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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US ‘Snaps Back’ UN Sanctions on Iran

By VOA News September 19, 2020

The United States is returning virtually all the U.N. sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo, according to a Saturday night statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Calling Iran the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism, the statement said the sanctions are being reimposed beginning Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 UTC) through the snapback process contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which implemented the Iran nuclear agreement.

The U.S. took this action because Iran failed uphold its JCPOA commitments and the Security Council failed to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which had been in place for 13 years, the statement said.

'Maximum pressure'

The statement also said, “The United States expects all UN Member States to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures.” It said the U.S. would announce in the coming days “additional measures to strengthen implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable.”

“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” the statement said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded Saturday, hours before the U.S. announced its plans to reimpose snapback sanctions against Tehran.

"The Americans as a rule act as a bully and impose sanction. … The world community should decide how to act towards bullying," Zarif told Iranian state television.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Washington. During a joint press conference Wednesday, Pompeo said, “We will return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions so that the arms embargo will become permanent next week.”

Raab replied, “I think we absolutely agree that Iran must never be — never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.” However, he did not say whether and how Britain would implement the snapback sanctions.

In August, Britain, France and Germany, the so-called E3, said they could not support the U.S. move to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran, saying the action was incompatible with efforts to support the Iran nuclear deal.

“Whether those countries will in fact ignore the U.N. sanctions [under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231] remains to be seen,” Elliott Abrams, U.S. special envoy for Iran and Venezuela, told reporters Wednesday in a phone briefing. He added the E3 and other European countries had told Washington that they didn't want the Iran arms embargo to end, but they were unable to take any action that kept the U.N. arms embargo in place.

Sanctions details

Abrams said the returned sanctions include “a ban on Iran engaging in enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, the prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development, and sanctions on the transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies to Iran.”

U.S. officials warn that an Iran free from restrictions would lead to further regional destabilization, intensified conflicts and a regional arms race.

The U.S. tried but failed on August 14 to extend an expiring arms embargo against Iran through a resolution at the U.N. Security Council.

The embargo against the sale or transfer to or from Iran of conventional weapons is set to expire on October 18, under the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

With the extension blocked, Washington saw triggering a snapback of U.N. sanctions under Resolution 2231 as the only path for restoring the arms embargo.

As the U.S. snaps back sanctions against Iran, E3 nations are largely seen as likely to ignore them. Some experts said there would be a limited impact on European economies, unless the U.S. punished those nations with secondary sanctions.

2015 accord

Under the JCPOA concluded on July 14, 2015, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, plus Germany, agreed with Iran to gradually lift international sanctions in return for limits on Tehran's nuclear activities, to prevent it from making a nuclear bomb. It also opened Iran's markets back up to many foreign investors.

The United States withdrew from the deal in May 2018, reimposing unilateral sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran resumed some of its nuclear activities, and in July 2019 it breached the deal by exceeding limits on both uranium enrichment and stockpile levels. Iran denies that its nuclear activities are for military purposes.

VOA's Nike Ching contributed to this report.

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