US imposes sanctions on Iran, gathers leaders against Russia

Signaling that Russia’s war in Ukraine has triggered an existential crisis at the United Nations, several of its key members strongly condemned Moscow’s actions on Thursday but failed to take further steps to stem the bloodshed and food, energy and humanitarian crises that have erupted around the world.

And in a separate action, the Biden administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police in response to the death of a young woman in their custody. The unusual US move – sanctions typically target military and political entities rather than Iran’s social control bodies – came a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the UN General Assembly.

Raisi sought to fend off international outrage amid widespread street protests in Iran over the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amin, who was reportedly arrested because her government-mandated headscarf failed to fully cover her hair. Raisi refused to admit the violations, pointing instead to human rights violations by the United States and other Western countries.

People protest against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi after the death of Mahsa Amin at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. A 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died in moral police custody last week after allegedly exposing some of her hair.

(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Iran’s morality police are men who enforce dress codes and other restrictions on women and society at large. The new US sanctions include some law enforcement officials in response to Iran’s crackdown on protesters over Amin’s death, a crackdown that has killed several others.

“The Iranian government must end its systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protests,” said US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. “The United States continues to express its support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them accountable.”

Whether to Iran for punishing dissidents or to Russia for alleged atrocities in Ukraine, accountability was at the forefront of the annual UN General Assembly this week as participants discussed a world in seemingly insurmountable trouble.

As leaders from around the world gathered in New York, delegates used an emergency meeting of the UN’s governing body, the UN Security Council, to chastise Russian President Vladimir Putin for violating key international rules – those linked to the founding of the UN. merciless assault on Ukraine.

Workers lifting a body covered in dirt from a hole in the ground.

Workers exhumed the body of a civilian near the recently recaptured Ukrainian city of Izium last week, where a mass burial site with hundreds of graves was discovered. Witnesses and a Ukrainian investigator said some of the dead were shot and others were killed by Russian artillery fire, mines or airstrikes.

(Yevgeni Maloletka/Associated Press)

Russia “is breaking the very rules for which this body was created,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in one of the catalogs of talks between the council’s 15 members and Ukraine.

In a show of support for Ukraine, Landsbergis wore a blue and yellow wristband – in the colors of its flag – with his dark suit.

“This very international order that we have gathered here to support is being dismantled before our eyes,” Blinken said. “We cannot allow — we will not allow — President Putin to get away with this.”

However, if the UN is seen as increasingly ineffective, it is unclear how world leaders should respond to international challenges.

Thursday’s session of the General Assembly was convened to discuss peace and security in Ukraine and issues of impunity and accountability. For most delegations, this meant holding Russia accountable for invading Ukraine and allegedly committing atrocities in many Ukrainian cities and regions.

However, Moscow’s representative said that Ukraine has been impunity and should be blamed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used his comments to turn the war narrative on its head, repeating Moscow’s claim that the conflict was Ukraine’s fault, citing abuse and repression of Russian-speaking and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, where separatists support Moscow. has been operating for several years. And he echoed Russia’s claim that the huge nation is the one under military threat from Ukraine and its Western backers.

“Of course, the Kiev regime,” Lavrov said, implicitly refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government, “owes its impunity to its Western sponsors, primarily Germany and France, but also the United States.

“Especially cynical are the countries that pump Ukraine full of weapons and train their soldiers,” he said, with the aim of “waging battles for as long as possible, despite the casualties and destruction, in order to spend and weaken Russia.”

US officials speculated that Lavrov might not attend the session to avoid expected criticism. He appeared shortly before his turn to speak and left immediately after.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who recently took office when Liz Truss was appointed to replace British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, described Lavrov’s characterization of the war as “a catalog of Russian distortions, dishonesty and disinformation”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after Lavrov left the hall that Russian diplomats are fleeing as quickly as their soldiers. This was a reference to reports of mass desertion by Putin’s forces before the invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden administration has sought to support Western-led efforts to arm, train and support Ukraine in its war with Russia. Some countries that rely on Russian arms or fuel, such as India, have been reluctant.

In speeches Thursday, Blinken and others portrayed the war as a tragedy that reaches far beyond Ukraine and Europe, affecting the global south and countries in Asia and Africa cut off from food supplies when Russia blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and millions of shipments. tons of grain, fertilizer and cooking oil.

“UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, convening the meeting, said that at the global level, the conflict has created a triple crisis of food, energy and finance.

“It will push millions of people into extreme poverty and hunger and reverse years of progress,” he said, referring to problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.

According to Guterres, Blinken and other diplomats, Russia’s violation of the UN Charter, its founding documents, by using force to take over a sovereign neighboring country is particularly critical. Both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also condemned this abuse by Putin and recommended that Russia be stripped of its veto power in the Security Council.

But no such action was taken Thursday, and it’s unclear whether there is a mechanism to revoke those powers. Binding international sanctions against Moscow are nearly impossible to impose through the United Nations because of Russia’s veto power, which has allowed the country to block punitive actions against it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on the screen, with the UN logo in the foreground.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly via video on Wednesday, joined US President Biden in recommending that Russia be stripped of its veto power in the Security Council.

(Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

“Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity means much more than standing up for one country’s right to choose its own path, however fundamental that right may be,” Blinken said Thursday. “It is also about protecting the international order, where no country can forcefully redraw the borders of another.

“If we fail to defend this principle, if the Kremlin violates it so flagrantly, we send a message to aggressors everywhere that they, too, can ignore it,” he continued. “We are putting every country at risk. We are opening the door to a less safe, less peaceful world.

Blinken and others noted that far from giving up or seeking a diplomatic solution, Putin decided this week to order tens of thousands more Russians into battle as world leaders met at the United Nations.

“This is a war you cannot win,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, addressing Putin without naming him. “Stop sending your citizens to their deaths… Stop starving the world… Stop crippling it [U.N.] body.”