US appeal for extension of arms ban on Iran falls flat at UNSC

Tasnim – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Tuesday for an arms embargo on Iran to be extended indefinitely, but his appeal fell flat at the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China rejected it outright and close allies of the US were ambivalent.

The expiration of the embargo, slated for Oct. 18, stems from the 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers. US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and Iran has exceeded the accord’s limits on uranium enrichment since then, part of a steady escalation of tensions that have at times pushed the two countries dangerously close to war.

The American bid is all but certain to fail in the Security Council; it might not even collect enough support to be put to a vote, diplomats said. The Trump administration has threatened that if the embargo is not extended, the United States will try to invoke a “snapback” provision of the 2015 deal to reimpose former UN sanctions on Iran — a move other nations said would be unwise and legally invalid.

Representatives of Britain, France and Germany voiced unease at both the expiration of the embargo and the American approach, particularly the snapback, which they flatly opposed.

The resistance to Pompeo’s call — coming not only from only rivals like China and Russia, but also from key allies — illustrates the growing isolation and declining influence of the United States, analysts said.

“Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date,” Pompeo said in the Security Council meeting, which was held by video link. “Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group, if the restrictions are lifted.”

“Iran will be free to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan,” he claimed, according to the New York Times.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “The international community in general, and the United Nations Security Council, in particular, are facing an important decision”.

“Do we maintain respect for the rule of law or do we return to the law of the jungle by surrendering to the whims of an outlaw bully?” the top diplomat wondered.

Zarif warned, “If this council falters again, it will be a generational setback for the cause of multilateralism, and the rule of law.”

The meeting on Tuesday marked the first time since 2017 that Pompeo and Zarif had taken part in the same forum, if only virtually, but they did not appear together in the grid view of diplomats shown on the UN website. Pompeo left the meeting before Zarif joined.

Since leaving the nuclear deal, Trump has tried to cut off Iran from doing business with the rest of the world, threatening economic penalties for countries and companies that do not go along. Though most of the world opposes the American stance, much of it has complied.

Noting that the 2015 agreement had been adopted by the UN Security Council, Zarif said, “For the first time in Security Council history, a permanent member is punishing member states for not violating a Security Council resolution.”

Security Council members and UN officials chastised both Iran and the United States, and some pinned the current crisis on Trump, saying that he had started a long series of provocations and retaliation by withdrawing from the agreement and imposing punishing economic sanctions.

“China opposes the US push for extending the arms embargo on Iran,” said Zhang Jun, the ambassador from China — which, like Russia, France, Britain and the United States, has veto power in the council. China, Russia, Germany, Britain, France and the European Union are signatories to the 2015 agreement.

“Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger a snapback at the UN,” Zhang said.

The German representative, Christoph Heusgen, also endorsed the view that Washington had no standing to invoke UN sanctions.

“It is very unfortunate that the United States left the JCPOA, and by doing this actually violated international law,” he said.

Henry Rome, senior Iran analyst for Eurasia Group, said the meeting was “another vivid illustration of Washington’s isolation on the Iran issue — as well as its failure over the past three years to persuade any other signatory of the deal to back its approach.”