Violations of an arms embargo by Iran or restrictions on its missile program would not force an automatic reinstatement or “snapback” of United Nations sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal, although other options would be available, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
“The arms embargo is not tied to snapback,” Kerry said. “It is tied to a separate set of obligations. So they are not in material breach of the nuclear agreement for violating the arms piece of it.”
Speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event, Kerry said a new structure would be created to replace a U.N. panel of experts that has been monitoring compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime. Under the nuclear deal that panel will be abolished in the coming months.
The U.N. arms embargo and ballistic missile sanctions were the most difficult sticking points toward the conclusion of marathon negotiations between Iran and six world powers last month.
Iran, backed by Russia and China, had wanted those restrictions to be terminated under the nuclear agreement, which was completed on July 14, but a compromise was struck under which the arms embargo would remain for up to five years and the missile restrictions for up to eight years.
Under the nuclear deal, sanctions on Iran would be lifted in exchange for long-term curbs on its nuclear program.
Failure to comply with limitations on that program can lead to an automatic reimposition of all U.N. sanctions, the so-called U.N. sanctions snapback.
Until now it had not been entirely clear if a breach of the arms embargo and missile sanctions could lead to a sanctions snapback.
Even without a restoration of U.N. sanctions, Kerry said the United States and its allies would have “ample tools at our disposal” if Iran violated the arms embargo and missile sanctions.
“There is a specific U.N. resolution outside of this agreement that prohibits them from sending weapons to Hezbollah. There is a separate and specific U.N. resolution that prohibits them from sending weapons to the Shia militia in Iraq,” he said.
Kerry added that similar U.N. restrictions banned arms sales to the Houthis in Yemen, North Korea and other potential recipients of weapons from Iran.
Tehran has consistently violated the U.N. arms embargo and missile sanctions. Since 2010, those breaches have been documented by the U.N. panel of experts on Iran.
Kerry said a new U.N. monitoring mechanism would have to be created to replace the panel of experts, suggesting that much of the monitoring work could be done by the United States and its allies on their own.
“We’re not dependent on the U.N. to do that and I think Israel and others are much happier that we’re not,” he said. “We will depend on our own intel community, on our own military, on our own information, we will work with Israel, we will work with others.”
Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with the arms embargo and missile sanctions.
“Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so,” he said. “We are not ashamed of it.”