Trump vows 'snapback' to force return of UN Iran sanctions

His promise to use controversial method comes after failure to extend arms embargo

BEDMINSTER (New Jersey) • US President Donald Trump has vowed to use a controversial technique to unilaterally reinstate United Nations sanctions on Teheran, a move with huge repercussions for the Iran nuclear deal.

His declaration on Saturday came after the UN Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a US resolution to extend an Iranian arms embargo.

"We'll be doing a snapback," said Mr Trump.

"You'll be watching it next week."

The President was referring to the contested argument that the United States remains a "participant" in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - despite Mr Trump's withdrawal from it - and the US can therefore force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the US had failed to kill off what he called the "half alive" deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

"The US failed in this conspiracy with humiliation," Mr Rouhani said. "This day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance."

Only two of the Security Council's 15 members voted in favour of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since Mr Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018.

The Europeans on the Security Council all abstained, and Iran mocked the US for winning the support of just one country, the Dominican Republic, other than itself.

"In the 75 years of UN history, America has never been so isolated," tweeted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

People on the streets of Teheran had mixed reactions.

IRAN'S REACTION

The US failed in this conspiracy with humiliation. This day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.

IRAN'S PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, on the US' move to extend the arms embargo. 

U.S. POSITION

It is unfortunate that the French and the United Kingdom... didn't support what the Gulf states have demanded, what the Israelis have demanded. The United States is determined to make sure that the Iranians and this regime, this theocratic regime, does not have the capacity to inflict even more harm on the world.

US SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, on why the US is determined to press on.

"This is an American political game. One day they give a resolution to the Security Council, the next they say they have taken" Iranian fuel, said a worker at the city's Grand Bazaar, who gave his name only as Mr Ahmadi.

A drugstore employee, known only as Ms Abdoli, said she was happy Iran won, but added that it "should interact with the US and establish relations".

European allies have been sceptical on whether Washington can force sanctions, with experts saying a snapback threatens to plunge the Security Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday made clear the US would press on. "It is unfortunate that the French and the United Kingdom... didn't support what the Gulf states have demanded, what the Israelis have demanded," Mr Pompeo said.

"The United States is determined to make sure that the Iranians and this regime, this theocratic regime, does not have the capacity to inflict even more harm on the world."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the "scandalous" vote.

He said: "Iranian terrorism and aggression threaten the peace of the region and the entire world. Instead of opposing weapons sales, the Security Council is encouraging them."

The embargo on conventional arms expires on Oct 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Since Mr Trump pulled out of it and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran, Teheran has taken escalatory steps away from compliance as it presses for sanctions relief.

America's European allies - who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran - have voiced support for extending the 13-year arms embargo, saying that an expiry threatens Middle East stability.

But their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.

The US text at the Security Council on Friday effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear deal.

Iran said it has the right to self-defence and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the deal.

Apart from 11 countries abstaining from the vote, Russia and China opposed the resolution.

"The result shows again that unilateralism enjoys no support, and bullying will fail," China's UN mission tweeted.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2020, with the headline 'Trump vows 'snapback' to force return of UN Iran sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe