September 19, 2016
Senators Seek Answers to Russian and Iranian Violation of Arms Embargo Over Syrian Airstrikes Question Consequences of Combat Aircraft launched from Iran in Face of U.N. Security Resolution 2231
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), along with the entire Senate Republican leadership, led a group of 34 senators in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seeking answers to a recent potential Russian and Iranian violation of an international arms embargo over Syrian airstrikes.
It has been widely reported that Russia used Iran as a launching point for airstrikes against moderate opposition forces in Syria.
In their letter, the senators ask Kerry to confirm whether Russia and Iran violated the arms embargo as articulated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231—the same resolution that endorses the Iran nuclear agreement. They also call on the secretary to lay out the specific policy consequences for both Russia and Iran if it’s confirmed they did in fact violate the legally binding resolution.
“To this end, we should be using all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria that are clearly not in our interest. If launching such airstrikes from Iran violates a legally binding Security Council Resolution, then that point should be made clear and enforced. We look forward to hearing from you whether Russia’s airstrikes against Syrian opposition forces launched from Iran were in compliance with or violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231,” wrote the senators.
Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dean Heller (R-NV), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), James Lankford (R-OK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), David Perdue (R-GA), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), David Vitter (R-LA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) joined Senator Barrasso in sending this letter.
Full text of the letter below:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
We write to ask if Russia and Iran violated the international arms embargo when Russia used Iranian territory to launch airstrikes against the moderate opposition forces in Syria.
When you completed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concerning Iran’s nuclear program, the first endorsement you sought was that of the United Nations Security Council, rather than that of the U.S. Congress. In July 2015, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA. As part of that Resolution, the Council took a decision binding on all states that the “use” of “combat aircraft” in Iran required prior approval of the Security Council. This is part of the arms embargo you and President Obama said would remain in place for five years after JCPOA Adoption Day.
The Obama Administration promised vigorous enforcement of the JCPOA regime in general—of which U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 is clearly a part—and the arms embargo specifically. For example, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in July of this year, “when the resolution is violated, or actions are taken that are inconsistent with it, those actions must be documented and condemned.”
It is being widely reported, and essentially acknowledged by your Department’s spokesman, that Russia recently used Iran as a launching point to carry out airstrikes against moderate opposition forces in Syria. Thus, we write to ask for one of three things:
1. a submission of evidence that the Security Council approved this use of Iranian airspace;
2. an explanation as to how this action does not violate Security Council Resolution 2231; or
3. an outline of policy steps that will be taken to enforce this Resolution.
Even if the current round of Russian airstrikes from an Iranian air base has come to a halt, we have no reason to believe they would not happen again, especially if there are no consequences for Russia’s prior use of Iranian territory from which to launch attacks in Syria.
Russia has been engaging in military action in Syria for some time now, and its combat operations have successfully advanced Russia’s interests in Syria to the detriment of ours. In June of this year, the CIA Director testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Syrian President Assad “is in a stronger position than he was” as compared to last year precisely “as a result of the Russian military intervention.”
In that same testimony, the CIA Director said Russia is “directing a lot of their air strikes and artillery barrages against the Free Syrian Army that is trying to unseat Bashar al-Assad.” Your Department’s Spokesman explained that these latest Russian airstrikes “predominantly target moderate Syrian opposition forces.” If it were not already obvious, these events should make clear that it is misguided to negotiate with Russia on the basis that we share the same desired end state in Syria.
To this end, we should be using all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria that are clearly not in our interest. If launching such airstrikes from Iran violates a legally binding Security Council Resolution, then that point should be made clear and enforced. We look forward to hearing from you whether Russia’s airstrikes against Syrian opposition forces launched from Iran were in compliance with or violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.