The United States and Russia were set to face off Friday at the United Nations Security Council over how the international community should respond to the protests in Iran, after the U.S. called for an emergency session as it ramps up pressure on the hardline regime in Tehran.
The Trump administration has taken a vocal approach to the situation in Iran, where at least 21 people have been killed and over 1,000 arrested as Iranians take to the streets to protest against the regime.
In contrast to the U.S. response to the Iran protests in 2009, where the Obama administration took a relatively hands-off approach, President Trump has promised “great support” for the demonstrators, while the State Department has hinted at sanctions for officials who abuse protesters and said that it will use Facebook and Twitter to communicate directly with activists.
“We must not be silent,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday. “The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”
A Security Council diplomat told Fox News that countries opposed to the discussion could call a vote to stop it from going ahead. Russia has been vocal in its opposition to the session, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accusing the U.S. of infringing on Iran’s sovereignty.
“[The U.S.] continues to pursue a policy of open and implicit interference in the internal affairs of other states — doing it unabashedly, openly, under the slogan of caring for democracy and human rights, directly infringing on the sovereignty of other states,” Ryabkov said, according to the Associated Press.
But Haley threw down the gauntlet to countries who would try and oppose the meeting.
“It will be telling if any country tries to deny the Security Council from even having this discussion, just as the Iranian regime tries to deny its own people the ability to have their voices heard,” Haley said Thursday.
Russia and its allies would need nine votes from the Security Council’s 15 members in order to nix the meeting, a feat which would seem unlikely. China, Bolivia and new member Equatorial Guinea are the countries most likely to have an objection, as they claim the protest is an internal matter for Iran and not a matter that involves international peace and security.
It is unlikely that a product will come from the meeting even if it goes ahead, with a non-binding press statement the most likely result.
Activists, however, were hoping for a loud condemnation and tough measures from the international community. Maryam Rajavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran called in a video statement for the Security Council to “stand with the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights.”
Calling for the Council to take “punitive measures” against the regime, she noted that “many of the officials responsible for ordering these crimes are the same officials responsible for crimes against humanity, including the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.”
“The Security Council must hold them accountable and set up a tribunal to prosecute them,” she said.