E3 reject U.S. push to trigger snapback of UN sanctions on Iran

September 19, 2020 - 12:37

TEHRAN – In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council on Friday afternoon, European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal rejected the U.S. announcement that all UN sanctions on Iran would return on September 20, saying the U.S. “notification” to the Security Council was “incapable of having legal effect.”

On August 20, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter to the UN Security Council requesting to trigger the “snapback” mechanism, which allows a participant to the Iran nuclear deal –officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – to reimpose the international sanctions on Iran in case it didn’t uphold its commitments under the deal. The U.S. letter was sent to the Security Council in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2231, which stipulates that a “JCPOA participant state” can trigger the snapback process. However, the U.S. measure sparked outrage among members of the Security Council, who said the U.S. had no legal right to initiate the process because it withdrew from the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018.

“At the request of our foreign ministers, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (‘the E3’) would like to follow up on our letter to the presidency of the UN Security Council dated August 20th, 2020. In this letter, we expressed our shared view that the purported notification under paragraph 11 of UNSCR 2231 (2015) received from the United States of America and circulated to the UN Security Council Members is incapable of having legal effect and so cannot bring into effect the procedure foreseen under OP 11. It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on this possible outcome would be incapable of having any legal effect,” the E3 said in their letter.

The E3 position has nothing new and it is, in fact, a repetition of the E3 foreign ministers’ position, which was expressed in a statement issued shortly after the U.S. submitted the notification to the Security Council. They said at the time that “the U.S. ceased to be a participant to the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the deal on May 8, 2018”, and that they cannot support the U.S. measure against Iran at the UN.

Despite the European opposition, the U.S. insists that, no matter what members of the UN Security Council would do, the international sanctions will return on September 20.

“If any member of the UN Security Council introduces a resolution to continue sanctions relief, the U.S. will oppose it. If no resolution is introduced, the sanctions on Iran will still return on September 20. That’s how UNSCR 2231 works,” tweeted Pompeo on August 27, a week after he traveled to New York to “notify” the Security Council of Iran’s “significant non-performance” of its commitments under the JCPOA.

In response, Iran has said no sanctions will be reinstated on September 20. In a tweeted on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his American counterpart was wrong to think that the UN sanctions on Iran would be reimposed on September 20.

“Wrong again, Pompeo. Nothing new happens on 9/20. Just read Resolution 2231. Bolton—who convinced the boss to order you to ‘CEASE U.S. participation’—did. In his words: Process is not ‘simple’, automatic or snappy. But intentionally ‘complex & lengthy’. U.S. is NOT a participant,” Zarif tweeted.

Now, the Europeans reiterated Zarif’s position as well. They said that “as of September 20 the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008) and 1929 (2010) will continue to be terminated pursuant to paragraph 7 (a) of resolution 2231 (2015). Consequently, any decision or action taken with a view to re-installing the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008) and 1929 (2010) would be incapable of legal effect.”

With the Europeans, along with Russia and China, rejecting the U.S. push to reinstate the international sanctions on Iran, the White House would face an uphill battle to enforce the sanctions if it declares their reimposition in the coming days. Some news reports suggest that U.S. President Donald Trump could issue an executive order to punish arms trade with Iran, which means that the U.S.is going it alone in enforcing the sanctions on Iran.

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