Pompeo calls on UN Security Council to reject Iranian 'extortion'

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Trump's push for win with Sudan amps up pressure on Congress  Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize MORE on Tuesday urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to “reject extortion diplomacy” by Iran as the U.S. pushes to extend an arms embargo treaty that is expected to expire in the fall.

“If Iran isn't a threat to peace that demands a collective measure, I do not know what is,” Pompeo said. “The council must reject extortion diplomacy.”

Pompeo made his remarks as part of an effort to garner support for a U.S.-led resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October under the conditions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

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The U.S. has signaled that without the resolution, it would push for a snapback of all sanctions on Iran under its rights as an original signatory to UNSC Resolution 2231, which enshrines the JCPOA.

Tuesday's UNSC meeting also highlighted findings from the secretary general’s biannual report on JCPOA compliance. The report found that weapons used in the attack on Saudi oil fields in 2019 and on oil tankers in the Gulf likely originated in Iranian violation of the arms embargo.

“Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date,” Pompeo told Security Council members. “Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group if the restrictions are lifted.”

Council members on Tuesday condemned Iran’s JCPOA violations, calling for Tehran to return to full compliance with the terms of the deal.

Jonathan Allen, chargé d'affaires of the British mission to the U.N., spoke out against the lifting of the arms embargo in October.

“We believe that the planned lifting of arms restrictions on Iran in October, would have major implications for regional security instability,” he said. “We are committed to working with JCPOA partners and security council members to address these concerns.”

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Yet the other signatories to Resolution 2231 rejected the U.S. assessment that it retains snapback power and allies and adversaries alike criticized the Trump administration’s initial withdrawal from the deal in 2018.

Germany’s representative to the U.N., Christoph Heusgen, said the U.S. was “violating international law” by leaving the deal.

“It is very unfortunate that the United States left the JCPOA and by doing this, and leaving, actually violating international law,” Heusgen told the virtual meeting.

But he also condemned Iran for violating its obligations under the JCPOA.

“We are very concerned that now we see Iran stepping away from the JCPOA,” he said.

Both China and Russia pushed back on Pompeo’s assertions that the U.S. remains a signatory to the resolution and has the power to snap back sanctions. The countries have signaled that they would sell weapons to Iran once the embargo is lifted.

Zhang Jun, China’s representative to the U.N., urged the U.S. to “stop its illegal, unilateral sanctions and long arm jurisdiction, and return to the right track of observing the JCPOA and the resolution 2231.”

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., criticized Pompeo for signing out of the meeting after his remarks.

“I understand he has a very busy schedule, but we regret that he didn't choose to listen to council members, at least some of them,” Nebenzia said.

He also criticized the U.S.’s maximum pressure campaign of sanctions, saying it created a situation “where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe,” referencing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody that sparked a nationwide debate over racial injustice in the U.S.

“Iran is being deliberately squeezed from all directions. The task is really to achieve regime change, or create a situation where Iran literally wouldn't be able to breathe,” Nebenzia said. “This is like putting a knee to one's neck.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also addressed the council, opposing the U.S. position that it remains a party to Resolution 2231 and saying the expiration of the arms embargo must be preserved.

“The removal of arms restrictions embodied in resolution 2231 is an inseparable part of the hard won compromise,” he said.