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US failed attempt to extend Iran arms embargo

The US government has been making claims in the media since ۲۰۱۹ about the termination of an arms embargo on Iran in autumn ۲۰۲۰.
August 2020
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Kambiz Sheikh Hassani

The US government has been making claims in the media since 2019 about the termination of an arms embargo on Iran in autumn 2020. Those remarks became more serious in 2020, as the US Secretary of State and Special Representative for Iran gradually began to create serious scenarios about it. The US claims thatno matter whether or not it is a participating member of the JCPOA, it can legally trigger the snapback mechanism according to Articles 10 and 11 of the UNSC Resolution 2231.

Pompeo said on May 9, 2020, that the US will exercise all diplomatic options to extend the arms embargo. In a May 13 opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook emphasized the importance of the issue. The US’ official action against Iran started on April 29, 2020, when Pompeo said, “We will work with the UN Security Council to extend that prohibition on those arms sales and then in the event, we can’t get anyone else to act, the United States is evaluating every possibility about how we might do that.” On June 22, the US shared a draft resolution with members of the UN Security Council on the extension of the arms embargo on Iran. On June 30, the United Nations Security Council held an online meeting to discuss the US’ proposed resolution. Russia and China announced explicitly -and even the Europeans made it clear with some sort of mischief- that they would not support the proposal for the extension of the arms embargo on Iran.

 Russians had shown the first reaction to the US plan on May 12, when Russia's Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said that since the US has withdrawn from the JCPOA, it has no right to extend the arms embargo and has lost any right to trigger the snapback mechanism as well. In a May 27 letter to the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council, Lavrov slammed the US attempts as “ridiculous and irresponsible”, saying, “This is absolutely unacceptable and serves only to recall the famous English proverb about having one’s cake and eating it.”

 In the first reaction to the American officials’ comments and attempts, the Chinese mission to the United Nations said in a tweet on May 14, "US failed to meet its obligations under Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from JCPOA. It has no right to extend an arms embargo on Iran, let alone trigger snapback.” China’s Foreign Minister also sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council on June 7, reiterating those stances.

 EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has also said, “And I also want to recall that the US has not participated in any meetings of activities within the framework of this agreement (JCPOA) since then (when it left the deal).”

The Foreign Ministers of Germany, the UK, and France issued a joint statement on June 19 about the US’ attempts to re-impose all UN sanctions on Iran, saying, “We firmly believe that any unilateral attempt to trigger UN sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences in the UNSC. We would not support such a decision which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA.” However, they have added in a devious manner, “We recall that the EU embargoes on conventional arms exports and missile technology will remain in force until 2023. We wish to address the issue in close coordination with Russia and China as remaining participants to the JCPOA, as well as with all other Security Council Members, as well as other key stakeholders.”

Iran’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations announced in one of the first reactions to the US’ push for the extension of the arms embargo on Tehran that the US call lacks legal standing in international law. “Donald Trump ceased US participation (in the JCPOA)… The US -which is in violation of the resolution- has no right to initiate anything under Resolution 2231,” Majid Takht Ravanchi said. He has also noted that ending the arms embargo in October “is an essential part” of the nuclear agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also condemned the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA as a violation of the international law in an address to a virtual UNSC meeting on June 30, 2020, adding, “The International Court of Justice clearly underlined in its 1971 advisory opinion on Namibia, and I quote, ‘One of the fundamental principles governing international relationship thus established is that a party which disowns or does not fulfill its own obligations cannot be recognized as retaining the rights which it claims to derive from the relationship.’ After officially and explicitly ceasing its participation in the JCPOA at the highest level, and having violated each and every one of its obligations under the JCPOA and Resolution 2231, the US cannot arrogate to itself any right under that Resolution… The timetable for the removal of arms restrictions embodied in Resolution 2231 is an inseparable part of the hard-won compromise enabling the JCPOA Participants to finally agree on the overall package of the JCPOA and Resolution 2231. The resolution explicitly urges its ‘full implementation on the timetable’. Any attempt to change or amend the agreed timetable is thus tantamount to undermining Resolution 2231 in its entirety. The Council must not allow a single State to abuse the process.”

 It appears that the US is making a futile attempt at the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran. In spite of all their devious actions, even the European allies of Washington are not supporting an extension of the arms embargo on Iran. As President of the Islamic Republic of Iran has made it clear in a letter to the heads of the remaining member states of the JCPOA on May 8, 2019, any new restriction imposed by the UN Security Council would be against the basic commitments vis-à-vis the Iranian nation and will be unacceptable. Under such scenario, Iran’s options will be decisive, as the other JCPOA parties have been already informed. The United States or any entity that may help it –or give in to the US’ unlawful behavior- will be fully held accountable.

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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