Why is US pushing unworkable plan to renew Iran arms ban?

Al-Monitor | Mark Fitzpatrick: Two years after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the administration is looking extend the UN ban on conventional arms sales to and from Iran, a strategy designed to kill the deal for good and benefit President Donald Trump whether it succeeds or not.

In a May 9 statement marking the second anniversary of the Donald Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to “exercise all diplomatic options” to extend the UN ban on conventional arms sales to and from Iran beyond its current expiry date on Oct. 18. But the strategy has little chance of continuing to curb Iranian arms purchases. The real intent appears to be to finally kill the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), before the Nov. 3 US presidential election. If Trump loses, as now seems likely, this would make it much more difficult for a Joe Biden administration to restore the benefits of the deal.

The strategy Pompeo laid out on April 29 has two parts. First, the United States will propose a resolution at the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo. If — or rather when — this fails, the United States will invoke the unilateral snapback clause of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 to restore all sanctions that were eased by that resolution in accordance with the JCPOA.

The first part will fail because Russia and China will not countenance any such new resolution that punishes Iran over a sequence of tit-for-tat moves initiated by the United States pulling out of the JCPOA two years ago. Moscow and Beijing wanted to end the arms ban when the JCPOA came into being in 2015, and only reluctantly agreed to extend it for five years. It had long been foreseen that the ban would end if a nuclear deal was struck.

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