Iran Warns Against U.S.-Led Efforts to Extend Arms Embargo

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Iran’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday that he believes a U.S. resolution to extend an arms embargo against his country will be defeated and warned it would be “a very, very big mistake” if the Trump administration then tries to reimpose U.N. sanctions.

Ambassador Majid Ravanchi said that restoring U.N. sanctions will end the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers and release Tehran from all its commitments.

“If that happens, Iran will not be under constraint as to what course of action it should take,” he said reporters. “All options for Iran will be open.”

Lifting the arms embargo on Tehran is part of the U.N. 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear agreement.

Ravanchi spoke a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to seek to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not approve a resolution that would indefinitely extend the arms embargo, which is set to expire in October.

“Iran will be able to purchase advanced weapons systems and become an arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world,” Pompeo said. “This is unacceptable.”

Later Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft briefed Security Council members on the U.S. draft resolution that would maintain the arms embargo indefinitely.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have escalated since 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers and reimposed crippling U.S. sanctions.

The five other powers that signed the nuclear deal — Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany — remain committed to it, saying the agreement is key to continuing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Ravanchi said ending the arms embargo in October “is an essential part of the agreement between Iran and its partners.”

“We believe there is no stomach for members of the Security Council to digest the draft resolution like the one the U.S. presented,” he said. “So, it is our view that the draft resolution will be defeated.”

Ravanchi stressed that Iran will not accept “anything less than full implementation” of the provision lifting the arms embargo.

And he added: “It would be a wise idea for the United States to reconsider the presentation of the draft because it’s not going to be approved.”

The Iranian ambassador pointed to letters from the foreign ministers of Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, to its members opposing any extension of the arms embargo.

The Iranian delegation is seen during the final plenary of the Iran nuclear negotiations with the EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers in Austria in 2015.

The 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, also includes a “snap back” provision that would restore all U.N. sanctions against Iran that had been lifted or eased if the nuclear deal is violated.

Responding to Pompeo’s threat to use that provision if the U.S. arms embargo resolution isn’t approved, Ravanchi said: “This is a very, very big mistake on the part of the United States to try to snap back the resolution, because they know that is the end of JCPOA, and they should think twice before resorting to that option.”

He said Iran and many other Security Council members believe the U.S. has no legal authority to invoke snap back because it is not part of the JCPOA.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has dismissed as “ridiculous” the possibility of the Trump administration trying to use the snap back provision, stressing that since the U.S. pulled out out of the JCPOA “they have no right” to use any of its provisions.

But Pompeo and Craft insist the resolution makes clear the U.S. retains the right to use the provision.

Ravanchi said the U.S. should ask itself how it will implement snap back in the face of strong opposition to it.

And he said the U.S. should also bear in mind the consequences of having no JCPOA, and the consequences of snap back action, including its impact on other Security Council members and the council’s credibility.

The ambassador was asked whether ending IAEA inspections, stopping unannounced inspections under the nuclear agency’s additional protocol, or withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, are likely steps Iran would take if the U.S. succeeds in re-imposing U.N. sanctions.

“I am not going to tell you exactly what action we are going to take,” Ravanchi replied. ”There are a number of options available.”

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