MIL-OSI United Nations: Attacks on United States Personnel in Middle East, Retaliatory Strikes Threaten to Worsen Regional Stability, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council

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Source: United Nations 4

Due to the financial liquidity crisis affecting the United Nations and the resulting time constraints, the full press release will be published at a later date.

THREATS TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

Briefing

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noted that the tensions that have engulfed multiple countries in the Middle East continue to rise, with near daily incidents in the region since mid-October 2023 — including some 165 attacks on United States facilities in Syria and Iraq, prompting American strikes in the two countries.  Then, on 28 January, a drone attack killed three United States service members and injured 40 in north-east Jordan.  She recalled that on 2 February, United States Central Command said it had carried out 85 air strikes in Iraq and Syria against reported Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Forces and affiliated groups.  Syria and Iraq condemned those strikes, she noted, claiming they had resulted in deaths and injured civilians, while the United States said it had targeted command and control operations, intelligence centres and weapons facilities and was not seeking conflict in the Middle East or elsewhere.

While Baghdad has continued to repeat its commitment to protecting United States and coalition forces inside Iraq, some armed factions linked to the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” have pledged to continue their attacks against United States and coalition forces in the region.  She further noted that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hizbullah have exchanged fire across the Blue Line on an almost daily basis since 8 October.  Ongoing Houthi drone and missile attacks and threats to navigation in the Red Sea are deeply worrying and risk both exacerbating the conflict and further impacting international trade.  Recalling that since 11 January, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the backing of six other Member States, have launched strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen, she reiterated the Secretary-General’s call on all parties to step back from the brink.

She noted that it has been nearly five months since more than 1,200 Israelis were killed in the attacks by Hamas, with over 250 people taken hostage — a period of heartache and anguish for Israelis — echoing the Secretary-General’s call for their immediate and unconditional release. She further emphasized that the past five months have also been heartbreaking and catastrophic for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where “hunger is rampant, disease is spreading and shelter is squalid at best for a vast number of people”.  The death toll in the Gaza Strip is reported to have surpassed 27,000, with thousands more reported missing.  The civilian population of Gaza should not pay for the terror unleashed by Hamas, she stated, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

She affirmed that the risk of escalation in the Middle East, and its potential consequences, was obvious from 7 October, as a quick survey of the agenda of the Council explains why:  the United Nations is supporting political and peace processes throughout the region, in countries emerging, or still suffering, from armed conflict.  Long-term regional stability demands the implementation of a clear political road map in each situation, while the Secretary-General continues his extensive outreach to all key stakeholders to urge all parties to take concrete measures to de-escalate tensions and to work towards sustainable political solutions that aim to resolve, rather than merely manage, long-standing conflicts.  She appealed to the Council to continue to actively engage all concerned parties to prevent further escalation and the worsening of tensions that undermine regional peace and security.

Statements

Statement by the Russian Federation to come.

The representative of Sierra Leone condemned the unprovoked attacks on and killing of the three United States military personnel on 28 January, leading to retaliatory air strikes against targets in Iraq and Syria.  There cannot be any justification for the unprovoked attacks or for Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.  He further called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and for dialogue by all relevant stakeholders in the region in order to avoid a spillover of the conflict in Gaza to the wider Middle East.  In light of recent developments, he urged relevant stakeholders and parties to work with the United Nations in the spirit of cooperation, humanity and diplomacy to prevent further deterioration in the humanitarian and security situation in the region.

The representative of China said that the recent United States air strikes on multiple locations in Syria and Iraq have caused heavy casualties.  Those acts constitute a grave violation of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq, he underscored, opposing any act that violates the Charter of the United Nations.  “Who is creating threats, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere?” he asked, adding that it is not right “to let the strongest fist have the final say”. The United States claims that its actions were in response to the attacks on its military to safeguard its own security.  Iraq and Syria have, however, already voiced strong condemnation.  The United States purports that it does not seek to create conflict in the Middle East; however, in reality, it does the opposite. History has repeatedly shown that military means is not the solution, he cautioned, noting that the actions by the United States will exacerbate the vicious cycle of violence in the Middle East. Underneath the rising tensions in the Middle East in the past few months is the failure to implement the ceasefire in Gaza, he pointed out, noting that “we are now standing at a critical crossroad — at stake is the critical future of our world”.

The representative of Algeria stressed that the Middle East “is at the precipice of collapse”, with the air strikes on Iraq and Syria further exacerbating the situation.  He voiced support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both countries, whose people deserve peace and prosperity.  Urging restraint and avoidance of escalation, he stated that the region cannot bear the burden of additional tensions “and force is not and will never be the means for peace and stability”.  He called for setting aside violence deterrence and punishment, as stability in the Middle East requires addressing root causes — with the Palestinian situation standing as the cornerstone of that endeavour. Noting that his country has repeatedly sounded alarm of regional spillover, he stated that the people of the Middle East yearn for peace, for development and prosperity, and “it is high time for this cradle of civilization to reclaim its stability”, requiring an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The representative of the United Kingdom fully supported all efforts to maintain and enhance international peace and security, including in Iraq and Syria.  “We are employing all diplomatic and security tools to seek the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East,” she asserted, condemning the multiple attacks since October 2023 by Iran-aligned militant groups on the Global Coalition against Da’esh and Iraqi military bases in Syria and Iraq.  Despite warnings, those strikes have continued and intensified with an attack on 28 January killing three United States personnel and injuring many more.  Expressing full support for the right of Washington, D.C., to self-defence, she said that the Global Coalition has one objective:  to counter Da’esh.

Da’esh continues to pose a grave threat to the wider region and conducted its biggest attack in years last month in Iran.  “Its ability to direct, enable and inspire attacks continues to represent one of the most significant global terrorist threats,” she warned.  Iran’s political, financial and military support to militant groups is destabilizing the region and threatens the collective ability to counter Da’esh.  Condemning the Houthis’ continued attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea, she said:  “Our actions and presence in the Red Sea are designed to protect innocent lives, preserve freedom of navigation and deter further attacks on shipping”.  Alongside its United States allies, the United Kingdom acted in self-defence and in accordance with international law, she emphasized.

The representative of Malta voiced concern that instability in the Middle East is being exploited by militias and armed groups to engage in activities that compound instability — with the rapidly deteriorating maritime situation in the Red Sea being a case in point.  She called on the Houthis to cease any attacks, underlining the need to avoid any further escalation.  She urged all parties to combat the malign intentions of all bad actors, which could contribute to a wider war.  The international community and the Council must work towards addressing the root causes of regional tensions and promote avenues towards a just and lasting peace.  She noted that acts of terrorism have often been used to exacerbate tensions by people not operating in good faith, and the Council has a key role to play, calling for initiatives to hold spoilers to account.

Statement by the United States to come.

The representative of the Republic of Korea voiced serious concern over the regional escalation since the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas and Israel’s subsequent military operations in the Gaza Strip.  Further, the Houthis have continued their indiscriminate attacks on merchant and commercial vessels, jeopardizing the free flow of commerce in the Red Sea.  He noted measures taken by United States forces to limit the risk of escalation in defending their personnel and facilities. “Above all, at this volatile moment, when miscalculation can unintendedly lead to a tinderbox, any attempts to politically exploit the situation and risk regional stability are unacceptable,” he stressed.  Recalling significant achievements in the political and security areas made by the Iraqi people, he called them “precious achievements”, which must be upheld.  At the same time, as the current security and humanitarian situations in Syria remain extremely dire, the UN and humanitarian agencies’ engagement should be ramped up to deliver live-saving humanitarian assistance.

The representative of Ecuador voiced concern over the escalation of violence in the Middle East in recent weeks which puts the lives of the civilian population at risk.  The Council has the key responsibility to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region, he emphasized.  The attacks on 2 February on a number of cities in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the attack on 28 January in Jordan have cost the lives of dozens of civilians and military personnel.  Calling on all parties to show restraint and comply with international law, he echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for restraint and encouraged any efforts aimed at de-escalation of tension.  He also reaffirmed the urgent need to guarantee humanitarian access.

The representative of Slovenia expressed a growing feeling of powerlessness against the increasing spillover of the Gaza conflict into the wider region.  The Global Coalition’s presence in Iraq is under growing threat from intensified attacks, which could undo the progress achieved in the country, while the situation in Syria is deteriorating.  He affirmed that the best hope to stop the spiral of violence is to restore calm in Gaza — “call it as you like”, but the bombing, shelling and killing in Gaza, as well as over Israel, must stop, hostages must be released and urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance must be restored in full.  He urged all actors in the region to work towards de-escalation, calling on those countries who can exert influence on non-State groups to use it.

The representative of Japan noted that Washington, D.C., stated that it carried out the air strikes against facilities of Iran-affiliated militants and other groups in Iraq and Syria, following the attack on United States troops in Jordan, to put an end to those continued attacks.  Japan is also aware that the United States does not seek a wider conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else.  Expressing deep concern that a number of non-State armed groups, militias and terrorists have been launching attacks and have signaled that they will intensify their hostile activities, he called upon all parties to refrain from any kind of destabilizing actions such as the transfer of weapons, including missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, and other military-related technologies to such non-State actors.  “Our world is at a crossroads; we must choose the path towards peace, not war,” he stressed.

The representative of Switzerland expressed concern about the escalation that has been taking place in the region since the start of hostilities in Gaza, and which has reached a dangerous point with the events of the last 10 days.  This has been the case not only in Syria and Iraq, but also along the Blue Line and in the Red Sea, he added.  “There is a real risk to international peace and security in the region,” he warned, calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation.  Noting that a single miscalculation can have “disastrous consequences”, he said it is vital to calm the situation to achieve regional de-escalation as quickly as possible.  To this end, a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza is necessary.  Urging all parties to respect international law, he emphasized that the Council must play its full role in helping to de-escalate the situation and find political solutions to the conflicts in the region.

The representative of France condemned the 28 January strikes targeting United States soldiers engaged in the fight against Da’esh, which threatened the stability of the entire region.  France has been engaged in the fight against Da’esh since 2014 and will continue to support the fight against terrorism led by the Iraqi authorities, in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty.  He further condemned the attack carried out using armed drones against a headquarters of Kurdish forces in December, voicing concern over the increase in violence in Syria.  There will be no prospect of a just and lasting solution there until a credible and inclusive political process is initiated.  He called on all parties to exercise restraint and for those with influence over groups that threaten the stability of the region to use it, from Yemen to Lebanon, including Iraq and Syria — further warning Iran against any attempt at regional escalation.

The representative of Mozambique warned that the recent military confrontations in the region threaten peace and security in the entire world.  The retaliatory attacks in Yemen, Syria and Iraq aggravate the current cycle of confrontation and war that already prevails in the region.  These attacks are likely to escalate tensions, with negative spillover effects in the entire Middle East and beyond.  Also, he pointed out, they took place at a time when the United States, Qatar and Egypt were engaged in diplomatic contacts with the aim to end the devastating and bloody war between Israel and Hamas.  Faced with mounting tensions in the Middle East, it is important for all parties involved to urgently de-escalate tensions, avoid armed confrontation, engage in meaningful dialogue and work towards a peaceful long-term solution, he emphasized.

The representative of Guyana, Council President for February, speaking in her national capacity, condemned the attacks that resulted in the deaths of three United States soldiers, voicing concern at reports of civilian losses in the response.  No effort should be spared to avert new threats and provocations, she said, urging all parties to respect international law and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.  There must be due respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, she stated, while the Council must not relent in the search for solutions to the current security challenges in the region — reiterating the call for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, where unprecedented numbers of Palestinians have been killed since 7 October.  The Council must unite to bring peace to Palestine and Israel and an end to this human tragedy.

The representative of Syria stressed that Washington D.C.’s aggression against his country constitutes a threat to regional and international peace and security, in blatant violation of international law.  “This aggression led to the martyrdom of 37 civilians and military personnel, and serious injury of 34 others, as well as the destruction of several civil residential buildings, a school and many civilian vehicles,” he said.  Even historical sites — including the ancient Al-Rahba Citadel — were targeted.  “The United States is presenting a distorted interpretation of the UN Charter, especially Article 51, ignoring the fact that occupation has no right to self-defence, and that the root causes of conflicts, suffering, and instability in the region are the wrongful policies of the United States and its blind and unlimited support for the Israeli occupation entity,” he asserted.  This includes the ongoing crime of genocide against the Palestinian people for more than 120 days, alongside Washington D.C.’s support for terrorist groups, including Da’esh and Al-Nusra Front/Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

However, he emphasized that Washington D.C.’s aggression — accompanied by the repeated Israeli attacks on the Syrian territories and the crimes of terrorist organizations and separatist militias — will not deter Syria from continuing its quest.  By all legitimate means, Syria will liberate its entire territory from the illegal foreign military presence, eliminate terrorism, restore State authority and the rule of law over its entire territories, and ensure security of its people.  Accordingly, he called on the United States to put an end to its illegal military presence on Syria’s territory.  He also emphasized that the United States must refrain from causing further escalation in the region at a time when most Member States are working to stop war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people.

The representative of Iraq noted that the crises in the Middle East are linked and can undermine regional and international peace and security.  His country carries out a balanced foreign policy on the basis of solid relations with the regional area.  That is reflected in the regional and international opening of Iraq, over the past two years working to become a source of stability, practicing good neighbourliness and non-interference in internal affairs.  This pragmatic approach has bridged differences and ensured rapprochement in the region.

He noted that Iraq is suffering from allied friendly and neighbouring countries’ attacks, which undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  While reaffirming its concern to protect and strengthen such bilateral relations, he condemned and categorically rejected any attack against several areas within its territory, which have led to loss of life and injuries, undermining sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He further rejected attacks on its military bases, or the use of its territory to be used for score settling or for policies to be rolled out, condemning the United States attacks targeting military positions, which led to dozens of deaths among personnel and civilians.  He reiterated the importance of the Council to shoulder its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, to combat all violations and ensure respect for the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The representative of Iran strongly condemned Washington D.C.’s illegal military attacks on the territory of Iraq and Syria, as well as the joint military actions of the United States and the United Kingdom against Yemen.  The two countries must bear their international responsibility for their commission of the crime of aggression, he asserted, noting that their invocation of Article 51 as a basis for these aggressions lacks a solid legal foundation.  The United States continues to occupy Syria, loot Syrian resources, and support separatists and terrorist groups.  Furthermore, people in Syria are experiencing economic hardship and a humanitarian crisis as a result of Washington D.C.’s hostile actions, as well as the imposition of illegal sanctions.  In Iraq, following their unlawful military intervention in 2003, the United States and the so-called “coalition” ignored Iraqi aspirations and continued their illegal presence under the guise of fighting terrorism, he observed, calling on the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw their forces from the country.

Rejecting the baseless accusations against Iran, he stressed that his country never seeks to contribute to the spillover in the region.  It has no military presence in Iraq, nor does it have bases or military advisers.  In Syria, Iranian military advisers are legally present since they were invited officially by Syria’s Government to fight terrorism.  “It is evident to everyone that the root causes of the current situation in the region are occupation, aggression, and the continued genocide and horrific atrocities committed by the Israeli regime and fully supported by the [United States] against innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank,” he pointed out. Accordingly, the only solution to end the conflict in the region and prevent the spillover of the war is to force Israel to stop the genocide in Gaza, establish an immediate ceasefire, and end the presence of United States forces in Iraq and Syria.

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* The 9541st Meeting was closed.

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