it was in the 1980s.
Our European allies are increasingly finding proof of that in their own front yards. We must unite in our efforts to stop this behavior before it reaches more innocent people across the world.
Neighborhoods were targeted. A bus was bombed by an anti-tank missile. Families were forced into bomb shelters to escape – I’m sorry, I skipped a page. I apologize.
In fairness to Mr. Maldenov, his briefing on this month’s events in the Middle East did touch on the current violence in Gaza. But his reporting misses the mark when he calls for restraint from “both sides.”
Yes, Israel launched airstrikes on military posts, weapons depots, and intelligence assets in Gaza. But it did so in response to over 400 rockets and mortars that were fired indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel. Neighborhoods were targeted. A bus was bombed by an anti-tank missile. Families were forced into bomb shelters to escape the barrage.
Even if you accept Hamas’ excuse that it launched its missiles in response to an Israeli covert operation, you cannot escape the fact that the Gaza militants targeted civilians in response. Their actions were not actions of a nation exercising self-defense, but of a terrorist group seizing a pretext to kill civilians.
You also cannot escape the fact that the group responsible for the rocket attacks – Palestinian Islamic Jihad – is an Iranian supported group. The PIJ is yet another terrorist proxy that Iran calls on to stoke violence and instability in the region. And these missing facts are crucial.
Fact: There is only one side that attacks indiscriminately. One side that targets civilians. One side that terrorizes to achieve its objectives.
But I will close by agreeing with Mr. Mladenov on one point. Both sides must work to resolve the conflict in the Middle East. Neither side can get everything it wants. Both sides must compromise. And compromise can only begin with a clear, honest, and complete appraisal of the facts on the ground.
Without that, this monthly discussion is doomed to fail in its objective of helping to achieve peace.