NEW YORK/MOSCOW – The United States lost a bid to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran on Friday as Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a summit of world leaders to avoid “confrontation” over a US threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Tehran.
Russia and China opposed extending the weapons ban, which is due to expire in October under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while Washington and the Dominican Republic were the only yes votes.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “The Security Council rejected direct appeals to extend the arms embargo from numerous countries in the Middle East endangered by Iran’s violence.”
“Security Council failed to hold Iran accountable today. It enabled the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell deadly weapons and ignored the demands of countries in the Middle East. America will continue to work to correct this mistake.” Pompeo tweeted.
The @UN Security Council failed today to hold Iran accountable. It enabled the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell deadly weapons and ignored the demands of countries in the Middle East. America will continue to work to correct this mistake.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 14, 2020
“The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council,” he added. “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.”
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reacted to the results and said that it is serves to further empower the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism in a dangerous manner.
“Supplying arms to the Iranian regime threatens to further destabilize the region and is contrary to the security interests of the United States and our allies,” the organization said in a statement.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Trump administration to extend the embargo,” AIPAC added. “We also thank the overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress that expressed strong support for extending the embargo. Now, the US must explore additional options to ensure that Iran will not be allowed to further arm itself and its terrorist allies.”
The conference of presidents of major Jewish organizations denounced the Security Council.
“Should the embargo end this fall, the rogue Iranian regime will likely rush to amass additional weapons for its own use and to supply its terrorist proxies,” the umbrella organization said in their statement. “As a result, the security of American forces, as well as those of our allies, including Israel, will be at greater risk. This is an outrage that strengthens Iran in its quest for hegemony in the Middle East.”
“The international community must take this urgent step against a regime that openly calls for death to America and Israel, and undermines the stability and security of the region,” the statement reads.
The Security Council’s decision to reject the US initiative to extend the arms embargo on Iran is a disgrace,” said Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan in a statement. “Instead of allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to acquire deadly weapons, the council should impose crippling sanctions on Iran. 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.”
“The United States is sickened but not surprised at the outcome of today’s UNSC vote,” US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said in a statement. “The Council’s failure to extend the Iran’s arm embargo is a devastating blow to the Council’s credibility.”
“The Council’s failure to step up to this moral challenge serves to validate the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, just to save face and protect a failed political deal made outside the Council,” she continued. “To those members who opposed or stood silently by on this resolution, I suggest they take their excuses and explanations to those most affected: the starving in Yemen, the displaced in Syria, the heartbroken in Lebanon.”
The Russian Mission to the UN tweeted: “We consistently oppose attempts to impose through the UN Security Council “arms embargo” on Iran.” The Chinese Mission to the UN released a statement as well, saying that “the overwhelming majority of Security Council members hold that the JCPOA and Security Council resolution 2231 must be defended and implemented. The US, not a participant to the JCPOA any more, has no right to demand the Security Council invoke a snap-back. Should the US insist, it is doomed to fail.”
The United States could now follow through on a threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback, even though President Donald Trump abandoned the accord in 2018. Diplomats have said the United States could do this as early as next week, but would face a tough, messy battle.
Diplomats have said such a move would put the fragile nuclear deal further at risk because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities. Iran already has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the US withdrawal from the pact and unilateral sanctions.
Putin on Friday proposed a video summit with the United States and the remaining parties to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, China, Germany and Iran – to try to avoid further “confrontation and escalation” at the United Nations over Iran.
“The issue is urgent,” Putin said in a statement, adding that the alternative was “only further escalation of tensions, increasing risk of conflict – such a scenario must be avoided.”
Asked if he would take part, Trump told reporters, “I hear there’s something, but I haven’t been told of it yet.” French President Emmanuel Macron is open to taking part in a video summit, the Elysee palace said.
The United States has argued that it can trigger a sanctions snapback because a UN Security Council resolution enshrining the nuclear deal named Washington as a participant. But the remaining parties to the deal are opposed to the move.
Putin said Russia, an ally of Iran in the Syrian civil war, remained fully committed to the nuclear deal and that the aim of a summit would be to outline steps aimed at avoiding “confrontation and escalation of the situation in the Security Council.”
Trump has said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran that would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and also curb its activities in the region and elsewhere. Trump, who has walked away from a series of international agreements, has dubbed the 2015 nuclear deal – reached under his predecessor Barack Obama – “the worst deal ever.”
Diplomats have said several countries would argue that the United States legally could not activate a return of sanctions and therefore simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.