Pompeo Rebukes Allies on Iran, Hands UN Sanctions Demand
The move was also aimed at keeping in place a 13-year-old arms embargo that’s set to expire in October.
(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo formally notified the United Nations of the U.S. demand to reinstate global sanctions against Iran and slammed European allies who oppose the move, accusing them of a failure to lead and appeasing the Iranian regime.
Pompeo traveled Thursday to New York to hand-deliver a letter to the president of the UN Security Council saying Iran isn’t complying with its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal “despite extensive efforts and exhaustive diplomacy” by the U.S. and other member states. The move was also aimed at keeping in place a 13-year-old arms embargo that’s set to expire in October.
The U.S. contends that the notification starts a 31-day clock that will end with the council required to “snap back” sanctions on Iran. It puts the administration on a collision course with other world powers who say the U.S. doesn’t have the standing to invoke the sanctions provision because President Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“In the end they provided no alternatives, no options,” Pompeo said of America’s European allies, adding that they “chose to side with the ayatollahs” and put their own citizens at risk. “America won’t join in this failure of leadership. America will not appease, America will lead.”
Condemnation of the U.S. move was swift. In a joint statement, France, Germany and the U.K. said they remained committed to the deal that eased sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. They called on all Security Council members to “refrain from any action that would only deepen divisions” in the body.
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom are committed to preserving the processes and institutions which constitute the foundation of multilateralism,” the nations said.
Diplomats from a number of nations indicated they saw no need for further steps. On Friday, China predicted the U.S.’s latest effort would end in failure like a similar attempt earlier this month.
“It must feel so alone,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing in Beijing. “This shows the unilateralist stance of the U.S side is against the consensus of the international community. It has failed in sabotaging the JCPOA.”
In a tweet before Pompeo’s letter was delivered, Russian’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzya, said the U.S. has no “legal right or reason to initiate this thing,” and “of course we will challenge it.” Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s UN ambassador, told reporters that the “U.S. attempted to mislead the international community” and the letter Pompeo submitted “is null and void.”
Although many countries are wary of Iran, the U.S. has been almost completely isolated in its efforts to raise pressure on the Islamic Republic. Building a coalition may be even harder now for Trump, who’s trailing in opinion polls less than three months before the presidential election.
But Trump administration critics and supporters alike say the true U.S. goal is to finally kill what’s left of the 2015 deal, which European nations have tried to keep alive, so that a future administration wouldn’t be able to revive it.
The U.S. legal argument, spelled out in a document accompanying Pompeo’s letter Thursday, hinges on the definition of the term “participant state” from UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which put the global body’s imprimatur on the nuclear accord when it was agreed to in 2015.
All of the other participants in the accord -- including France, Germany and the U.K. -- argue that Trump’s decision to back out of the deal in 2018 means the U.S. is no longer a participant. The U.S., argues the opposite: It says the “participant states” were fixed by resolution 2231 and leaving the deal doesn’t change that.
“The U.S. unilaterally ceased participation in the JCPOA,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, said in a statement on Thursday. “It cannot, therefore, be considered to be a JCPOA participant State for the purposes of possible sanctions snapback foreseen by the resolution.”
In the clearest sign of how isolated the U.S. is at the global body, an American effort last week to extend indefinitely a 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran was defeated in historic fashion: 11 members of the Security Council abstained, with just the Dominican Republic joining the U.S. as China and Russia vetoed the measure.
Trump has long called the agreement reached by his predecessor, Barack Obama, the “worst deal ever” and has said he wants a new accord to help foster peace across the Middle East. His administration has used increasingly tough economic and diplomatic pressure to try to convince European allies to quit the 2015 nuclear deal, saying Iran used the revenue it got from eased sanctions to finance conflicts from Syria to Yemen.
The dispute between the U.S. and the rest of the permanent members of the Security Council could plunge the body into a crisis with no clear path toward a resolution.
“It will be one of the worst crises to face the UN Security Council in a generation,” said Richard Nephew, who was the lead sanctions expert for the Obama administration team that negotiated the accord. “The council will be hopelessly divided, without any clarity on how to move forward.”
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