United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday that Iran will be “unshackled to create new turmoil” once a United Nations arms embargo on Iran and a travel ban on its senior officials expires next year.
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on security challenges in the turbulent Middle East, Pompeo, advised members against lifting sanctions against Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and 22 other senior Iranians in October 2020. The Trump administration has ratcheted up the rhetoric and its own unilateral sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers, saying the accord did not do enough to curb Tehran’s military ambitions.
“We are already tracking very closely the JCPOA provisions expiring in October 2020, namely, the UN arms embargo and the travel restrictions on Qasem Soleimani,” Pompeo told the council, using an acronym of the nuclear deal’s official name.
“The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent that from happening.”
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, a UN arms embargo on the country and a travel ban on Soleimani, who runs the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and 22 other officials, are due to expire in October next year. The 2015 deal featured a timetable for normalizing Iran’s relations with world powers, including the gradual lifting of travel bans, asset freezes and other sanctions after Tehran had demonstrated compliance with the accord.
Since the US slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran’s oil sector in April, Tehran has run a “campaign of extortion diplomacy” by test-firing ballistic missiles, ramping up uranium enrichment and seizing oil tankers, said Pompeo. The US State Department has put a “countdown clock” on its website that runs down until October 18, 2020, when Iran would be able to sell weapons abroad and buy new supplies from the likes of Russia and China, its website says.
Speaking with reporters before the Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said members of the 15-nation body needed to start planning for what happens in October 2020 now.
“It is important for the international community to understand that the Iran nuclear deal is going to start expiring next year, and it will continue to expire,” said Hook.
“We believe that the UN Security Council has an important role to play to ensure that the arms embargo and the travel ban are continued.”
In the council chamber, Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s UN ambassador, accused the US of fomenting instability with its military footprint and “unbridled flow of American weaponry into this region, which has turned it into a powder keg.”
“While we are not seeking confrontation, we cannot and will not remain indifferent to the violation of our sovereignty. Therefore, in order to secure our borders and interests, we will vigorously exercise our inherent right to self-defense,” Ravanchi told the council.
It remains unclear whether the council will take any further action on Iran. The deal’s European signatories, Britain, Germany, and France, have tried to salvage the accord. Russia and China could shield Tehran from any action.