(August 14, 2020 / JNS) One of the top priorities for the Trump administration in recent months has been the effort to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran. On Wednesday, the United States circulated a revised “streamlined” version of its resolution to gain more support in the U.N. Security Council.
Richard Goldberg, the former director for countering Iran’s weapons of mass destruction at the White House National Security Council, told JNS that the arms embargo is the most pressing threat to the United States and “an issue where there is widespread agreement” between the United States and its allies.
The new version, which Reuters saw, is only four paragraphs long. It calls for extending the 2010 ban “until the Security Council decides otherwise,” stating that it is “essential to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The embargo is set to expire on Oct. 18 under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The United States withdrew from it in May 2018, reimposing sanctions that were lifted under it and enacting new penalties against Tehran as part of what the Trump administration has called a “maximum pressure” campaign.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that there will be “consequences” for the U.N. Security Council if it backs an extension.
“We have great hopes that America will fail,” he told a televised meeting of his cabinet. “We have great hopes that America will realize its failure and see its isolation.”
China and Russia, which, like the United States, have a permanent veto on the U.N. Security Council, are expected to veto the measure—a move that the Trump administration has said would result in enacting snapback sanctions under the deal, which would include extending the arms embargo indefinitely.
In accordance with the 2015 agreement, America will need to inform the Security Council a month earlier if it intends to enact snapback.
“If the administration demonstrates it tried to extend the embargo by a simple extension, it can more reasonably defend extending the embargo via the snapback, which could otherwise appear to be a direct attack on the Iran nuclear deal,” said Goldberg. “The strategy is a smart one domestically more than anything. We know that Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on the Iran deal, but we’ve seen overwhelming bipartisan support for extending the embargo.”
Extension should be a ‘no-brainer’
In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, nearly 90 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives called for the United States to work with its allies in extending the embargo.
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS that the resolution attempt is “a good-faith effort to work with allies to extend the arms embargo” and noted the overwhelming support in the House of Representatives to extend the U.N. ban.
He also said that for the European Union, the extension “should be a ‘no-brainer.’ ”
Like Goldberg, Dubowitz said that the United States “will have no choice but to extend the arms embargo, missile embargo and other important U.N. restrictions through snapback.”
Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, emailed JNS that “it’s easier” for the United States to push for an extension of the arms embargo, whereas enacting snapback sanctions “would activate a protracted (and acrimonious) process” at the Security Council “and would assuredly meet resistance from other countries that are eager to preserve” the Iran deal.
Berman said extending the embargo “would simply prolong one of the international provisions that accompanied the agreement—something that should be a lighter lift in policy terms.”
Barbara Slavin, who leads the Atlantic Council’s Future Iran Initiative, claimed that since the United States has withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear accord, enacting snapback is “of dubious legality.”
She added that the Trump administration is “going through the motions of doing things the ‘proper’ way by introducing a separate new resolution that seeks to extend the arms embargo. Only after that fails—as it will—would the U.S. then invoke snap back,” in which the United States “lost the right” to do so by leaving the deal.
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