US moves to restore all UN sanctions on Iran in dispute over nuclear deal

Mike Pompeo departs a meeting with members of the UN Security Council at the United Nations in New York.
Mike Pompeo departs a meeting with members of the UN Security Council at the United Nations in New York.PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS/DUBAI (REUTERS) - The United States moved to restore all UN sanctions on Iran on Thursday (Aug 20), arguing Teheran was in violation of a nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 even though Washington itself abandoned that agreement two years ago.

The United States submitted a letter to the 15-member UN Security Council accusing Teheran of non-compliance, starting a 30-day clock that could lead to the "snapback" of UN sanctions even though remaining parties to the nuclear deal oppose this.

The US move, taken partly because of the impending October expiration of a UN arms embargo on Teheran, drew condemnation from Iran, which said Washington had no right to trigger the re-imposition because it had abandoned the nuclear agreement, and asked Council members to oppose the US action.

"It is an enormous mistake not to extend this arms embargo. It's nuts!" Pompeo told reporters at the United Nations as he harshly criticised what he described as the "one-sided, foolish" nuclear deal negotiated by former US President Barack Obama.

A snapback of UN sanctions would reimpose the conventional arms embargo, ban Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and bring back targeted sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities.

It would also require Iran to halt all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and ban imports that could contribute to those activities or the development of nuclear arms delivery systems.

Countries also would be urged to inspect shipments to and from Iran and authorised to seize any banned cargo.

Diplomats say the process of restoring the UN sanctions will be messy as Russia, China and other countries question the legality of the US move because Washington no longer abides by what President Donald Trump called the "worst deal ever."

Iran's UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said Teheran was confident that the Security Council would reject the US move.

"A permanent member of the Security Council is acting like a child, is being ridiculed by the other members of the international community," he told reporters after Pompeo spoke.

Russia, which said it would not restore the UN sanctions, called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Iran on Friday.


Three senior Iranian officials told Reuters this week Iran's leadership is determined to remain committed to the nuclear deal, hoping that a victory by Trump rival Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov 3 US presidential election will salvage the pact.

Biden, who was vice-president when the Obama administration negotiated the accord, said he would rejoin the deal if Iran first resumed compliance.

"If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement and build on it, while working with allies to push back on Iran's destabilising actions," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told Reuters.


Trump's administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, which was designed to prevent Teheran from developing nuclear weapons, arguing in part that its limitations on Iran's atomic activities were inadequate.

In his letter to the UN Security Council, Pompeo said Iran had breached many of the deal's central limits without acknowledging that most of the Iranian "non-performance" came only after Washington had pulled out.

In his own letter to the Security Council, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington had no right to trigger the "snapback" mechanism as it was no longer a party to the 2015 nuclear pact.

Under that accord between Iran and six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - Teheran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for wide relief from sanctions.