The UN Again Shows its Worthlessness by Refusing to Back Iran Arms Embargo Extension

On Tuesday, June 30, the UN Security Council unanimously rejected a U.S. proposal to indefinitely extend a UN conventional arms embargo against Iran that is scheduled to expire in October.  Council members also voiced their opposition to the U.S. plan to “snap back” sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA.

This was a stunning reaction given Iran’s rejection of all of its JCPOA commitments and its dangerously belligerent behavior over the last year. Iran launched a missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility last September. Tehran sent thousands of Iraqi proxy militiamen to storm the entrances of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Iran also launched missile attacks on two U.S. bases in Iraq on January 7, 2020.

In addition, the “Iran nuclear archive” documents stolen by Israel in 2018 proved without doubt that Iran violated its JCPOA commitments to get sanctions relief. Tehran lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about past nuclear weapons-related work and hid nuclear equipment and activities from the IAEA after the JCPOA was agreed to.

The missile embargo expires in October due to a quirk in UN Security Council 2231, passed in July 2015 endorsing the JCPOA.  This resolution actually weakened previous UN sanctions on conventional arms and missile technology sales to Iran. It represents one of many indefensible concessions by the Obama administration to convince Tehran to agree to the nuclear deal.

However, under the terms of Resolution 2231, UN sanctions would be restored automatically if the U.S. calls for it – without a Security Council vote or an opportunity for China and Russia to veto this action. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that if the Security Council refuses to extend the arms embargo on Iran, the United States will use the resolution to “snap back” all UN sanctions against Iran lifted by the JCPOA.

Security Council members, including China and Germany, have countered by claiming the U.S. cannot snap back sanctions under Resolution 2231 since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA in 2018.  Trump officials disagree since the U.S. is still a party to the resolution.  So far, no Council member agrees with the U.S. position.

This comes down to UN members’ continued anger about U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.  The global foreign policy establishment still strongly supports President Obama’s appeasement of Iran. Although most are concerned by Iran’s recent belligerent behavior, they deeply resent President Trump’s principled decision to withdraw from this deeply flawed agreement.  They are especially concerned that Trump insists on defending U.S. sovereignty and believes he answers to the American people, not the United Nations.

This is nothing new in the worthless United Nations where radical states who hate America stick together to pass resolutions on bogus human rights violations in the U.S. (but not on China, Russia, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela) while milquetoast European states do nothing.

Although these efforts will probably fail in the UN, I encourage Trump officials to try to work through the UN to get international support to press Iran to cease its nuclear weapons-related activities and belligerent behavior. However, if the UN Security Council decides to stiff the U.S. on extending the arms embargo or snapping back sanctions, President Trump will continue his successful Iran policy without the UN.

As I recently explained in National Review, Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran has successfully put enormous economic and political pressure on Tehran. It is greatly limiting Iran’s ability to fund terrorist groups, its military, and the nuclear program.

The biggest loser will be the United Nations – once again proving its worthlessness as an organization that refuses to hold dangerous rogue states threatening global security accountable.

About Fred Fleitz

Fred Fleitz is President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. He recently served as a Deputy Assistant to President Trump and Chief of Staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton. He previously worked in national security positions for 25 years with CIA, DIA, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff. Follow Fleitz on Twitter @fredfleitz.