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UN Security Council votes to let Iran arms embargo expire, rejecting US demands

The UN Security Council on Friday resoundingly defeated a US resolution that sought to indefinitely extend the UN arms embargo on Iran.

The vote in the 15-member council was two in favor, two against and 11 abstentions, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption. Russia and China strongly opposed the resolution, but didn’t need to use their vetoes.

The Trump administration received support from only the Dominican Republic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the defeat of the resolution ahead of a very brief virtual council meeting to reveal the vote.

He said Israel and the six Arab Gulf nations who supported the extension “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires, but the Security Council chose to ignore them.”

“The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the UN decision “a disgrace.”

“The council has utterly failed in its responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. This decision will further destabilize the Middle East, and increase the spread of violence around the world,” Erdan said.

The Trump administration has said repeatedly it will not allow the arms embargo provision in the Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers to expire as scheduled on October 18.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 but the five remaining parties — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — still support it.

The agreement is aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons and diplomats from several of the other countries that are party to it have expressed serious concern that extending the arms embargo would lead to Iran’s exit from the agreement, and in turn to fast-tracking its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

While voting on the US draft resolution was underway, Russia said President Vladimir Putin called for a meeting of leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany and Iran to avoid escalation over US attempts to extend the Iranian arms embargo.

In statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said “the question is urgent,“ adding that the goal of the videoconference would be “to outline steps to avoid confrontation and exacerbation of the situation in the UN Security Council,”

”If the leaders are fundamentally ready for a conversation, we propose to promptly coordinate the agenda,” Putin said. “The alternative is to further build up tension, to increase the risk of conflict. This development must be avoided.”

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office confirmed France’s “availability in principle” to Putin’s proposal. “We have in the past deployed initiatives in the same spirit,” it said.

On Thursday, US Ambassador Kelly Craft said in an interview with The Associated Press that the United States is “keeping the space open” for talks with Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China.

She urged the three European nations that support the nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — to put in writing their ideas to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran, indicating the Trump administration may be willing compromise on its demand for an indefinite extension. She said they had mentioned a six-month or one-year extension.

European diplomats said the three countries share the US goal of maintaining the arms embargo but need to find a compromise with Russia and China. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said the Europeans had offered a compromise proposal but the US, Russia and China showed no willingness to compromise.

In separate letters to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council last month, Russia and China were sharply critical of the US effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, indicating they would veto any such resolution if it got the minimum nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council.

Brian Hook, the outgoing US envoy for Iran, told reporters Thursday that Iran backs Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, and is responsible for over 600 American deaths in Iraq and thousands of wounded. He underscored the support for the indefinite arms embargo extension from the six feuding nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi said that since Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal, the US has no legal right to try to use the UN resolution endorsing the agreement to indefinitely continue the embargo.

Pompeo has suggested the US would invoke the “snap back” mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal that would restore all UN sanctions on Iran. “Snap back” was envisioned in the event Iran was proven to be in violation of the accord, under which it received billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“Obviously we will use the most important tool, whatever it is, whether it’s `snap back,’ whether it is hopefully just going into the council and extending this renewal, we will not take no for an answer,” Craft said Thursday.

Also Thursday, the US circulated to council members a six-page memo outlining why the United States remains part of the 2015 Security Council resolution and still has the right to use the ‘snap back’ provision.

“It is clear that letting the arms embargo expire would be very bad for peace and security in the region and beyond the region,” Hook told reporters Thursday. “Allowing the arms embargo to expire on a terrorist regime would be negligent. It would be an act of gross irresponsibility.”

Craft said council members face a choice between “sponsoring terrorism” or promoting international peace and security.

“We have a moral responsibility to make certain that this murderous regime does not have access any longer to exporting and to arming its proxies,” Craft said.

Source: Edith M. Lederer – Times of Israel

Iran on Saturday hailed a UN Security Council vote rejecting a US bid to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic republic, saying its foe has “never been so isolated.”

President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.

“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”

Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.

“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them,” he tweeted.

The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.

“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

European allies of the United States — who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran — have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.

However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.

Ambassador Gunter Sautter of Germany, which abstained, said “more consultations are needed” to find a solution that is acceptable to all council members.

During a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, the leaders “discussed the urgent need for UN action to extend the arms embargo on Iran.”

Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran to convene an emergency video summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.

Washington has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if it is not extended by using a controversial technique called “snap back.”

Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the US remains a “participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution — and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.

European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.

Nevertheless, the US is expected to deliver the snap back letter next week, AFP understands.

Analysts suspect that Washington purposefully put forward a hardline draft that it knew Council members would not be able to accept.

“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this [resolution] is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snap back and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.

Source: AFP via TOI