The United States’ “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran has brought “maximum isolation”, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, after a US unilateral declaration that UN sanctions are back in force against the Islamic Republic was dismissed by other major powers.
“America’s maximum pressure… not only has failed, but has led to its maximum isolation,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
He said no one in the world will give in to “outlaw” America and that such stances will only backfire on the US.
The administration of US President Donald Trump said the so-called "snapback" of the sanctions was in effect and threatened to "impose consequences" on any UN member state that fails to comply.
The sanctions in question were lifted in 2015 when Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – reached a landmark nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
But Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, saying the deal – negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama – was insufficient. He also renewed and even strengthened Washington's own sanctions.
The US insists it is still a participant in the agreement that it stormed out of, but only so it can activate the snapback option, which it announced on August 20.
Virtually every other Security Council member disputes Washington's ability to execute this legal pirouette, and the UN body has not taken the measure any further.
Oppose US bullying
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the world community should oppose America’s will as a “bully,” or expect to face sanctions itself.
“The Americans as a rule act as a bully and impose sanctions... The world community should decide how to act toward bullying,” Zarif said.
“As they (other countries) will face the same thing tomorrow when America takes the same action toward the Nord Stream project, as well as other projects because a bully will continue to act as a bully if he is allowed to do it once,” Zarif said, referring to the pipeline project that delivers Russia’s natural gas to Europe.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also said the US is “very, very isolated in its claims". "The whole world is saying nothing has changed."
Khatibzadeh brushed off the move and called on the rest of the world to unite against the US "reckless actions".
"This is all much ado about nothing, and I imagine these are the most bitter days and hours for" the United States, he said.
"Tehran's message for Washington is clear. Return to the international community, to your commitments, stop rebelling and the world will accept you."
No legal effect
On Sunday, two permanent council members – France and Britain – issued a joint statement along with non-permanent member Germany saying the US' "purported notification" was "incapable of having any legal effect".
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom note that the US ceased to be a participant to the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the deal on May 8, 2018. Consequently, the purported notification… is incapable of having legal effect. It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on its possible outcome would also be incapable of having any legal effect,” the statement read.
The European parties to the JCPOA also stressed their commitment to the UNSC Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear pact.
“We remain guided by the objective of upholding the authority and integrity of the United Nations Security Council. The E3 remains committed to fully implementing UNSCR 2231 (2015) by which the JCPOA was endorsed in 2015. We have worked tirelessly to preserve the nuclear agreement and remain committed to do so,” they said.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, reiterated that the US cannot initiate the snapback process.
“The US unilaterally ceased participation in the JCPOA by presidential memorandum on May 8, 2018 and has subsequently not participated in any JCPOA-related activities,” Borrell said.
“It cannot, therefore, be considered to be a JCPOA participant state and cannot initiate the process of reinstating UN sanctions under the UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Consequently, sanctions lifting commitments under the JCPOA continue to apply,” he added.
In mid-August, the US suffered a resounding defeat at the Security Council when it tried to extend the embargo on conventional weapons being sent to Tehran, which was due to expire in October.
The Trump administration, however, is acting as if the international sanctions are in place, while the rest of the international community acts as if nothing has changed.
‘World not American computer game’
Russia on Sunday condemned the unilateral declaration by the United States that UN sanctions on Iran are back in force as "illegitimate" and "unacceptable".
"The illegitimate initiatives and actions of the United States by definition cannot have international legal consequences for other countries," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It slammed the US for "trying to force everyone to wear virtual reality goggles" and accept its version of events, adding, "The world is not an American computer game."
Washington's defiance has dealt a "serious blow to the authority of the UN Security Council" and showed "open contempt for its decisions and for international law as a whole," the ministry said.
"This is unacceptable, and not only for us, but for other members of the Security Council too."
Russia said it "fully supports" the position of the majority of Security Council members that the US moves are "legally and procedurally null and void."
Russia said that efforts to ensure the fulfillment of the 2015 nuclear accord would be continued.
"The US should not exacerbate the situation but immediately renounce its course to destroy the JCPOA," Moscow said.
Some observers said the US announcement was counterproductive.
"I don't see anything happening," said one UN diplomat. "It would be just a statement. It's like pulling a trigger and no bullet coming out."
Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, lamented the decision.
"We all clearly said in August that US claims to trigger #snapback are illegitimate. Is Washington deaf?" he tweeted.
AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.