U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
New York, New York
February 12, 2015
Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Session on Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Threats, February 12, 2015
Today the Security Council adopted a robust Chapter VII resolution to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the al-Nusra Front, and other individuals and entities associated with al-Qaeda. The unanimous vote in favor of Resolution 2200* shows our joint commitment to confronting violent extremist groups that threaten our collective security and the human rights the United Nations was created to defend.
The United States strongly supports today’s resolution, which is part of a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. The strategy also includes coordinated efforts by many nations to conduct robust military operations to degrade ISIL’s military capabilities; to enact tougher laws and foster better cooperation to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters who fill ISIL’s ranks; and to counter the violent ideologies that attract people to ISIL and help fuel the group’s attacks.
In recent weeks and months, we have seen what this strategy can yield. Together with partners, we are degrading ISIL’s leadership capabilities; knocking out oil fields, refineries, and other associated infrastructure that ISIL controls; and supporting troops on the ground as they fight to recapture territory from the group, as was achieved in Kobani.
As a result of these and other efforts, ISIL is having a harder time generating new funds needed to carry out its operations. Today’s resolution aims to make that effort even more challenging, by using sanctions and other punitive tools to target three ISIL income streams.
First, the resolution provides states with clear, practical instruction for how to cut off ISIL’s illicit oil smuggling. UN sanctions already require states to stop this trade. But this resolution also presses states to step up their efforts to prevent and disrupt the movement of vehicles going to and from ISIL and al-Nusra Front-controlled areas, to stop the flow of assets traded by the groups – whether oil, precious metals and minerals, or refining equipment.
Second, by imposing a new ban on the trade in smuggled Syrian antiquities, this resolution both cuts off a source of ISIL revenue and helps protect an irreplaceable cultural heritage, of the region and of the world. To help stop this trade, the United States has sponsored the publication of so-called “Emergency Red Lists” of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities at risk, which can help international law enforcement catch antiquities trafficked out of these countries.
Third, the resolution reinforces the existing prohibition in UN sanctions on all payments and donations to ISIL, al-Nusra Front, and other al-Qaeda affiliates – including ransoms – which perpetuate a cycle of horrific brutality, giving these groups resources to carry out more murderous acts and incentivizing them to take more people captive.
The devastating consequences of such kidnappings and abductions have been felt by families, communities, and whole nations in recent weeks and months. Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh, the Jordanian pilot executed by ISIL, was just 26 when he was murdered. A devout Muslim, in his last conversation with his wife he reminded her to pray and told her he had performed a double prayer for martyrs.
Kenji Goto, age 47, a Japanese journalist executed by ISIL, had gone to Syria to search for a kidnapped colleague and friend, Haruna Yukawa, who was also killed. Kenji spent his life writing about conflicts; an award-winning children’s book he wrote in 2006, I Want Peace Rather Than a Diamond, told the story of a former child soldier in Sierra Leone.
Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American, had been drawn to the region to alleviate the suffering of Syrians, volunteering to work with refugee children in neighboring Turkey. In an interview before she was abducted by ISIL and later killed, she said, “For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal – something we just accept.” The loss of people like Muath, Kenji, Haruna, and Kayla deepens our resolve to eradicate the violent group that cuts their lives short.
At the same time as we applaud the Council’s resolute action to address the threat posed by ISIL, we lament the Council’s persistent failure to address one of the main factors that led to the group’s rise. There is no better recruiting tool for ISIL than the atrocities of the Assad regime, which has dropped barrels bombs on civilians, used chemical weapons on its own people, and tortured tens of thousands more in its prisons. We regret that we were not able to show the same unity we have shown today in passing the critically important resolution on ISIL when it came to the crimes of the Assad regime.
So just as we condemn the monstrosities perpetrated by ISIL, we also must continue to condemn the brutality of the Assad regime, which has long since lost the legitimacy to lead, and reject the arguments of those who claim that we must partner with the regime to effectively confront violent extremists. As the war in Syria grinds on, we renew our call on the Council to press for the political solution needed to end the tremendous suffering of the Syrian people.
* Resolution 2199