United Nations

UN Council Rejects US Demand to `Snap Back' Iran Sanctions

The U.S. mission to the U.N. later issued a statement saying the U.S. “is on firm legal ground to initiate the restoration of sanctions”

Medical personnel wearing protective suits work at a new coronavirus (COVID-19) section of the Masih Daneshvarii Hospital on August 19, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.
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The president of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s demand to restore all U.N. sanctions on Iran, a move that drew an angry rebuke from the U.S. ambassador who accused opponents of supporting “terrorists.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the U.N., Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country currently holds the rotating council presidency, made the announcement in response to requests from Russia and China to disclose results of his polling of the views of all 15 council members on the U.S. action.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted last Thursday that the United States has the legal right to “snap back” U.N. sanctions, even though President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

All the council members, except the Dominican Republic, had informed the council president that the U.S. administration’s action was illegal because Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, in 2018.

Djani told members at the end of a virtual meeting on the Mideast on Tuesday that there was no general agreement among council members.

“Having contacted the members and received letters from many member countries it is clear to me that there is one member which has a particular position on the issues, while there are significant numbers of members who have contesting views," he said.

“In my view there is no consensus in the council,” Djani said. “Thus, the president is not in the position to take further action.”

That means the U.N.’s most powerful body, at least during Indonesia’s presidency, is not going to take up the U.S. demand.

Niger takes over the council presidency in September, and its ambassador also sent a joint letter with South Africa, Tunisia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines calling the U.S. “ineligible” to trigger “snap back” because it is not a party to the JCPOA. So it is likely to ignore the U.S. demand as well.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. later issued a statement saying the U.S. “is on firm legal ground to initiate the restoration of sanctions” under the Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal.

“The fact that some council members expressed disagreement with our legal position in an informal (virtual meeting) does not have any legal effect,” the mission said.

Pompeo came to the United Nations after the Security Council resoundingly rejected a U.S. resolution to indefinitely extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire Oct. 18. Only the Dominican Republic supported the United States.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft on Tuesday repeated Pompeo’s message: “The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons ... (or) to have a nuclear weapon.”

Craft accused the council of lacking “courage and moral clarity,” and accused Iran of defying the arms embargo and “fomenting conflict and murder throughout the world as it supplies weapons to proxy militias and terrorist groups.”

She said it's Russia and China who “revel in this council’s dysfunction and failure,” Iran “that celebrates its newfound leverage over the free nations of the world” and Hezbollah, the Houthis and Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela that welcome the possibility of new Iranian weapons and support. She also criticized European nations for opposing “snap back.”

“The Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company in this matter in light of the unmistakable truth in guiding our actions,” she said. “I only regret that the other members of this council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the council president's decision “a prudent step,” saying virtually the entire council “confirmed the paramount need to preserve the JCPOA,” which he called important for the entire international community, including the United States.

“I hope that the United States would be able to finally realize it, and not ... pursue this path which is not only illegal but simply will not lead to achieving the result that was envisaged by the United States,” he said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun called Djani’s conclusion “the right step towards the right direction.”

Zhang rejected Craft’s accusations against China, saying “once again they are trying to turn black white, and once again I can assure you that their attempt will never succeed.” He said Beijing is determination to defend multilateralism, the JCPOA and Mideast peace, “whatever the United States says.”

France’s deputy U.N. ambassador Anne Gueguen said 13 of the 15 council members, including the three European nations still party to the JCPOA, agree the U.S. is no longer part of the deal and therefore its notification of “snap back” has no effect.

She said the Europeans — France, Britain and Germany — believe that “systematic Iranian non-compliance with its JCPOA commitments” should be addressed through talks, initially in Vienna on Sept. 1 and through a dispute resolution mechanism in the nuclear deal.

“At the same time, we have serious concerns about the implications for regional security presented by the scheduled expiry of the U.N. conventional arms embargo, which were also raised by several countries from the region and other U.N. Security Council members,” she said.

Gueguen said the three European parties are willing to work with council members including the other JCPOA participants, Russia and China, “to seek a realistic path forward that could secure the support of the council.”

Iran’s U.N. Mission said the council’s deliberations “showed once more the U.S.’s isolation on the JCPOA” and called Pompeo’s letter “null and void,” with no legal standing,” and “thus completely inadmissible.’’

“Iran trusts that the council members will continue preventing that country from undermining the U.N., including the Security Council,” the mission statement said.

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