The United States has broken with all other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and unilaterally declared the re-imposition of all UN sanctions against Iran.
A claim rejected by Iran and the international community, including Washington’s close allies, as having no legal basis.
In a statement on Sunday following the expiration of a deadline set by the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened “consequences” for any UN member state that does not comply with the punitive measures, which were lifted under a landmark nuclear deal that was signed between six world powers and Iran in 2015 but was abandoned by the US more than two years ago.
In addition to adhering to a conventional arms embargo that is due to expire next month, Pompeo said member states must comply with restrictions such as the ban on Iran involved in nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities, which includes a prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development; and sanctions on transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies.
“If UN Member States fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity,” Pompeo said.
His statement came a month after the US officially triggered the process aimed at restoring all UN sanctions on Iran, claiming significant Iranian violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the 2015 deal that was endorsed by the Security Council.
Despite the US in May 2018 pulling out of the deal and reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, Washington argues it is still technically a “participant” and could trigger the so-called “snapback”.
This was a mechanism devised by the US negotiating team before the signing of the JCPOA that stipulated that if Iran breached its commitments, all international sanctions could snap back into place.
However, the international community, including the four other permanent Security Council members, insist the US no longer has the legal ability to force through any changes since it announced its exit from what Trump has branded “the worst deal ever” with a presidential memorandum titled Ceasing US Participation in the JCPOA.
In a live televised interview on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the expected US declaration amounted to “piracy”.
“This is as if someone with a sword stands at a passageway and says anyone who wants to pass must pay me,” he said, pointing out that the move is null and void in the eyes of the world.
In a letter to the Security Council, the European signatories to the deal – Britain, France, and Germany, or E3 – stressed UN sanctions relief for Iran would continue, adding that any decision or action to reimpose them “would be incapable of legal effect”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also told the council he would not take any action on the US declaration because “there would appear to be uncertainty whether or not any process … was indeed initiated”.
On Sunday morning, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters the US is experiencing some of its “most bitter” times as it has chosen to stand “on the wrong side of history”.
“The message of Tehran for Washington is clear: Return to the international community. Return to your commitments. Stop this rogue and unruly behavior. The international community will accept you,” Khatibzadeh said.