US Moves to Restore All UN Sanctions on Iran in Dispute Over Nuclear Deal
The United States moved to restore all UN sanctions on Iran on Thursday, arguing Tehran was in violation of a nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 even though Washington itself abandoned that agreement two years ago.
.@SecPompeo announces the United States will initiate the restoration of @UN sanctions on Iran lifted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. This process will lead to those sanctions coming back into effect in 30 days. pic.twitter.com/lSlboBCMB5
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 20, 2020
The United States submitted a letter to the 15-member UN Security Council accusing Tehran of non-compliance, in theory starting a 30-day process that could lead to the “snapback” of UN sanctions even though major powers such as Russia reject the US stance and say they will not restore the UN measures.
Iran itself rejected the US move, taken in part because of the impending October expiration of a UN arms embargo on Tehran, arguing Washington had no right trigger the re-imposition and asking Security Council members to reject the US action.
US President Donald Trump’s administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, which was designed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, arguing in part that its limitations on Iran‘s atomic activities were inadequate.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had breached many of the deal’s central limits without acknowledging that most of the Iranian “non-performance” came only after Washington had pulled out.
“Iran‘s non-performance is incontestable and a matter of public record,” said the letter, citing Iran‘s enrichment of uranium above 3.67%, amassing of an enriched uranium stockpile beyond the agreement’s 300 kg ceiling, and other violations.
In a letter to the Security Council submitted before the United States action, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington had no right to trigger the “snapback” mechanism as it was no longer a party to the pact.
“The US push to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran will have dangerous consequences,” Zarif’s letter said. “Now it is the international community’s turn to counter the unlawful push by the United States.”
Iranian state TV said the letter was sent to the current president of the UN Security Council by Iran‘s UN envoy Majid Takhteravanchi.
Russia backed the Iranian stance.
Russia’s UN ambassador rejected US plans to restore UN sanctions on Iran as “nonexistent,” saying only a country that remains in the 2015 agreement can trigger the return of the sanctions in a process known informally as “snapback.”
“We will not take it as snapback,” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters before Pompeo was to deliver the US letter.
“He’s not triggering a snapback. Snapback can be triggered by a country that is a participant of the JCPOA, which the US is not,” he said, referring to the accord by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We consider snapback as nonexistent. We will not take it as a snapback,” Nebenzia added.
When asked if Russia would reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, the Russian ambassador replied: “How can Russia reimpose UN sanctions on Iran if the resolution 2231 continues?”
He was referring to the Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Under the agreement, Iran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for wide relief from sanctions.
A snapback of UN sanctions would require Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and ban imports of anything that could contribute to those activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. It would reimpose the arms embargo, ban Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and bring back targeted sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities. Countries also would be urged to inspect shipments to and from Iran and authorized to seize any banned cargo.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan stated on Thursday, “We fully support the United States’ decision to request that UN sanctions on Iran be reinstated via the snapback mechanism. Not honoring the binding snapback mechanism established under Resolution 2231 threatens to undermine the Security Council’s effectiveness and its ability to uphold international peace and security.”
“Reimposing the UN sanctions on Iran is a critical step to curbing Iranian aggression, which threatens the entire world,” he added. “The Security Council should not allow the world’s largest terror regime to obtain and trade lethal weapons and ballistic missiles freely. Nor should it pave the way for Iran to fulfill its nuclear ambitions. Now is the time for the international community to act decisively and impose crippling sanctions on Iran. Not to reward its malicious aspirations.”