A new report says 13 countries of the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have expressed their opposition to the US push to trigger the so-called snapback provision in the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at reinstating UN sanctions against Iran, leaving Washington one again isolated on the issue like never before.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filed an official complaint with Security Council President Dian Triansyah Djani, accusing Iran of violating the 2015 nuclear deal – from which US President Donald Trump withdrew two years ago.
Pompeo claimed that Washington is still a participant in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and therefore retains the right to activate a 30-day countdown to a return of all UN sanctions that had been imposed on Tehran before the nuclear agreement.
In the 24 hours since the top US diplomat said he had invoked the “snapback” mechanism, Reuters reported that Britain, France, Germany and Belgium as well as China, Russia, Vietnam, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Indonesia, Estonia and Tunisia wrote letters in opposition.
Dominican Republic has not yet written to the council against the sanctions “snapback” push. The country was the only UNSC member that joined the US to vote ‘yes’ to a proposal by the Trump administration to extend the Iran arms embargo beyond its expiration in October.
The US suffered an embarrassing loss last Friday at the Security Council after Russia and China voted against the anti-Iran resolution and the remaining 11 council members, including France, Germany and the UK, abstained.
UNSC Resolution 2231, which enshrined the JCPOA, states that if no council member has put forward a draft resolution to extend sanctions relief on Iran within 10 days of a non-compliance complaint, then the body’s president shall do so within the remaining 20 days.
The document, however, says the Security Council would “take into account the views of the states involved.”
Some diplomats stressed that the council president would not have to put up a draft text given the strong opposition to the US bid to initiate the “snapback” process.
“Faced with this very strong view of a majority of Security Council members that the snapback process has not been triggered, as the presidency they are not bound to introduce the draft resolution,” said a UN Security Council diplomat, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
‘US isolated as allies, opponents oppose snapback push’
Meanwhile, CNN reported that the Trump administration was left isolated on the world stage as its foreign allies and competitors alike rejected its demand to restore UN sanctions on Iran.
The remaining signatories to the JCPOA disagreed with Pompeo’s legal rationale for the move, arguing that Washington is using a process agreed under a nuclear deal that it quit in May 2018.
France, Britain and Germany maintained that since the United States left the JCPOA, it has no right to act under its provisions.
“The US ceased to be a participant to the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the deal on May 8, 2018,” the European trio said in a joint statement. “We cannot therefore support this action which is incompatible with our current efforts to support the JCPOA.”
Similarly, a spokesman for China’s mission to the UN said, “The US demand has no legal ground and common sense. It is nothing but a political show staged by the United States,” adding, “It receives no support of the Security Council members and no acknowledgment of the international community.”
New York Times: Instead of Iran, US isolated itself
The New York Times reported that instead of Iran, the US has isolated itself in its pursuit to kill the JCPOA.
“A diplomatic standoff over restoring international sanctions against Iran may be the most vivid example yet of how the United States has largely isolated itself from the world order — instead of isolating Tehran, as the Trump administration intended,” the report said.
“At nearly every step President Trump has taken in his dogged pursuit to demolish a 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, he has run into opposition, including from America’s strongest allies in Europe.”
The report further predicted that even if the UN bans are re-imposed against Iran, US allies are not willing to enforce those measures.
“The bigger issue is that even if Mr. Pompeo succeeds, he may be re-imposing sanctions that no US allies are willing to enforce. And that could not only weaken American authority worldwide, it may also show adversaries how to sidestep the United Nations in future global disputes,” it said.
Wendy Sherman, a former US under secretary of state for political affairs, who was the chief negotiator in the nuclear deal, emphasized that her country “does not have standing” to restore the sanctions and was unlikely to convince European diplomats that it did.
Washington, she noted, could undercut its own authority, especially if it defied other world powers, including allies, that refused to enforce the sanctions.
Iran’s UN envoy: Future action depends on treatment with JCPOA, Resolution 2231
In an interview with the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA), Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi said it is “a very ridiculous proposition to consider the United States as a JCPOA participant.”
“Resolution 2231 talks about JCPOA participants. It is not talking about 2231 participants, it talks about JCPOA participants. There are certain rights and certain obligations for JCPOA participants. Because the US has withdrawn from the JCPOA, it cannot be considered a JCPOA participant. So, there is no legal basis for the US claim to be a JCPOA participant. We believe that the United States cannot invoke the relevant provision in 2231 for bringing back the old resolutions. We have said very clearly that if arms embargoes are going to be back against Iran, Iran’s reaction will be harsh. We have different options available to us, and we do not rule out any political options that are available to Iran,” he said.
Iran remained fully compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal for an entire year after the unilateral US withdrawal, waiting for the co-signatories to honor their commitments.
As the European parties continued to renege on their obligations, the Islamic Republic moved in May 2019 to suspend some of its JCPOA commitments under Articles 26 and 36 of the deal covering Tehran’s legal rights. Iran took five steps in scaling back its obligations.
Takht-Ravanchi said that Iran’s future action hinges on the way that the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 will be treated.
“Regarding whether Iran is going to move further from what we have done, as you know after taking the fifth steps, Iran said it would no longer take any action, and that has been our position since. As far as our future action is concerned, it depends very much on the way that the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 are going to be treated. Our actions will be corresponding to whatever happens with Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA,” he explained.
He also supported the idea that the US should compensate Iran for the damage caused by its sanctions.
“Iran has suffered a lot after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA. In the last couple of years, we have suffered a lot in terms of losing precious Iranian lives as a result of the US sanctions, even on food and medicine. We have lost a lot in terms of economic issues. So, there is a good argument by Iran to seek compensation from the United States. There are the things that have to be borne in mind when we were talking about future moves by the United States to join the JCPOA again.”