Saeed K. Mavadat

UNSC rejects U.S. resolution amid Iranian glee and concern

August 15, 2020 - 22:48

TEHRAN - The UN Security Council on Friday rejected a U.S.-drafted resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran as most members abstained from voting.

A former diplomat tells the Tehran Times that these abstentions shouldn’t be interpreted as a success for Iran.

While the U.S. plans to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran, the European parties to the Iran nuclear deal, who abstained on the U.S. resolution, make efforts to draft a new resolution to re-impose an international arms embargo on Iran, according to a report published by a regional newspaper.

Moreover, in a bid to ensure that the UN arms embargo on Iran is extended, the U.S. plans to unilaterally trigger a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran after its resolution to extend the arms embargo was rejected by the UN Security Council.

The Security Council held a meeting to vote on the U.S. resolution calling for an indefinite extension of the UN arms embargo on Iran that is due to expire on October 18. Only two countries –the U.S. and the Dominican Republic- voted in favor of the resolution. Russia and China opposed while 11 members of the Security Council including European signatories to the nuclear deal –France, Germany, and the UK – abstained.

In a statement on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.” He added the U.S. will continue to work to ensure that the 13-war arms embargo is not lifted in October.

It was widely expected that the Security Council would reject the U.S. resolution, and even U.S. officials raised the possibility of their resolution being rejected. Besides, Russia and China would have vetoed the resolution if it had gained nine "yes" votes.

“The U.S. was sure that its resolution would fail to get nine votes, and even if the resolution had obtained the required votes, it would have been vetoed by Russia and China,” Fereydoun Majlesi, a former Iranian diplomat, told the Tehran Times.

With the failure of the resolution, the U.S. is now bracing for another legal battle over how to restore international sanctions on Iran. It has said that it would resort to triggering the snapback of UN sanctions on Iran if the UN Security Council rejected its resolution.   

“Under Resolution 2231, the United States has every right to initiate snapback of provisions of previous Security Council resolutions. In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo,” Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said in a statement on Friday, shortly after the Security Council rejected the U.S. resolution.

However, diplomats and analysts say the U.S. has no right to trigger the snapback of sanctions, a mechanism designed to allow parties to the nuclear deal to re-impose the UN sanctions on Iran in case it violated the deal.

“The U.S. can’t trigger the snapback of UN sanctions on Iran because it has chosen to quit the JCPOA (the official name for the 2015 nuclear deal,” Majlesi asserted, adding that there is no need for the U.S. to re-impose the UN sanctions given that almost all countries around the world currently abide by its unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Iran hailed the Security Council to reject the U.S. resolution. Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, has warned the U.S. of further isolation if it failed to take lesson of its “total failure.”

“The international community, once again and with a clear voice, rejected the US reckless and futile attempt to undermine the UNSC credibility. The American regime should take a listen from its total failures and stop shaming itself at UN, otherwise it will get isolated, even more than now,” the spokesman said in a tweet on Saturday.

However, Majlesi believes that the Security Council’s decision to reject the U.S. resolution has also highlighted Iran’s isolation. He said that 11 countries have abstained on the U.S. resolution, underlining that these abstentions should not be considered as a success for Iran.

“The abstention vote cannot be interpreted as the consent of a particular country towards Iran, but rather as an indication of isolation while Iran is right,” Majlesi noted.

A European resolution

It remains to be seen whether the U.S. would follow through on its promise to snapback UN sanctions. Some foreign media outlets suggest that the European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) could reach a compromise with the U.S. on the arms embargo.

The Europeans seem to be working with Russia and China as well as the U.S. to ensure that the nuclear deal is saved while the UN arms embargo is extended one way or another, according to a report published by the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Citing a diplomatic source, the newspaper reported that in a bid to prevent a “deep disagreement” between Europe and the U.S. over the snapback, the E3 – France, Germany, and the UK- are making efforts to prepare a separate draft resolution to impose international sanctions on Iran with regard to weapons, especially ballistic missiles, and Iran's “destabilizing” behavior in West Asia.

“The European side also fears that the American move [to trigger the snapback], if successful, will completely destroy the nuclear deal, and thus free the Iranian establishment from its obligations under Resolution 2231,” the newspaper quoted the source as saying on Saturday, adding that such a move means that the Security Council would find itself in a legal battle that would take some time to be resolved.

Meanwhile, the Europeans expressed readiness to work with other members of the Security Council to find a way out of the arms embargo dispute.

“The UK abstained on this resolution because it was clear that it would not attract the support of the Council and would not represent a basis for achieving consensus. It would therefore not contribute to improving security and stability in the region. Nevertheless, we stand ready to work with Council Members and JCPoA participants to seek a path forward that could secure the support of the Council,” the UK mission to the UN said in a statement on Friday.

The statement also said, “We do not support a move to snapback at this time, which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPoA.”

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