147. Editorial Note

On January 13, 1980, the United Nations Security Council voted on the U.S. draft resolution proposing economic sanctions on Iran (Resolution S/13735) that the United States believed was required by Resolution 461 of December 31, 1979. (See Document 128 and footnote 3, Document 131.) The vote was 10 in favor, 2 against (the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union), and 2 abstentions (Bangladesh and Mexico). China did not participate. The resolution thus failed due to the Soviet veto.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Donald McHenry stated that the Soviet veto was “a cynical and irresponsible exercise of its veto power. The motive behind it is transparent. The Soviets hope that, by blocking sanctions, they can divert attention from their subjugation of Afghanistan and curry favor with the Government and people of Iran, who are among those most directly affected by the Afghan invasion.”

McHenry added that the United States “has already instituted measures designed to exert economic pressure on Iran, as envisaged in the vetoed resolution,” and that these measures would be applied “firmly and vigorously” until the hostages were released. McHenry then urged member states to join the United States in the “application of meaningful measures against the continued holding of the hostages in defiance of international law.” The text of the draft resolution and McHenry’s statement are printed in Department of State Bulletin, February 1980, pages 70–71.

A January 14 White House statement reiterated that the Soviet veto was an “act of political cynicism.” “The Soviet Union can keep the Security Council from acting now on Iran—but they cannot block the determination of members of the international community that terrorism and lawlessness must be dealt with firmly. Over the next several days, we will be working with other nations who uphold the principles [Page 388] of the United Nations and who seek a peaceful end to the crisis in Iran, to carry out our obligations under the Security Council resolution of December 31 and to implement the sanctions. At the President’s direction, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher is now in Europe to discuss our actions with our European allies.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pages 79–80) Christopher and Cooper traveled to Brussels, Bonn, Paris, London, and Rome January 14–16. Christopher met with the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on January 15.

In a June 13 memorandum to Brzezinski, Muskie, Brown, Christopher, and Aaron, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler wrote that Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin had told him that the Soviets had reached an internal decision to abstain on the Iranian sanctions vote, but shortly before the vote, “and without consultation,” the United States had “issued a strong attack on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He said they then had decided to cast their veto.” (Carter Library, Records of the White House Counsel to the President, Lloyd Cutler’s Files, Box 8)