by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 4, Shawwal, 1441)
Donald Trump has failed miserably in dealing with the pandemic and the terrible fallout from it in the US. He is thrashing about like a wounded beast, desperately trying to shift blame, not with much success, one might add, to find scapegoats.
His less than sterling performance is also evident in the manner in which he is trying to bully members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) pertaining to Iran. He wants to extend the arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in October under the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal. Trump pulled out of the deal, officially referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on May 7, 2018. He did this in writing and proudly displayed his signature doing so. Then, he re-imposed a raft of illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Displaying his pathological hatred of Iran, he now wants to extend the soon-to-expire UN arms embargo. There is, however, a catch: this has to be approved by the Security Council.
Trump’s dilemma is that he cannot dictate to all members of the Security Council. He is used to berating and routinely insulting journalists in the White House press room but the UN is not his press room. While manipulating it with the help of European allies, two permanent members of the Security Council—Russia and China—are fed up of US bullying. They have also been subjected to US sanctions and are not prepared to go along with American unilateralism anymore.
Nor indeed are the Europeans entirely happy with Trump’s tactics as is evident from their statements regarding his attempts to extend the Iran arms embargo. One European diplomat was quoted by Reuters as saying: “It’s very difficult to present yourself as a compliance watcher of a resolution you decided to pull out of. Either you’re in or either you’re out.”
The JCPOA was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Even the US endorsed it at the time. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA does not negate SC resolution 2231. Embargo on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran will expire in October. Trump and his minions are trying to extend the embargo even though they have repudiated the deal. Iran’s Foreign Ministry was quick to point out on the second anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal (May 07) that as a result of all its malicious measures, “the US is in no position whatsoever to address issues related to the JCPOA,” marking the tweet with “the US’ non-commitment” hashtag.
Iran has made clear that any snapback of UNSC sanctions in violation of the JCPOA will mean not only the end of the nuclear deal but Tehran would also pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Despite US repudiation of the deal and imposition of illegal sanctions, Iran has complied with it so far. If it cannot get the benefits of the deal by drastically limiting its peaceful nuclear program, as agreed to multilaterally, why should Tehran continue to comply with it unilaterally? Despite its heightened rhetoric, Washington is not in a position to impose its will on Iran, or much of the rest of the world.
So, what exactly is Trump’s ploy besides piling more pressure on Tehran that has not worked so far? Both the New York Times and Fox News reported (April 26) that the Trump regime may be using this as a ploy to re-enter the JCPOA. It wants to be considered a “participant” in the deal and to be able to invoke the “snapback” clause, which would restore the comprehensive pre-2015 UN sanctions on Iran.
What legal grounds does the US have to suggest such a nonsensical course of action and why should other Security Council members accept this? More crucially, why would Iran go along with this ludicrous proposal when it has fully complied with its obligations under the deal? Is this what it gets for complying with the deal: more sanctions?
Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the multilateral deal, it is for other signatories to fulfill their obligations to Iran. If they fail—as they have done so far—the Tehran would be perfectly entitled to simply walk out of not only the JCPOA but also abandon the NPT. Iran did not sign the JCPOA to abandon its peaceful nuclear program so that other signatories can continue to maintain illegal sanctions against it indefinitely.
Deals are signed on the basis of quid pro quo. What Trump is proposing is not quid pro quo but gangsterism. Iran can hardly be expected to surrender to such gangsterism meekly.