VIENNA (Dispatches) — An apparently frustrated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called for the world to unite around a long-shot American bid to indefinitely extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran.
As members of the UN Security Council voted remotely on a U.S. resolution to prolong the embargo that was widely expected to fail, Pompeo said it was "nuts” to allow Iran to buy and sell weapons at will. Pompeo spoke well before an announcement of the results of the vote, which many diplomats believed would end in an embarrassing defeat for the Trump administration.
"We ask nations to urge the UN Security Council to renew the arms embargo on Iran,” Pompeo said in Vienna, where he met with the UN nuclear agency’s head, Rafael Grossi, and with senior Austrian officials.
The anticipated defeat of the resolution in New York likely would set the stage for a showdown between world powers over whether all international sanctions lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal can or should be reimposed.
"We’re urging the whole world to join us. This isn’t about the JCPOA,” Pompeo said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The U.S. resolution to indefinitely extend the Iran arms embargo, which is due to expire in October under the terms of the nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, was widely expected to fail due to European resistance and strong opposition from veto-wielding council members Russia and China.
The council began voting on Thursday evening by email because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and results were expected to be announced Friday evening. It was likely the resolution would not get the minimum nine "yes” votes in the 15-member Security Council for Russia and China to use their vetoes.
American officials, including Pompeo, have said failure to extend the embargo will likely be
met by the U.S. invoking the so-called snapback procedure that would reimpose all UN sanctions lifted by the nuclear deal. The other participants maintain the U.S. no longer has standing to invoke the snapback since it withdrew from the deal, but Washington conceitedly claims that it retains that right as an original participant and permanent member of the Security Council, which endorsed the deal.
Pompeo would not be drawn on whether the U.S. would immediately try to invoke the snapback if the resolution fails. "We hope that we’ll be successful. When we see the results of that we’ll make the decision about how to move forward,” he said.
The U.S. initially circulated a resolution to the 15-member council to indefinitely extend the arms embargo that was seven pages long and had 35 paragraphs. This week, following discussions with council members who voiced objections to a number of provisions, it circulated a revised draft that stripped the resolution to just four paragraphs calling for an indefinite extension.
The foreign ministers of Russia and China, in separate letters to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council last month, were sharply critical of the U.S. effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo. They gave every indication they would veto any such resolution if necessary.
Diplomats from several countries that remain committed to the nuclear deal have expressed serious concern that extending the arms embargo would lead to Iran’s exit from the agreement.
Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran after he unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear accord between Iran and Western powers in May 2018. Iran later responded by slowly abandoning nearly every aspect of the agreement, although it still allows UN inspectors access to its nuclear sites.