Donald Trump’s administration said on Saturday night its triggering of the so-called “snap back” mechanism in the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had taken effect.
It comes 30 days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the council Iran was in “significant non-performance” of its obligations under the deal.
The mechanism would mean that international sanctions eased or lifted under the nuclear deal are reimposed and must be enforced by UN member states.
Virtually all @UN sanctions have returned on Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism. This includes a permanent extension of the arms embargo. This is great news for peace in the region!
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 20, 2020
However other members of the council say Washington lost the legal ability to invoke it after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed American sanctions on Iran.
In a statement, Mr Pompeo said “the world will be safer as a result” of the US decision.
Iran dismissed the US move. Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Tehran’s message to Washington is clear: return to the international community, return to your commitments and stop bullying so the international community will accept you.”
The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how it will will enforce the restored sanctions, with the State and Treasury departments expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalised for violations.
Trump administration officials have been attacking the 2015 nuclear deal for years. They say it is fatally flawed because certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity gradually expire and will allow the country to eventually develop atomic weapons.
Washington’s immediate concern has been the indefinite extension of the arms embargo that would otherwise expire on October 18. The Security Council rejected a US effort to extend the embargo in a lopsided vote which saw Washington get support from only one country, the Dominican Republic.
Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement reiterating that they contest the legal basis of the Trump administration’s bid to activate the “snapback” sanctions mechanism because the US withdrew from the nuclear accord.
The statement said “it follows that any decision or action taken on the basis of this procedure… are without effect in law”. The three countries stressed they remain determined to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran.
Meanwhile, secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the United Nations will not support reimposing sanctions on Iran as the US is demanding until he gets a green light from the Security Council.
The UN chief said in a letter to the council president that “there would appear to be uncertainty” on whether or not Mr Pompeo triggered the “snapback” mechanism in the Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers.