Russia blocked a resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Monday that would have pressured Iran over the illegal use of Iranian-made missiles by Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The Russian veto drew angry rebukes from the United States and its allies.
The resolution, which would have easily passed the 15-member Council, also had been intended to renew an expiring United Nations arms embargo against the Houthis and the mandate of a panel of experts that found Iran had violated it.
Despite the rancor over that resolution, which was drafted by Britain and strongly backed by the United States, the Council then unanimously approved a Russian-drafted resolution that renewed the embargo and the panel’s mandate. That resolution conspicuously avoided the issue of Iranian weapons in Yemen.
The United Nations has called the nearly three-year-old civil war in Yemen the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. Millions of Yemenis have been displaced, a majority of the population lacks food and aid agencies have struggled to supply assistance.
A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing the Houthis since March 2015 in an effort to expel them from areas they have seized from the Saudi-backed government, including the capital, Sana. The conflict is widely seen as part of a broader power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which supports the Houthis.
Iran has denied providing military aid to the Houthis. But the United Nations panel of experts found in January that missiles fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia, including one that landed near the capital, Riyadh, appeared to have been manufactured in Iran.
Security Council diplomats struggled unsuccessfully to reach a compromise over the Russian objections to Britain’s draft, which identified Iran as an embargo violator.
Jonathan Allen, Britain’s deputy ambassador, told reporters that the draft had conveyed “the very serious concerns” relayed by the panel of experts and had made clear “Iranian noncompliance” with the embargo.
The Russians have said the evidence of Iran’s malfeasance is inconclusive. Iran has described the evidence as a fabrication concocted by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The United States ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, who has repeatedly sought to convince fellow diplomats that Iran has flouted the embargo, denounced the Russian veto. “In spite of a mountain of credible, independent evidence showing Iran violated the Yemen arms embargo, resulting in a series of attacks on civilian targets, Russia prevented accountability and endangered the entire region,” Ms. Haley said.
The Russian ambassador, Vasily A. Nebenzya, dismissed the criticism.
“We did this not because we wished to bring about its demise,” he said of the arms embargo, “but rather because we did not reach consensus on some individual wording.” He expressed thanks for the unanimous approval of the Russian draft.
Security Council resolutions require at least nine votes for passage, with none of the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — voting no, which is an automatic veto.
Britain’s draft drew 11 yes votes and two no votes, from Russia and its frequent ally, Bolivia. China and Kazakhstan abstained.
The Trump administration has seized on the presence of Iranian weapons in Yemen as proof that Iran does not respect international agreements.
Ms. Haley has aggressively sought to isolate Iran over this issue. She took other Council members on a visit to Washington last month to inspect an exhibit of what American officials described as remnants of Iranian missile debris recovered in Saudi Arabia.
The failure of the Council to take a more assertive action on Yemen exposed divisions between Russia and the West over the causes of armed conflicts roiling the Middle East.
It took three days last week for the Council to agree on language demanding a cease-fire in the Syria war largely because of objections by Russia, which is President Bashar al-Assad’s principal ally in that conflict.
*By RICK GLADSTONE
*FEB. 26, 2018