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US Fails to Extend Arms Embargo Against Iran — For Now

In recent UN activity, Washington attempted to extend an arms embargo against Iran indefinitely, but the Europeans did not concur. Now the dispute over the nuclear deal is set to intensify.

What Happened?

For international diplomacy, it is an unprecedented situation: this past Saturday night, the United States failed to pass a resolution to extend the arms embargo against Iran. The US introduced the resolution in the Security Council. The failure of a resolution in itself is certainly not a novelty.

The result, however, was a historical first: only one country voted together with the Americans in favor of extending the sanctions, namely the Dominican Republic.

Europe’s powers Great Britain, Germany and France, Great Britain, and eight other non-permanent Security Council members abstained. Russia and China voted against the US proposal to extend the arms embargo against Iran indefinitely.

Moscow and Beijing Use Their Veto

The Americans failed because of the veto from Moscow and Beijing, but because of their allies’ lack of support. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has consistently accused the Security Council of “failure” and called the result “inexcusable.” Israel, meanwhile, referred to the vote as “a shame.”

The international ban on delivering armaments to Iran expires in October. The latter is part of an agreement by the United Nations in 2015 after the nuclear deal with Iran was negotiated. This agreement, from which the United States withdrew two years ago, is currently at issue in the conflict that has now come to light in the Security Council.

The UK, France, and Germany are Onboard with the Embargo — if China and Russia Can Come Around

London, Paris, and Berlin helped negotiate the nuclear deal. All three are interested in maintaining the arms embargo as far as possible, but only if a compromise can be found with Russia and China. France, Germany, and Great Britain have made appropriate proposals. However, these have not yet been accepted by the USA, Russia, or China.

The latter is hardly surprising. After all, Moscow and Beijing are interested in a quick end to the embargo so that armaments can be officially delivered to Tehran from October.

The USA could now try to declare the nuclear deal with Tehran failed and reinstate the UN sanctions against Iran. The latter is known as the snapback mechanism: a way to reinstate all international sanctions against Iran from before the agreement — without a veto by other members of the Security Council could be prevented. That would be the end of the agreement.

Can the US Still Use the Snap Back Option?

However, opinions differ between the Americans and their European allies as to whether the US can take advantage of this option even though it has withdrawn from the treaty. The Europeans argue that the US can no longer claim the rights of a contracted party. All members of the Security Council have already pledged to oppose the snack back approach.

Nonetheless, Pompeo already pledged that the US would not deviate an inch from its demand. On the other hand, Tehran is threatening to withdraw from the nuclear deal if the Security Council should extend the embargo.

The Transatlantic Relationship is Badly Frayed

The vote in the Security Council shows how deep the rifts are in the transatlantic relationship. In addition, one can express doubts about whether Washington is currently genuinely involved in the process or whether it only tries to sell its voters an ended Iran nuclear program prior to the elections.

The latter makes the current standoff even more complicated. President Putin has already called for a crisis summit in which the five permanent members of the Security Council — USA, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China — and Germany and Iran ought to participate.

Over the past two years, Iran has violated the obligations of the nuclear treaty step by step. Nevertheless, the Europeans seek to hold on to the agreement that was signed under President Barack Obama.