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The United States threatens to trigger return of United Nations' Iran sanctions as Russia reaffirms opposition

File photo shows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special representative on Iran Brian Hook (background) arrive to al-Bateen Air Base in Abu Dhabi, on September 19, 2019. (Photo by AFP)
The United States has threatened to trigger a return of all United Nations sanctions on Iran if the UN Security Council does not extend an arms embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.

US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "one way or another" Washington would ensure the arms embargo remains. He said the United States has drafted a Security Council resolution and "will press ahead with diplomacy and build support."

The Trump administration is hell-bent on extending the embargo on the sales of conventional weapons to Iran.  The ban on arms deliveries to and from Iran will expire in October under the resolution 2231 that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Washington is legally prohibited from seeking its extension as it left the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018.

"If American diplomacy is frustrated by a veto, however, the US retains the right to renew the arms embargo by other means," Hook wrote, citing the ability of a party to the Iran nuclear deal to trigger a so-called snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran, which includes the arms embargo.

Iran has warned the United States that it will not accept any violation of the UN Security Council resolution that mandates the lifting of the arms ban against the Islamic Republic, saying the country is absolutely entitled to the ban’s cancellation.

“The United States and other countries should know that Iran will not accept violation of Resolution 2231 under any circumstances,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told last week.

“Under the resolution, it is Iran’s absolute right to be soon relieved of the ban,” the president added.

If the embargo were to be renewed amid Washington’s pressure, Iran’s response would be “clear,” Rouhani noted, without giving details.
In late April, the US circulated to a small number of council members a draft UN resolution that that would indefinitely extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran. It would strike the expiration of the arms embargo from the council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal. 

A resolution needs nine yes votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to be adopted by the 15-member Security Council. Russia has already signaled it is opposed to extending the arms embargo.

“Arms embargo, a byproduct of nuclear deal”

Russia’s UN ambassador said Tuesday that Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms ban and reimpose UN sanctions against Iran.

Vassily Nebenzia’s comments made clear that the Trump administration will have a tough time advancing any measures to impose further punishment on Iran in the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power, the Associated Press said.

Nebenzia said the arms ban is “a byproduct” of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and was temporary.

“It expires in October. ... And for us that’s clear, that’s clear,” he said. “I do not see any reason why an arms embargo should be imposed on Iran.”

Nebenzia was also asked about the controversial matter of the Trump administration possibly seeking to use the “snapback” provision in the 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal, which would restore all UN sanctions against Iran that had been lifted or eased under the terms of the nuclear agreement.

The Russian ambassador stressed that “to trigger a snapback you have to be a participant of the JCPOA, and the US proudly announced on May 8, 2018 that they withdrew from the JCPOA and closed the door behind.”

“Now, they knock on the door and say, just wait a second we forgot to do one little thing on the JCPOA, but let us back, we’ll do it and we’ll leave again,’” he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said late last month that renewing the UN arms embargo against Iran is out of the question.

“For us, the case of the existing ban on arms deliveries to and from Iran was closed with the adoption of Resolution 2231. The embargo regime expires in October this year,” Ryabkov said.

He criticized the US for its selective approach to Resolution 2231, saying Washington itself stopped adhering to its provisions two years ago and has since spared no effort to prevent other nations from abiding by the resolution through introducing unilateral sanctions.

US President Donald Trump quit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, reimposing sanctions against Tehran. But Washington argues it can trigger a return of UN sanctions because the 2015 Security Council resolution enshrining the deal still names the US as a participant. "This is ridiculous," Russia's UN Ambassador Nebenzia told reporters on Tuesday. "They are not members, they have no right to trigger."

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