ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The US is pressuring UN Security Council members to extend an arms embargo on Iran despite their withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in 2018.
The embargo, introduced in 2015 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is set to expire in October.
The US has drafted and shared a resolution with Britain, France, and Germany that would extend the embargo, Reuters has reported. However, they are yet to share it with the other 11 council members, diplomats told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
“It will be dead on arrival,” said an anonymous Security Council diplomat to Reuters.
The US has been largely isolated in Security Council sessions on the Iran nuclear deal since their withdrawal in May 2018. Diplomats speaking to Reuters say it is unlikely to get support from Russia and China, both permanent members of the council with veto power.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was preparing legal arguments that the US remains a participant in the nuclear accords that the country withdrew from in May 2018.
The landmark 2015 nuclear deal was signed between Iran on the one side and the US, Russia, Germany, France, UK and China on the other. The deal was designed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.
However, the deal began to unravel in May 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the deal unilaterally, arguing the agreement did not guarantee Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons and that Iran was destabilizing the Middle East through armed proxy groups across the region.
The insistence on US participation in the deal aims to reactivate the entire set of sanctions placed on Iran before the accord was ratified.
US officials have argued that this procedural “snapback” is possible due to the United States being listed as a deal participant in the UN resolution that sealed the accord.
The US will activate this legal argument should the arms embargo draft resolution not go through, according to New York Times sources.
Legal opinions on whether the US can argue their continued participation in the accord are split, according to the diplomats speaking to Reuters.
The Russian mission to the UN has already expressed skepticism of this legal argument.
“The country which officially ceased its participation in the #IranDeal can not remain its participant by definition,” Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted on Monday.
A European official, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, argued that pulling off such a manoeuvre would be incredibly difficult.
“It’s going to be messy from a Security Council standpoint because, regardless of what (Britain, Germany and France) think, Russia and China are not going to sign up to that legal interpretation,” claimed the official.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to criticize the US’ planned legal argument, armed with screenshots to prove the US did in fact withdraw from the deal.
Although most powers oppose the US sanctions on Iran, the global financial dominance of the US dollar has meant the deal’s European, Russian and Chinese signatories have been able to do little to alleviate pressure on Iran’s economy from Washington’s crushing sanctions.
In response to the sanctions, Iran has begun a gradual abandonment of its commitments to the nuclear deal – moves that Iran has argued are reversible if sanctions relief is provided.
Tehran announced in January that it would no longer comply with restrictions on nuclear enrichment, the latest move in undermining the landmark deal.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have spiked following the US drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory fire of ballistic missiles at US bases in January.
Washington has blamed the attacks on Iran-aligned elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF,or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) , a military network formally integrated into Iraq’s security forces.
A tense exchange between US naval vessels and speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on April 15 has set off a new set of threats between the leaders of the two countries.
Most recently, Iran says it has launched its first satellite into orbit, a move the US has said strengthens Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities.