UNITED NATIONS — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to ban any Iranian activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and accused Tehran of building “a robust ballistic missile force” that threatens the Mideast and Europe.
Pompeo told the UN’s most powerful body that Iran has built the largest ballistic missile force in the region and has more than 10 ballistic missile systems in its inventory or in development.
“We risk the security of our people if Iran continues stocking up on ballistic missiles,” Pompeo said.
“We risk escalation of conflict in the region if we fail to restore deterrence. And we convey to all other malign actors that they too can defy the Security Council with impunity if we do nothing,” he added.
The Security Council banned nuclear-capable Iranian missiles from 2010 to 2015, but after the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, the council adopted a weaker provision that “calls upon” Iran not to undertake such activity.
Pompeo said that regardless of the changed language, the world “must agree to stop it now.”
Iran has “hundreds of missiles which pose a threat to our partners in the region,” Pompeo said, likely referring to Israel and Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia.
He also urged the council not to lift an arms embargo on Iran in 2020 and to inspect ships in ports and stop them on the high seas to prevent Iran from circumventing existing arms restrictions.
“We also call on the Council to establish inspection and interdiction measures, in ports and on the high seas, to thwart Iran’s continuing efforts to circumvent existing arms restrictions,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo has put a major focus on ramping up pressure on Iran, with President Donald Trump withdrawing from an international accord on curbing Tehran’s nuclear program negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Pompeo called for the re-imposition of a ban on Iran developing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons as outlined under Security Council Resolution 1929 of 2010.
That resolution was superseded by Security Council Resolution 2231 backing the Iran nuclear accord, which also called upon Tehran to refrain from the sensitive missile work.
Iran has argued that its missile tests are not nuclear in nature and that it is defending itself against threats, noting that Western powers backed Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
European powers remain committed to the Iran accord and note that UN inspectors say Tehran has complied with terms on ending its nuclear program.
Karel van Oosterom, the Dutch ambassador to the United Nations, in a statement on behalf of eight European nations said that Iran’s missile program was concerning but separate from the nuclear accord.
“We call on Iran to refrain from such activities, which deepen mistrust and increase regional tensions and are in non-conformity with Resolution 2231,” he told reporters.