US terminates 1950s treaty with Iran after court orders ease in sanctions

The United States is officially terminating a 1955 treaty with Iran after an international court issued a ruling based on the treaty this week, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMegyn Kelly on Mika Brzezinski's comment controversy: 'I hope she's forgiven' Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension MORE announced Wednesday.

“I’m announcing that the United States is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran,” Pompeo said at a press briefing. “This is a decision frankly that is 39 years overdue.”

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It is unclear what practical effect terminating the treaty will have, given that the United States already lacks diplomatic relations with Iran. But coupled with harsher rhetoric on allegations of Iranian threats to the United States in Iraq, Wednesday's announcement follows the pattern of the Trump administration upping its pressure on Iran following President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE's withdrawal from the nuclear accord in May.

Pompeo's announcement came hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nation’s highest court, ordered the United States to lift some sanctions against Iran that affect imports of humanitarian goods and products.

Iran had brought the complaint to the court, sometimes called the World Court, based on the 1955 Treaty of Amity, a pre-Iranian Revolution accord that regulates and promotes economic and consular ties between the two countries.

Tehran charged that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions violated the decades-old treaty.

In a preliminary ruling, the court said the United States must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” sanctions that affect humanitarian goods and services and services that affect civilian aviation safety. U.S. assurances that sanctions won’t hurt humanitarian aid “were not adequate," the court said.

By limiting the order to humanitarian aid and civil aviation, the ruling did not go as far as Iran requested. Still, it is being seen as a victory for Tehran.

Pompeo said that while the United States is “disappointed the court failed to recognize it has no jurisdiction,” he framed the ruling as a defeat for Iran.

“Iran is abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes, and their case, as you can see from the decision, lacked merit,” he said. “Given Iran’s history of terrorism, ballistic missile activity and other malign activity, Iran’s claims under the treaty are absurd.

“The court’s ruling today is a defeat for Iran. It rightly rejected all of Iran’s baseless requests. The court denied Iran’s attempt to secure broad measures to interfere with U.S. sanctions and rightly noted Iran’s history of noncompliance with its international obligations under the treaty of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Asked about the potential fallout of terminating the treaty, Pompeo said “we’ll see what the practical fallout is.”

“The Iranians have been ignoring it for an awfully long time,” Pompeo said. “We ought to have pulled out of it decades ago. Today marked a useful point with the decision that was made this morning from the ICJ. This marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

He also said the United States “has been clear” that existing sanctions exceptions for humanitarian aid and civil aviation safety “will remain.”

Asked about the court’s ruling that those assurances are inadequate, Pompeo reiterated that the United States “has been very clear.”

“We will continue to make sure that we are providing humanitarian assistance in a way that delivers for the people we have spoken very clearly about, the Iranian people,” he said, adding that Tehran was “squandering” its money instead providing aid to its own people.

At a White House briefing later Wednesday, national security adviser John Bolton announced the United States is also withdrawing from the optional dispute resolution process to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
 
Bolton said that decision was made in connection with a case brought by the "so-called State of Palestine" over President Trump's decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The United States will still participate in the underlying Vienna Convention, he added.
 
Bolton cast the decisions on the Vienna Convention and the Iran treaty as in line with his earlier vow not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
 
"This really has less to do with Iran and the Palestinians than with the continued, consistent policy of the United States to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which we think is politicized and ineffective," he said. "It relates obviously in part to our views on the International Criminal Court and to the nature of so-called purported international courts to be able to bind the United States."
 
The national security chief also said the administration would examine any international agreement that exposes it to litigation under the ICJ. 
 
In addition to announcing the termination of the treaty, Pompeo upped the pressure on Iran over its alleged activity in Iraq.

Last week, Pompeo ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in Basrah, Iraq, alleging the militias under the direction of Iran are targeting the consulate.

On Wednesday, Pompeo said U.S. intelligence “is solid” that Iran is the origin of attacks on the mission in Basrah and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, without elaborating on the intelligence.

“We can see the hand of Ayatollah and his henchmen supporting these attacks on the United States,” he said. “These latest destabilizing acts in Iraq are attempts by the Iranian regime to push back on our efforts to constrain its malign behavior.”

The heightened rhetoric comes as the United States prepares to reimpose the rest of the sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal. The Trump administration set a Nov. 4 deadline to reimpose those sanctions, including on oil sales, after Trump withdrew from the accord in May.

Pompeo said Iran is “clearly” worried about the U.S. pressure campaign against Iran following the withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

“Clearly, they see our comprehensive pressure campaign as serious and succeeding,” he said. “And we must be prepared for them to continue their attempts to hit back, especially after our full sanctions are reimposed on the fourth of November.”
 
Bolton, meanwhile, stressed that U.S. policy "is not regime change, but we do expect substantial change in their behavior."
 
Jordan Fabian contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:41 p.m.