Speaking at a videoconference meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the 15-nation UN body to block the planned lifting of the UN arms embargo on Iran in October.
Washington had earlier circulated a much-criticized draft resolution to achieve that goal.
Attempting to justify the illegal push, Pompeo claimed that if the UN failed to renew the ban, it would pave the way for Iran to procure advanced military hardware from Russia and China, which would potentially threaten capitals in Europe and even South Asia.
Tehran would also be “free to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan,” he further claimed.
“Don’t just take it from the United States; listen to countries in the region. From Israel to the Persian Gulf, countries in the Middle East—who are most exposed to Iran’s predations—are speaking with one voice: Extend the arms embargo.”
The top US diplomat also alleged that Iran is “already violating the arms embargo before its expiration date,” adding, “Imagine Iranian activity if restrictions are lifted.”
Pompeo’s appeal, however, fell flat, with other Security Council members hitting back at him and reminding the US that it was no longer a party to the Iran nuclear deal and cannot thus resort to Resolution 2231, which endorsed the accord, to seek an extension of the UN ban.
The US pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 in violation of Resolution 2231 and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions it had lifted under the nuclear deal. Washington has also been pressing the other signatories to withdraw.
Russia: US putting knee to Iran’s neck
At the opening of Tuesday’s UNSC session, Rosemary DiCarlo, a former US State Department official who serves as UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, praised the JCPOA as a “significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy and dialogue” and voiced “regret” over the US withdrawal.
Also addressing Tuesday’s meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya compared imposing sanctions on Iran to the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed unarmed African-American man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck despite cries that he could not breathe.
“The task is to achieve regime change or create a situation where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe. This is like putting a knee to one’s neck,” he said
Nebenzya further described the move as “a maximum suffocation policy” and stressed that Washington’s goal was to make Tehran the scapegoat for an uncontrollable escalation in the Middle East.
The Russian envoy also criticized Pompeo for signing out of the Security Council meeting after his remarks, saying, “I understand he has a very busy schedule, but we regret that he didn’t choose to listen to Council members, at least some of them.”
Pompeo left before Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran joined the meeting to defend Iran’s position.
China: US has no right to trigger ‘snapback’
Similarly, China’s representative to the UN urged the US to “stop its illegal, unilateral sanctions and long arm jurisdiction, and return to the right track of observing the JCPOA and the resolution 2231.”
“China opposes the US moves for extending the arms embargo on Iran,” Zhang Jun said. “Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snapback at the Security Council.”
Following the session, the Chinese mission to the UN posted a tweet, outlining the main points in remarks of Beijing’s envoy at the UNSC.
Russia and China — both veto-wielding permanent members of the UNSC — had earlier signaled their opposition to the US draft resolution.
To circumvent the veto, the US plans to argue that it legally remains a “participant state” in the nuclear pact only to invoke the snapback that would restore the UN sanctions, which had been in place against Iran prior to the JCPOA’s inking.
Europeans criticize US
Representatives of Germany, Britain and France also expressed unease at the American approach, particularly the snapback, which they flatly opposed.
Separately, Germany’s UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen noted that Washington had no standing to invoke UN sanctions on Iran.
“It is very unfortunate that the United States left the JCPOA, and by doing this actually violated international law,” he said.
The European trio, however, voiced concern over the upcoming expiration of the arms ban, expressing hope to find a way to limit Iranian access to arms through a compromise, not through the Security Council.
Analysts say the resistance to the US call — even by its key allies — is sign of America’s growing isolation and declining influence on the world stage.
“The council’s chilly reception of Pompeo added to a portrait of an increasingly isolated United States and underscored how little deference other countries pay the [US President Donald] Trump administration as it faces a grim reelection contest,” The Foreign Policy reported.
Henry Rome, senior Iran analyst for Eurasia Group, said the Security Council meeting was “another vivid illustration of Washington’s isolation on the Iran issue — as well as its failure over the past three years to persuade any other signatory of the deal to back its approach.”
‘US was so isolated that Pompeo had to leave early’
In a post on his Twitter account, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-e Ravanchi called on the US to immediately withdraw its “ill-fated” draft resolution on the extension of the arms ban.
“Today, #UNSC members reiterated, again, their support for #JCPOA and UNSCR 2231. Their speeches proved that they do NOT support the US’ move to extend arms embargo on Iran as it violates 2231. US should withdraw its ill-fated draft immediately; before it is rebuffed yet again,” he wrote.
Moreover, Iran’s Ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted, “The UN Security Council session proved to be a manifestation of unity among all members — except US — in its unwavering support for the Iran’s nuclear deal and its condemnation of US policy. US was so isolated even among its allies that Pompeo had to leave the meeting so early.”