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United States triggers 'snapback' to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran

United States triggers 'snapback' to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said he has notified by the United Nations and the Security Council that it has triggered the process to reinstate U.N. sanctions on Iran. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the United States has begun the process to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran that were removed following the signing of an Obama-era nuclear accord that aimed to prevent Tehran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo in New York told reporters that he has informed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the president of the Security Council via letters that the United States has initiated the process to reinstate sanctions on Iran within 30 days.

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The sanctions, he said, will also reinstate an arms embargo on Tehran that the United States had lobbied to maintain but was overruled late last week by the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

"President [Donald] Trump and this administration have discarded the fiction that the regime merely seeks a peaceful nuclear program," Trump said. "We will never allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

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The United Nations removed its sanctions from Iran in 2015 under Resolution 2231 that recognized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, the European Union and the United States with aims to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear arms.

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Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, stating it was "defective at its core," and some U.N. member states have argued the United States lacks the so-called snapback power to reinstate the sanctions as it is no longer a member of the original accord, potentially setting the stage for confrontation at the United Nations.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Thursday the United States "is not trigging a snapback."

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"Snapback can be trigged by a country which is a participant of the JCPOA, which the United States is not," he said.

Pompeo has argued the United States has the power to reinstate U.N. sanctions on Iran by the snapback mechanism in Resolution 2231 despite no longer being apart of the original deal.

On Thursday, he reiterated this point stating that the two are independent of one another

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"It's not the case that a political agreement arranged by a group of parties, including the United States, can undo the amazing work of the U.N. Security Council," Pompeo said Thursday. "We think this is very simple. These U.N. Security Council resolutions will come back into place 31 days from now and the United States will vigorously enforce them."

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Iran condemned the action Thursday in a letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council, describing it as illegal and an abuse of the nuclear agreement.

In the letter, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's minister of Foreign Affairs, stressed the United States has "no right to try to revive sanctions" and so its move to trigger the so-called snapback mechanism "must be rejected."

Security Council members now have the opportunity to put forward a resolution to extend Iran's sanction relief, which the United States has the power to veto.

The move comes less than a week after the U.N. Security Council voted to let expire an arms embargo on Iran that the United States had lobbied hard to keep in place.

Russia and China voted against the U.S. proposal, while the Dominican Republic was the only nation that supported it while the other council members abstained.

Pompeo on Thursday thanked the Dominican Republic for standing with the United States while stating Germany, France and Britain all have told him privately that they support the embargo but have not put forth action to support their stance.

"No country but the United States had the courage and conviction to put forward a resolution," he said. "Instead, they chose to side with ayatollahs."

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Democrats on Thursday chastised the Trump administration for allowing the situation to get to the point where it has to rely on the snapback mechanism.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, said the Trump administration has brought Iran closer to possessing a nuclear weapon and that it failed in stopping the embargo from expiring.

"The Trump administration talked a big game but has produced no results," he wrote in a statement. "Re-imposing sanctions, known as snapback, is the ultimate admission of failure. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and it's not clear whether we can still use the leverage that comes with being a participant in JCPOA, including invoking snapback."

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