US says UN sanctions on Iran are back as allies, rivals object

That’s unlikely to happen, with key European powers yesterday stressing their commitment to the nuclear agreement


LONDON • The US said international sanctions on Iran are automatically “snapping back” in a move that most nations say the Trump administration doesn’t have the authority to demand since quitting a 2015 nuclear deal two years ago.

“Sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement late on Saturday. “The US expects all United Nations (UN) member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures.”

That’s unlikely to happen, with key European powers yesterday stressing their commitment to the nuclear agreement.

Since quitting the accord in 2018, the Trump administration has plowed ahead with efforts to undermine the deal, ratcheting up sanctions on the Islamic republic and even threatening allies if they do business with Tehran.

Yet, instead of rallying allies to its side, the US moves have united partners like the UK, France and Germany with Russia and China, all of whom have sought to salvage the accord. Their support for the deal has left the US isolated on the UN Security Council (UNSC), and most nations say America has no authority to demand the return of international sanctions since it’s no longer a party to the deal.

“We have worked tirelessly to preserve the nuclear agreement and remain committed to do so,” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK said in a statement yesterday. The accord is “a key pillar of the global nonproliferation architecture” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said in a separate statement, adding that all parties should “do their utmost to preserve the agreement”.

On Saturday, Iran ridiculed the US bid to forcibly restore sanctions, and said it would set Washington’s military outposts in

the Persian Gulf “on fire at once” if its adversary tried to start a war. The US move is “void” and a “propaganda ploy”, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian state television, while yesterday his spokesman told reporters the measures would have dangerous consequences for the US.

The US asserts that all of the UN resolutions on Iran that were in place before the 2015 deal — from a ban on arm deals to restrictions on the Islamic republic’s ballistic missile activity and its nuclear enrichment — should have gone back into effect as of 8pm New York time on Saturday.

To enforce those measures, if countries like Russia and China disregard them, the US could use tools such as secondary sanctions on shippers, insurers and banks and may even threaten interdictions of ships at sea.

“In the coming days, the US will announce a range of additional measures to strengthen implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable,” Pompeo said in his statement. “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 US said that while it isn’t a party to the nuclear deal, the broader UNSC resolution that enshrined the accord doesn’t require it to still be in the agreement.

The dispute has paralysed sthe UNSC and threatened lasting damage to the global body. Most SC nations appear to be trying to avoid any direct confrontation on the issue until after US presidential elections in November. Democrat Joe Biden has said he would seek to return to the nuclear deal and build on it if elected as US president in November.

The US move comes ahead of Trump’s expected address tomorrow to the UN General Assembly, which is being held virtually this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump may use that address to renew his past denunciations of Iran and vow to enforce the renewed sanctions. — Bloomberg