Iranian spokesmen have warned of “grave repercussions” if the UN Security Council decides to extend the arms embargo on Iran. Iran’s concern is prompted by recent efforts by the United States – a permanent member of the Security Council – to prolong the embargo which, according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear deal, is supposed to be lifted in October.1
The U.S.-Iranian struggle continues to be waged in several arenas simultaneously – from the waters of the Persian Gulf and Iraq to the corridors of the United Nations, and is occurring in parallel with both countries’ fight against the coronavirus.
The Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2231 as part of the nuclear deal’s implementation. The resolution stipulates that the Security Council will remove UN sanctions that had been imposed on Iran due to its illicit nuclear activities, the moment the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provides the council with a report confirming that Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the deal. The resolution also states that the supply and export of heavy weaponry to and from Iran will be prohibited until October 18, 2020. The prohibition on missile deliveries, however, will continue until 2023. But, according to the resolution safeguard mechanism, if a party to the JCPOA informs the Security Council that Iran is in breach of its commitments under the agreement, such a declaration will automatically trigger the reimposition of the sanctions within 30 days – or, as the Obama administration termed it, “snapback sanctions.”
The head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, warned that the shaky nuclear deal between Iran and the international powers will “die forever” if the clause on lifting the embargo on arms sales to Iran, which is included in Security Council Resolution 2231 of July 2015,2 is extended beyond October.
Shamkhani added that the “sanctions virus” is a survival mechanism for the United States in light of its waning hegemony, and he wondered which side Europe is on – whether it wants to preserve its dignity and support multilateralism or bow to repeated humiliation (by the United States) and support unilateralism. Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Majid Takht, said on April 29 that the United States is acting as if it is still a signatory to the agreement.3
As part of a series of steps Iran has taken so far in trying to persuade European countries to circumvent U.S. sanctions and meet their economic obligations, it has breached some of its obligations in the nuclear agreement.
The European Union is now at one of its weakest points, given its incompetence in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in a unified manner. Political divisions are also seen in key policy issues vis-à-vis the U.S., especially regarding the Iranian issue. If European Union policy-makers undermine the U.S. campaign to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, they will further expose the EU’s inability to influence key international issues and worsen relations with Washington.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on April 30 that, from Russia’s standpoint, the issue of ending the arms embargo on Iran in October, as specified by Resolution 2231, is “closed.” Ryabkov asserted that before it takes steps to extend the embargo, the United States must return to the framework of the deal. Notably, Iran signed contracts to receive Russian S-300 aerial defense systems before Resolution 2231 was adopted, and it plans to acquire additional military equipment – particularly warplanes – from Russia after the embargo runs out in October.
Earlier, Shamkhani harshly criticized the German government’s decision to include Lebanese Hizbullah on its list of terror organizations. He tweeted: “Sellers of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein have become human rights defenders. Due to the fears of their child-killing friend [meaning Israel], they call Hizbullah ‘terrorists.’ (They forget) that Islamic State did not reach the gates of Europe due to the resistance organizations (including Hizbullah) in Syria. Now the masks are off the faces of those who support terror.”4
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned that “if this happens, Iran’s response will be appropriate and decisive,” adding that U.S. success in extending the sanctions, while sticking with its policy of using pressure to achieve its goals, will negatively affect not only the nuclear deal but the security and stability of the whole region. Rabiei added that the U.S. move could also damage the credibility and validity of other international agreements, and that Iran had given Washington a clear message that such a step does not serve and is not acceptable to the states that signed the nuclear deal and only testifies to the “bullying policy of the United States” as it exploits international agreements for its own benefit. He stated further that Iran would hold consultations on the issue with the other signatory states.
Other official Iranian spokesmen criticized the German government’s decision. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousawi, Guardian Council of the Revolution spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai, and the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament sharply attacked the measure and warned of its repercussions.
Meanwhile, IAEA spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said that toward the end of April, Russia, in two flights, had sent Iran 38 tons of nuclear fuel at a 4.5 percent enrichment level for the purpose of operating the Bushehr reactor. In July 2019, Iran announced that it had crossed the enrichment threshold of 3.67 percent allowed by the nuclear deal, in light of the European countries’ inability to leverage the deal to improve Iran’s economic situation and their failure to get the sanctions lifted. Iran said further that it was planning to enrich up to 20 percent. Later it was reported that it had not crossed the 4.5 percent level used for nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor. Kamalvandi said that since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Iran’s radiographic centers have been assisting the medical sector around the clock and that Iran has already received diagnostic equipment for identifying the coronavirus from the IAEA.
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