newsIsrael at War

US trades barbs with Iran and Russia in UNSC meeting on Damascus strike

Iran’s U.N. ambassador: "The United States is responsible for all crimes committed by the Israeli regime."

Ambassador Zahra Ershadi of Iran attends a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York called at Russia's request after the Islamic Republic's embassy compound in Syria was hit by missile, April 2, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Ambassador Zahra Ershadi of Iran attends a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York called at Russia's request after the Islamic Republic's embassy compound in Syria was hit by missile, April 2, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

Tehran says it holds the United States accountable for Monday’s deadly strike against Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus. Washington warned against any retaliation against the backdrop of a regional war.

At Russia’s request, the United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss the airstrike—widely attributed to Israel—that killed two Iranian generals and five military advisers.

Israel, which has not claimed responsibility for Monday’s blast, has long carried out strikes against Iran-affiliated targets in Syria in an effort to prevent the flow of weapons to Tehran’s proxies and contain the Islamic Republic’s footprint in the region, but Monday’s incident, especially notable for its diplomatic compound and high-value targeting, marked a significant escalation.

Iran, which has a history of deadly attacks against diplomatic facilities, including the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, feigned outrage on Tuesday at what its envoy called “a profound affront” to the inviolability of representatives and diplomatic and consular premises under international law.

Ambassador Zahra Ershadi, Iran’s U.N. chargé d’affaires, told the Security Council that Tehran has “exercised considerable restraint, but it is imperative to acknowledge that there are limits to such forbearance.”

She added that Israel, which she referred to as “the occupying regime,” must “bear full responsibility” for Monday’s strike and that Iran retains its “legitimate and inherent right” to take a “decisive response.”

Ershadi added that “the United States is responsible for all crimes committed by the Israeli regime.”

Long list of regional provocations

Washington claimed no prior knowledge of Monday’s strike, with Robert Wood, deputy U.N. ambassador, telling the council that it didn’t yet have confirmation on the status of the building hit and was “concerned by reports that terrorist leaders and elements were allegedly present at this facility and condemn[ed] Iran’s continued coordination, training and arming of terrorists and other violent extremists.” 

Wood added, “As we gather details, one thing is clear: Iran and its proxy and partner groups need to avoid escalating tensions in the region.”

He pointed out a long list of Iran’s regional provocations, including Syrian-based attacks on Israeli and United States interests and Tehran’s backing of Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis, both of which have attacked Israel repeatedly in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre perpetrated by Hamas, another Iranian proxy.

“We will not hesitate to defend our personnel and repeat our prior warnings to Iran and its proxies not to take advantage of this situation” to resume attacks on U.S. personnel,” Wood said.

Attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. troops based in Iraq and Syria were halted in February. That came after Washington retaliated for the killing of three U.S. troops in Jordan by carrying out dozens of airstrikes on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and affiliated targets in Syria and Iraq.

Russia, which has enjoyed a partnership of convenience with Iran in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, assailed both Jerusalem and Washington at Tuesday’s session. 

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said of Israel’s strikes in Syria and elsewhere, “We’re of the view that such aggressive actions by Israel are designed to further fuel the conflict.”

Nebenzia, who has increasingly assailed Israel since Jerusalem began providing assistance—albeit limited—to Kyiv, told the council, “We urge West Jerusalem to abandon the practice of provocative acts of force in the territory of Syria and other neighboring countries, which is fraught with extremely dangerous risks and consequences for the entire region, a region that is already destabilized as the results of the six-month escalation of violence around Gaza.”

Russia recognizes the western part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Nebenzia further warned that without Security Council action to reaffirm that attacks on diplomatic institutions are out of bounds, “next time the diplomatic mission of any state could be targeted by an air raid.”

Samuel Žbogar of Slovenia was among several council members who expressed deep concern over the potential for regional spillover from Monday’s strike, noting tensions and violence along the Israeli-Lebanon border and in the Red Sea post-Oct. 7. 

“It should be in no one’s interest to have further dangerous escalation in the Middle East,” said Žbogar, adding that the “people of the region have suffered enough.”

Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s U.N. envoy, warned that “History tells us that an unexpected event could expand into irrecoverable tragedies.”

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