UNITED NATIONS (Dispatches) — The UN Security Council is set next week to roundly reject a U.S. resolution to extend an Iranian arms embargo, diplomats say, setting up a lengthy showdown with repercussions for the Iran nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the United States would put forward its long-awaited resolution despite ardent opposition from Russia and China as well as its own European allies.
But UN diplomats say opposition to the resolution’s current form is so widespread that Washington is unlikely even to secure the nine votes required to force Moscow and Beijing to wield their vetoes.
"The resolution takes a maximalist position on Iran,” one diplomat told AFP.
Another said the draft "goes beyond the current provisions” of the ban on conventional weapons sales to Iran that ends on October 18.
The embargo is due to expire under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, signed in July 2015 and officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the deal, negotiated by then U.S. President Barack Obama, Iran committed to curtailing its nuclear activities for sanctions relief and other benefits.
President Donald Trump pulled America out of the accord in May 2018 and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of "maximum pressure.”
The U.S. text, reportedly seen by AFP, effectively calls for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran and uses hawkish rhetoric.
Diplomats fear the resolution threatens the nuclear agreement. Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.
"The focus should remain on preserving the JCPOA,” a third diplomat told AFP.
"It is the only way to provide assurances about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. No credible alternative to this instrument has ever been proposed since the U.S. withdrawal,” they added.
Experts say the gulf between the U.S. and its allies threatens a summer of discontent at the Security Council as the October 18 deadline approaches.
"This is a car crash that everyone knows is going to happen,” New York-based UN expert Richard Gowan told AFP, describing the U.S. draft as a "poison pill of a text.”
The United States has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if the embargo is not extended by using a controversial technique called "snapback.”
Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the United States remains a "participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution — and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can
force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.
Kelly Craft, the US Ambassador to the UN, told journalists Thursday that Washington’s first objective was an extension but it is prepared to use "all tools available.”
A push for snapback "seems very likely,” according to Gowan, of the International Crisis Group think-tank. "At worst that could torpedo the nuclear deal once and for all, which may be what Pompeo wants.
"This could be a mess in terms of Council politics parallel to that over Iraq in 2003,” he said.
On Thursday, China expressed its unequivocal opposition to the U.S. to prevent the removal the embargo. "We don’t agree with the U.S. in pushing for the extension of the arms embargo against Iran in the Security Council,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
"All the provisions of Resolution 2231, including the relevant arrangements with regard to arms embargo, should be implemented in earnest,” he added.