The United Nations Failed to Renew the Arms Embargo. What Does That mean?
By Hollie Mckay
The United Nations Security Council last week rejected a U.S. effort to extend a 13-year-old embargo on Iran imports and exports of conventional weapons, including aircraft and tanks in and out of the Middle Eastern country.
Permanent members China and Russia – who have veto power – verbally rejected the endeavor in advance, while of the 15 countries in the UN Security Council, only the Dominican Republic joined the U.S. in backing the overture. Prominent U.S. allies Britain, Germany and France abstained from the vote.
The years-long embargo is set to expire Oct. 18, so what exactly does the failure to extend it mean?
It was seemingly a doomed effort from the beginning. The U.S. proposition to extend the arms embargo would have required nine yes votes and zero vetoes in order to get the green light. Thus, this leaves little option for the Trump administration – which removed itself from the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known simply as the Iran Deal, in 2018 and instead pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian leadership – than to invoke the aggressive “snapback” provision. President Trump cautioned on Monday that such a tactic could be pulled as early as next week.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL REJECTS US RESOLUTION TO EXTEND IRAN ARMS EMBARGO
The accouterment is incorporated into the accord and worded to punish any Iranian infringements of the deal by reinstating the full slate of sanctions that were removed when the agreement went into effect – potentially triggering an even more significant blow to Tehran. It could possibly mean that the beleaguered nation is not only prohibited from engaging in arms deals but also that it’s oil and financial sectors could be further hampered.
America’s allies have stood against Washington opting for the snapback measure, expressing concern over its destabilizing regional impact and the diplomatic calamity it would create within the Security Council.
Kamran Bokhari, director of analytical development at the Center for Global Policy, noted that the U.S. threat to snapback sanctions could indeed make matters worse in terms of the total collapse of the nuclear deal.
“But before that, it could plunge the Security Council into a crisis with the other four major powers along with Germany wanting to preserve the nuclear deal,” he explained. “Meanwhile, Russia and China are already exploiting this situation to their respective benefit and will be using it as leverage in their bilateral dealings with Washington. Of course, the Iranians are milking this outcome to the maximum and claiming it as a huge victory.”
Yet other national security experts insist the move is now a pivotal one.
“The snapback mechanism was designed to put American interests first, and Russia and China cannot stop it. Importantly, snapback will not only extend the arms embargo on Iran – it will extend all the other sanctions and restrictions on Iran scheduled to expire in future years, too,” said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and former National Security Council staffer. “It takes away Iran’s remaining strategic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal and makes it more likely for them to negotiate a new deal on President Trump’s terms. Moreover, anyone who opposes the U.S. snapback is taking a position in favor of Chinese arms sales to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – weapons that will be used to threaten America.”
MORGAN ORTAGUS ON IRAN ARMS EMBARGO PUSHBACK: UN SECURITY COUNCIL LACKING’ MORAL COURAGE’
But whether a U.S. snapback campaign would even be successful is debatable, given that the U.S. removed itself from the JCPOA more than two years ago. It is likely, according to analysts, that Washington will have to build the case that technically it is still a “participant state” in the 2015 agreement – only for the aim of instituting a snapback – and that Iran has extensively violated its terms. The resolution is a separate document to the JCPOA contract itself.
“Unless the U.S. successfully triggers the snapback mechanism, the arms embargo, as well as travel bans on senior Iranian security officials, expire on Oct. 18, 2020. The U.N. Security Council will no longer have to approve the sale of arms to Iran, including battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, and combat aircraft,” surmised Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). “The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that Iran may purchase Russian Su-30 fighter jets and T-90 main battle tanks.”
Europe has reportedly offered to broker a compromise – either instituting an international code of conduct on weapons sales to Iran or allowing only some sales to Tehran – Brodsky continued, underscoring that such options lack enforcement and water down the existing arms embargo.
“At a time when Iran is reportedly offering the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the international community shouldn’t be rewarding Tehran for its bad behavior,” he said. “The U.N. Security Council is undermining its mission to maintain international peace and security. And Europe wants to have it both ways, expressing concern about its major implications for regional security while doing everything it can to preserve the JCPOA. Europe’s policy is unsustainable, and dismisses the concerns of those most impacted by the arms embargo’s expiration in the region – namely the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel.”
The arms embargo was intended to prevent the Iranian regime from selling and purchasing weapons, and if the snapback bid proves unsuccessful, in two months Tehran can legally begin to restock its arsenal of arms – which its leaders have already vowed to do. The country’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, said Sunday that Iran “will use all capacities in the world to meet its arms requirements, selling and exporting weapons after sanctions removal,” as per local press reports.
“I don’t remember the U.S. preparing a resolution for months to strike a blow at the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it garners only one vote,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also declared in a televised speech. “But the great success was that the U.S. was defeated in this conspiracy with humiliation.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Abbas Mousavi, also capitalized on the occasion, emphasizing that the country intends to export weapons immediately after the blockage lapses.
What that could potentially mean for the already war-ravished and volatile region – of which Tehran is routinely accused of playing the proxy war game – has given rise to some added anxieties.
“The extremist regime in Iran doesn’t just finance terrorism: it takes an active part in terrorism through its branches around the world and uses it as a political tool. This behavior represents a danger to regional and international stability,” Israeli’s foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, stated.
According to Erielle Davidson, a senior policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), proponents of the Obama-era deal sold the JCPOA on the premise that this safety valve called the “snapback” existed.
“But now that the Trump administration is considering doing so, there is a real political antipathy to using the mechanism, though no one has presented an alternative plan, either from the Biden camp or within the U.N., about how to contain Iran in a post-JCPOA world,” she warned.
“After enduring years of multilateral arms sanctions, Iran’s army needs revamping, specifically its obsolete air force. Without the snapback, Iran will be able to freely purchase and sell conventional weapons, come October,” added Hooman Mirghasemi, a journalist at the London-based Iran International T.V. “The people of Iran are going through a very tough time. There is severe poverty, mainly as the result of the regime’s mismanagement, pervasive corruption, and the fact that billions of dollars are being siphoned into Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Iranians are aware of that.”
Originally published in FOX News