U.S. would face major defeat at UN

August 11, 2020 - 23:57

TEHRAN- As the U.S. prepares to turn up the heat on Iran at the UN Security Council, a “major defeat” for the U.S. administration’s foreign policy looms large on the horizon, a university professor told the Tehran Times. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the U.S. was going to call for a vote on extending a UN arms embargo on Iran at the Security Council.

“The United States will put forward a resolution in the Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran,” the U.S. chief diplomat said, adding, “The proposal we put forward is eminently reasonable. One way or another we will do the right thing. We will ensure that the arms embargo is extended.”

The U.S. measure comes against a backdrop of heightened diplomatic tensions between Tehran and Washington over the arms embargo, with Iran warning that it would “decisively respond” to any effort by the U.S. to extend restrictions on Iran.

In a briefing on Tuesday, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, “Iran won’t hesitate to respond decisively and proportionately to any provocative and unlawful act to extend the arms embargo.”

Tehran has previously warned that the extension of the arms embargo could spell the end of the 2015 nuclear deal - officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - that Tehran signed with world powers. 

In a tweet on May 3, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani wrote: "#JCPOA will die forever by circumventing 2231 Resolution & continuing # Iran's illegal weapons sanctions. Sanctions' virus is the U.S. tool for survival of its declining hegemony. What will #EU do: Save dignity & support multilateralism or Accept humiliation & help unilateralism?”

According to the terms of the JCPOA, the UN arms embargo will expire on October 18. However, the U.S. has launched a diplomatic campaign to extend the arms embargo despite the fact that it has ceased its participation in the nuclear deal and thus it has no right to extend the arms embargo or trigger a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. has circulated a resolution calling for an indefinite extension of the arms embargo, even though its legal argument to do so is very much under doubt at the moment. While other parties to the nuclear deal say that the U.S. is no longer a participant to the deal and thus it has no authority to extend the embargo, U.S. officials seem to be preparing to trigger the snapback of UN sanctions on Iran if their resolution is rejected or vetoed.

In order for the U.S. resolution to be passed, at least nine members of the Security Council must vote in its favor. The U.S. officials made efforts to win the support of countries, which currently hold a seat on the Security Council. Brian Hook, the former U.S. special representative for Iran, paid visits to Tunisia, Estonia and the UK in a bid to get them to support the U.S. push to extend the arms embargo.

“My visit today to Tunisia is to advance the U.S. – Tunisia partnership on the United Nations Security Council, and to discuss the very urgent need for the Security Council to extend its Arms Embargo on Iran, which expires in October,” Hook said during his visit to Tunisia, which took place on July 24. 

However, it seems that Hook failed to win the support of Tunisia and maybe the support of other countries. Nearly two weeks after Hook’s visit to Tunisia, Pompeo found himself obliged to hold talks with the Tunisian leadership.

In a tweet on August 8, Pompeo said that he held “productive conversation with President [Kais] Saied of Tunisia today about the issues we face at the United Nations and at home.” 

For his part, President Saied said in a tweet that he held talks with Pompeo on “bilateral relations as well as a number of international and regional issues.”

It’s safe to say that the two officials have discussed the idea of extending the arms embargo on Iran.
Hook announced his resignation weeks after his visits to Tunisia and the UK. Analysts believe that his failure to mobilize countries against Iran was probably the reason behind his surprise resignation. 

“Probably one reason that Brian Hook left the Trump administration was because he realized that his efforts are not really paying off the way they expected,” Fowad Izadi, a professor of American studies at the University of Tehran, told the Tehran Times.  Izadi said U.S. officials have made efforts to bring the members of the Security Council on board, but they failed. 

“They worked very hard. They traveled a lot. They called a lot of people to advance their goals,” the professor stated, noting that the failure of these efforts “could be one reason for Brian Hook leaving the Trump administration.”

However, even if the U.S. gains enough votes to pass its resolution, it still could face the vetoes of Russia or China. The U.S. officials have already implied that their resolution had a zero chance to be adopted, and they managed to put it forward in a bid to put Russia and China “in a corner and shine the light on them,” according to Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. 

“I think it’s going to be a major defeat for the United States. The Trump administration has worked very hard to make sure that this portion of the UN resolution 2231 is not implemented and they have done their utmost to basically force a lot of countries and the UN Security Council to violate the resolution and extend the UN arms embargo [on Iran]. And if they fail, this is going to be a major defeat for the United States, and this is going to have ramifications both internationally and domestically,” Izadi pointed out.

He added, “They are in the election year and thus they are going to also pay a price in the presidential competitions that they have.”

Regardless of the legal arguments regarding the snapback mechanism, the United States could resort to triggering the snapback of UN sanctions even though its legal stance is ambiguous. Whether other countries will implement the arms embargo if it is extended remains an open question. 

Izadi believes that any U.S. move to trigger a return of UN sanctions on Iran, would divide the world into two blocs: some countries would be obliged to follow the U.S. and others could ignore the U.S. pressure. 

“We know that the United States doesn’t follow international law and they use different instruments that they have to engage in illegal activities. So the end result is going to be some countries follow the U.S. dictates because they have no other choice, and some countries are going to be more independent and able to withstand the U.S. pressure,” the professor told the Tehran Times.

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