The Trump administration’s attempt to indefinitely extend a UN arms embargo on Iran failed dramatically on Friday, securing only a single vote in addition to its own from the 15-strong UN Security Council.
The defeat of US efforts to extend the embargo, which is due to expire in October in line with the terms of a 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran, increased the possibility that the Trump administration would try to reimpose sanctions at the UN security council early next week.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018. Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, accused the UN security council of rejecting a reasonable resolution. He said in a statement on Friday that it was “inexcusable” it had failed to extend the 13-year-old arms embargo.
Only the Dominican Republic, a temporary member on the council which Pompeo announced this week he would visit on Sunday, supported the resolution. The US had already watered it down in a bid to secure support.
China and Russia, among the five permanent member states that retain veto power on the Security Council, voted against the US proposal, while the remaining 11 abstained. A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes to succeed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday proposed a video summit with the European trio of France, Germany, and the UK, known as the E3, as well as the US, China and Iran to avoid what he termed “confrontation and escalation” at the UN.
The US has accused Russia of wanting to sell weapons to Iran. Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement that the US had ignored Security Council members’ concerns by proceeding with a vote in the absence of support, adding the resolution had “no legal ground and common sense”.
Germany said it abstained because it would not be effective and lacked support. “We rather believe that more time and more consultations are needed,” it said in a statement on Friday.
The E3 – signatories to the Iran deal who also sit on the UN Security Council – tried to find a compromise reflecting their own security concerns about Tehran without sinking the nuclear deal, and which Russia or China could support. An exasperated Kelly Craft, US ambassador to the UN, earlier told the Financial Times she held last-ditch talks with the European trio to extract concrete counterproposals of their own, but they did not emerge. She said the US would “stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo”.
If the US were to trigger so-called snapback UN sanctions against Iran it would automatically restore the embargo, but would also probably end the 2015 nuclear deal, which has faltered since the US withdrew in 2018.
The E3 has said any unilateral attempt to reimpose sanctions would have “serious adverse consequences” in the UN Security Council.
UN Security Council diplomats have said the US has no right to trigger snapback sanctions, since Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.
But the US circulated talking points drawn from its legal argument to UN Security Council members on Thursday afternoon.
A six-page version of the US legal analysis, obtained by the FT, claimed the US had “an explicit right” to initiate the snapback sanctions under the UN resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal, and that any argument to the contrary would “create a perilous precedent that could threaten the force of virtually any Security Council decision”.
China on Friday argued the US was no longer a participant in the deal and therefore “ineligible” to reimpose sanctions, a view shared by several council members.
“The overwhelming majority of the Security Council members believe that the US attempt has no legal basis,” said Mr Zhang. “Should the US insist regardless of international opinion, it is doomed to fail like today.”
*Katrina Manson, a British journalist and photojournalist, covers US foreign policy, defense and intelligence.
Source: Financial Times