WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – Hardline U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said he was expanding the scope of Iran metals sanctions, targeting 22 specific materials that he claimed were used in connection with Iran’s nuclear, military or ballistic missile programs.
Pompeo in a statement called it a "major expansion” of the Iran metals-related sanctions administered by the State Department, allowing Washington to blacklist those who knowingly transfer the materials to Iran.
Pompeo cited Iran’s construction sector as target, claiming that it is controlled by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
As a result, sanctions may still be imposed on those who transfer certain materials, including graphite or raw or semi-finished metals, to or from Iran to be used in connection with Iran’s construction sector, Pompeo said.
The United States has previously targeted Iran’s metals sector with sanctions in an effort to slash Iranian revenues.
Pompeo on Thursday gave his clearest indication yet that the United States would seek to force UN sanctions on Iran if an arms embargo lapses.
Russia and China, two of the Permanent Five nations that enjoy veto power on the Security Council, want the UN embargo on selling conventional weapons to Iran to end on October 18 as laid out under a 2015 resolution.
Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States would introduce a resolution to extend the embargo "in the near future” which "we hope will be met with approval from other members of the P5.”
"In the event it’s not, we’re going to take the action necessary to ensure that this arms embargo does not expire,” he said.
The United States has previously said it has the authority to "snap back” UN economic sanctions that were lifted as part of a nuclear deal with Iran.
"We have the capacity to execute snapback and we’re going to use it in a way that protects and defends America,” Pompeo told the committee.
The 2015 resolution had blessed a denuclearization deal with Iran negotiated by former president Barack Obama from which President Donald Trump pulled out in 2018.
Trump has since repeatedly denounced the accord and imposed unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran, but Pompeo claims that the United States remains a "participant” in the accord with the right to snap back UN sanctions – an argument which has been derided by world countries.
Even U.S. allies are skeptical about the legal argument and warn that such a move could damage the Security Council as an institution.
France and Britain, the other nations in the P5, reportedly support extending the arms embargo but say the greater priority is maintaining a diplomatic solution to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
The embargo issue could come to a head days before the U.S. presidential election. Trump’s rival Joe Biden backs the Iran agreement.