UN Security Council rejects US bid to extend Iran arms embargo

UN Security Council rejects US bid to extend Iran arms embargo
© Greg Nash

The United Nations Security Council has voted down the Trump administration’s bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran.

The resolution had been expected to fail because Russia and China, which hold veto power in the Security Council, opposed the measure.

But the resolution did not even get the requisite nine “yes” votes to force Russia or China to use their vetoes.

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The final tally announced by the Security Council on Friday evening was 11 abstentions, two yes and two no votes.

All eyes are now on the United States’ next move as Trump administration officials have previously threatened to invoke a snapback of all sanctions that were lifted under the Iran nuclear deal if the resolution failed.

Shortly before the official U.N. announcement, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: House Democrats unveil stopgap spending measure to GOP opposition | Bill includes .6B for new subs | Trump issues Iran sanctions after world shrugs at US action at UN Navalny calls on Russia to return clothes he was wearing when he fell ill US issues Iran sanctions to enforce UN action ignored by international community MORE issued a statement lashing out at the resolution’s failure.

“The United Nations Security Council is charged with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. It failed today to uphold its fundamental mission set,” Pompeo said. 

“It rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific UN restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade,” he continued. “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.”

Under a U.N. Security Council resolution approved in 2015 in support of the nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, a ban on imports and exports of conventional weapons to and from Iran is set to lift Oct. 18.

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Pompeo and his outgoing top Iran envoy, Brian Hook, had been urging countries for months to support extending the embargo, warning about the dangers of allowing Iran to freely move weapons through the Middle East and buy more advanced weapons from countries such as Russia and China.

Just one country voted with the United States on Friday: the Dominican Republic.

Russia and China voted “no,” while major U.S. allies France, Germany and the United Kingdom were among the 11 abstentions.

In explaining their votes, U.S. allies said the resolution would never have passed.

“It would therefore not contribute to improving security and stability in the region,” the U.K.’s chargé d’affaires to the U.N., Jonathan Allen, said in a statement.

The arms embargo itself has support from the United States’ European allies, as well as bipartisan U.S. lawmakers.

But Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal rankled the European allies, which continue to support the agreement and view the U.S. moves on the arms embargo as aimed at killing the deal.

U.S. officials have previously suggested that following the arm embargo resolution’s defeat, they would argue the United States remains a participant in the nuclear deal as defined by the 2015 Security Council resolution despite Trump having withdrawn from the agreement. Doing so could allow the United States to invoke a snapback of all U.N. sanctions that were in place before the nuclear deal, thereby extending the arms embargo.

Supporters of the nuclear deal fear a sanctions snapback would be the agreement’s final death blow.

In his statement Friday, Pompeo did not specify what the Trump administration would do next, but pledged that Iran will never be able to buy or sell weapons.

“The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council,” he said. “We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

Before the results were announced, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny calls on Russia to return clothes he was wearing when he fell ill Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Putin is about to turn his attention to the American way of life MORE pushed the idea of summit with the heads of state from the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as Germany and Iran, to discuss “steps that can prevent confrontation or a spike in tensions” at the Security Council.

“We call on our partners to carefully consider this proposal. Otherwise, we could see the further escalation of tension and an increased risk of conflict. This must be avoided,” Putin said in a statement.

Asked at Friday’s White House briefing about Putin’s proposal, Trump said that he “heard there's something, but I haven't been told of it yet.”