World powers reject US bid for indefinite extension of UN arms embargo on Iran
An outright majority of members of the UN Security Council dismissed a US appeal for indefinite extension of arms sanctions on Iran, with some governments holding Washington responsible for its failure to abide by its JCPOA obligations.
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The virtual meeting held on Tuesday to discuss the latest report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of the UNSC Resolution 2231 saw a heated debate between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Pompeo said at the UNSC meeting, “Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. 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.
But Zarif, who spoke after Pompeo left the meeting, called the US an “outlaw bully” who is trying to coerce Iran to submission.
Zarif said, “For the first time in Security Council history, a permanent member is punishing member states for not violating a Security Council resolution.”
“The international community in general, and the United Nations Security Council, in particular, are facing an important decision”, he said.
“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 saw representatives from Russia and China, two signatories to the nuclear deal, attacking the US and objecting its withdrawal from the nuclear pact.
“China opposes the US push for extending the arms embargo on Iran,” said Zhang Jun, the ambassador from China.
“Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger a snapback at the UN,” Zhang said.
Britain, France and Germany, the traditional US allies in the council and parties to the nuclear deal, also lamented the US approach. Nonetheless, they voiced concerns at the expiration of the embargo.
Some other members pinned the current political crisis on Trump, arguing that he had started a long series of provocations by withdrawing from the agreement.
The German representative, Christoph Heusgen, endorsed the view that Washington was in no position 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.
The embargo is expected to expire in October, as part of the 2015 nuclear deal that saw Iran accepting nuclear restrictions in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran has exceeded some limits set in the deal in recent months as a reaction to the US withdrawal from the accord.
Earlier this month, the US distributed a draft resolution to the 15-member council codifying the extension of the embargo.
The resistance to the US call shows how isolated the US has become in the council during the tenure of Donald Trump.
The Donald Trump administration has threatened to work to restore all UN sanctions that were suspended under the UNSC Resolution 2231.
But analysts believe Washington would face a tough battle. AH