US imposes sanctions on Iran and rallies leaders against Russia

Signaling that Russia’s war in Ukraine has sparked an existential crisis for the UN, several of its key members on Thursday harshly denounced Moscow’s actions but failed to take further steps to stop the bloodshed and crises food, energy and humanitarian issues unleashed around the world.

And in a separate move, the Biden administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s notorious “morality police” in response to the death of a young woman in its custody. The unusual move by the United States – sanctions generally target military and political entities, not social control bodies in Iran – came a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly United.

Raisi sought to deflect international outrage amid widespread street protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd who was allegedly arrested because her government-mandated headscarf did not fully cover her hair. Raisi refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead citing human rights abuses by the United States and other Western countries.

A crowd of protesters, one holding a picture of a woman with the words "Remembering Mahsa (Zhina) Amini."

People demonstrate against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi outside the United Nations in New York on Wednesday over the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died last week in the custody of vice police after allegedly exposing some of her hair.

(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Iran’s morality police are made up of men who enforce dress codes and other restrictions on women and society in general. The new US sanctions include law enforcement officials in response to Iran’s crackdown on protests over Amini’s death – a crackdown that has killed several others.

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

Responsibility, whether for Iran over punishing dissent or for Russia over alleged atrocities in Ukraine, was at the center of this week’s annual UN General Assembly as participants discussed a world mired in seemingly insurmountable turmoil.

As world leaders gathered in New York, delegates used a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the UN’s governing body, to reprimand Russian President Vladimir Putin for breaking the key international rules – those underpinning the UN – in its ruthless assault on Ukraine.

Workers lifting an earth-covered body from a hole in the ground.

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

(Evgeny Maloletka/Associated Press)

Russia “is violating the very rules for which this body was created”, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in one of the speeches from a catalog of speeches given by the 15 council members and the ‘Ukraine.

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

“The international order that we have gathered here to defend is being shredded before our eyes,” Blinken said. “We can’t – we won’t – allow President Putin to get away with this.”

Yet if the UN is seen as increasingly ineffective, it is unclear how world leaders should address multinational challenges.

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

The Moscow representative, however, said Ukraine enjoyed 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 due to what he called the abuse and repression of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have operated for several years. And he repeated the Russian assertion that the massive nation is the one under military threat, from Ukraine and its Western backers.

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

“Particularly cynical are the states that fill Ukraine with weapons and train their soldiers,” he said, with the aim of “making the fighting last as long as possible despite the casualties and destruction, in order to exhaust and weaken Russia.

There had been speculation among US officials that Lavrov might not attend the session to avoid the expected barrage of criticism. He appeared shortly before his speaking turn 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 description of the war as “Russia’s catalogs of distortions, dishonesty and misinformation”.

During a search, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after Lavrov left the chamber that Russian diplomats appeared to be fleeing as quickly as their soldiers. This was a reference to reports of massive desertions of troops deployed by Putin ahead of Ukrainian advances.

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

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

“Globally, the conflict has amplified a triple food, energy and financial crisis,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he called the meeting.

“This is plunging millions more into extreme poverty and hunger and reversing years of development progress,” he said, citing issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. .

According to Guterres, Blinken and other diplomats, Russia’s violation of the United Nations Charter and its basic documents, by using force to try to take control of a sovereign neighboring country, is particularly critical. President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have also denounced this abuse by Putin and suggested that Russia be stripped of its veto power in the Security Council.

But no such action was taken on Thursday, and it’s unclear whether there is a mechanism to take those powers away. Binding international sanctions against Moscow are virtually impossible to implement through the UN due to Russia’s veto powers, which have allowed the country to block punitive actions against it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking on a screen, with the United Nations logo in the foreground.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the United Nations General Assembly via video on Wednesday, joined US President Biden in suggesting that Russia be stripped of its Security Council veto.

(Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

“Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is much more than defending a nation’s right to choose its own path, however fundamental that right may be,” Blinken said Thursday. “It is also about protecting an international order where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force.

“If we fail to uphold this principle when the Kremlin violates it so blatantly, we are sending the message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it too,” he continued. “We are putting every country at risk. We are opening the door to a less secure, less peaceful world.

Blinken and others noted that far from stepping down or seeking a diplomatic solution, Putin opted this week to order tens of thousands more Russians into battle just as world leaders were meeting. at the UN.

“This is a war you won’t win,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, addressing Putin without naming him. “Stop sending more of your own citizens to their deaths…Stop spreading world hunger…Stop crippling this [U.N.] body.”

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