US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Wednesday of a return of UN sanctions on Iran if the Security Council fails to extend an arms embargo expiring in October.
The United States has put forward a resolution to extend the embargo on conventional weapons but faces opposition from veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to win contracts with Tehran.
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“Our focus now is to work with Security Council to pass this resolution,” Pompeo told reporters.
“But, in the event it doesn’t happen, we remind the world that the Obama administration’s officials said very clear(ly) that the United States has the unilateral ability to snap back sanctions into place,” he said, confirming US intentions.
Pompeo, generally more known for his partisan attacks on the previous administration, quoted both former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state John Kerry on the right of the United States to impose sanctions if Iran violates the embargo.
The five-year ban on selling conventional arms was part of a 2015 resolution in support of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Obama and Kerry, from which President Donald Trump pulled out.
The Trump administration has made the novel case that the United States remains a participant in the nuclear deal — hence able to initiate the snapback of sanctions — as it was mentioned in the 2015 resolution, despite later withdrawing.
Iran, which already faces sweeping unilateral US sanctions, warns that the US-triggered reimposition of UN sanctions — whose validity is sure to be questioned by other countries — would mark the end of the nuclear accord.
Iran denies any intention to build nuclear weapons and says it needs conventional weapons to defend itself in a hostile region.
The UN resolution proposed by the United States would condemn Iran over a September 2019 attack against oil facilities in regional rival Saudi Arabia.
France, Britain and Germany, which all still support the nuclear deal, said last week that they supported extending the arms embargo.