What happened: Israeli officials are supporting the US decision to enforce all previously ended UN sanctions on Iran.
- Defence Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said: “Continued pressure by the American government against Iranian aggression is a necessary tool and I praise the uncompromising efforts to stop it and promote stability in our region.”
- Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also thanked the US, adding, “I call on all countries to stand with the US, prevent the sale of weapons to Iran and to enforce the sanctions in their entirety.” Ashkenazi appealed for the UK, France and Germany, (E3) to “work towards rigorously implementing the sanctions regime on the national level, as well as on the EU level and through UN mechanisms”.
- On Saturday night US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration “has always understood that the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East comes from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose violent efforts to spread revolution have killed thousands and upended the lives of millions of innocent people… History shows appeasement only emboldens such regimes. Thus today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and antisemitism.”
- Pompeo added that the US expects all UN Member states “to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures”.
- He noted that in addition to the arms embargo, other restrictions on Iran include the ban on Iran engaging in enrichment, the prohibition of ballistic-missile testing and development of other missile related technologies.
- Pompeo added, “If UN Member States fail to fulfil their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity.”
- The E3 released a statement at the weekend that pushed back against Pompeo, saying that they did not recognise the US’s authority to snapback UN sanctions, a move that would lead to the collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iran deal.
- In a joint statement the E3 said: “We have worked tirelessly to preserve the nuclear agreement and remain committed to do so.”
- In response to the US move Iranian President Hasaan Rouhani said: “We will never yield to US pressure and Iran will give a crushing response to America’s bullying.”
Context: The snapback of sanctions was triggered 30 days ago, following the UN Security Council’s vote not to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which was set to end this October.
- Invoking the “snapback” clause in the nuclear agreement could restore all international sanctions that were in place against Iran before the deal was signed in 2015.
- The announcement coincides with a US official warning that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and that Iran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with North Korea.
- The Trump administration pulled the US out of the JCPOA agreement in May 2018, a move in which most countries claim meant it also withdrew its right to invoke sanctions snapback. Since then the Trump administration has intensified efforts to pressure Iran. However, the E3 along with Russia and China, the other signatories to the JCPOA, have remain committed to the nuclear deal. This has left the US isolated on the UN Security Council.
- The US now says all sanctions underpinned by UN Security Council resolutions that were in place before the JCPOA, as well as arms bans, restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity and its nuclear enrichment, should now go back into effect. Furthermore, the US expects all UN member states to comply with their obligations to implement sanctions and the “is prepared to use [its] domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity”.
Looking ahead: Pompeo added that in the coming days, the US will announce “a range of additional measures to strengthen implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable… Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence and bloodshed.”
- The US is expected to sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional arms programmes.
- It is unclear where this leaves the UN. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council he cannot take any action on the US declaration because “there would appear to be uncertainty” on the issue.
- The move comes ahead of the October 18 deadline that would end an embargo on conventional weapons sales to Iran.