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UN Security Council members reject Trump’s calls for sanctions on Iran

President Donald J. Trump addresses the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. (Joyce N. Boghosian/White House)
September 28, 2018

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken his case against Iran before the United Nations Security Council, a day after urging all nations to isolate the Iranian government.

Trump presented his arguments on September 26 at a Security Council meeting that he chaired on the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction — accusing the Iranian government of exporting “violence, terrorism and turmoil.”

“It illicitly procures sensitive items to advance its ballistic missile program and proliferates these missiles all across the Middle East,” Trump said. “The regime is the world’s leading sponsor of terror and fuels conflict across the region and far beyond. A regime with this track record must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon.”

But his calls for other countries to join U.S. sanctions against Tehran were rejected by the other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani told journalists on the sidelines of the UN meeting that Tehran would continue to meet its obligations under the nuclear deal as long as his country benefits.

The response from Washington’s European allies also served to highlight their disagreement with Trump’s decision earlier this year to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the 2015 accord, which Trump insists will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump told the Security Council he withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal because he believes it is enabling Iran to develop nuclear weapons and carry out other “malign” activity.

He argued that in the years since the Iran nuclear deal was signed, “Iran’s aggression only increased.”

“This horrible, one-sided deal allowed Iran to continue its path toward a bomb and gave the regime a cash lifeline when they needed it the most,” Trump said. “They were in big, big trouble. They needed cash. We gave it to them.”

“The regime used new funds from the deal to support terrorism, build nuclear-capable missiles, and foment chaos,” Trump said.

Trump also repeated a threat to punish any person or company that does business with Iran in violation of renewed U.S. sanctions.

That threat came just a day after the five remaining world powers that signed the nuclear deal announced they’d set up a special payment system to continue trade with Iran.

Trump said that after renewed U.S. nuclear-related sanctions against Iran come “in full force by early November,” the United States will “pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran’s malign conduct.”

“Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences,” Trump said. “I ask all members of the Security Council to work with the United States to ensure the Iranian regime changes its behavior and never acquires a nuclear bomb.”

‘Crisis Of Confidence’

But French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May both disagreed with Trump’s assessment on the Iran nuclear deal, insisting that it is the best way to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Macron and May also implicitly referred to the “America First” foreign policy that Trump enunciated on September 25 in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

Ensuring nonproliferation of nuclear weapons “requires collective leadership of the type that led to the agreement” on the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, May said.

“For many years, the scale and nature of Iran’s nuclear program raised serious international concerns,” May said.

The Iran nuclear deal “remains the best means of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and we are committed to preserving” the accord “as long as Iran continues to abide by its obligations in full.”

Macron said Trump had created a “serious crisis of confidence” by unilaterally withdrawing the United States from the deal, and that UN Security Council resolutions supporting the accord need to be “respected by all members of the Security Council.”

“We need to build together a long-term strategy in order to manage this crisis and it cannot just boil down to sanctions and containment,” Macron said.

He also said there needed to be a “basis for new negotiations, created first by the framework” of Security Council resolutions on the nuclear deal, in order to address “the issue of the increased scope and accuracy of Iran’s ballistic missiles.”

Macron said that should be “part of an international strategy in order to reduce the dangers for the region and also attain the goal that we all want — namely that Iran does not ever attain a nuclear weapon.”

“Permanent members of the UN Security Council must not attack and undermine the international nonproliferation regimes and the institutions that underpin them,” Macron said. “All members of the council must fulfill their responsibilities to safeguard them in support of international peace and security.”

Macron said that since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, the pathways of the signatories” had “diverged.”

But Macron said he was convinced that they all “retain the same objective in mind — namely, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and guaranteeing strict international control on the peaceful use of their nuclear program.”

May said Iran’s “proliferation of missile and sophisticated military technology to groups like Hizballah in Lebanon” or to Shi’ite Huthi rebels in Yemen is “not in compliance with Security Council resolution.”

“It risks a dangerous escalation, so we need to see further decisive action in this council to tackle both the transit and proliferation of these technologies and increase the costs for those responsible,” May said.

Russia’s ‘Destabilizing Activity’

She blamed Russia for allowing that situation to continue by vetoing or otherwise blocking UN Security Council resolutions on the issue.

“It is regrettable that Russia continues to prevent the council from upholding its responsibility to stop this destabilizing activity,” May said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Security Council that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal “poses a serious threat” to the international nuclear-nonproliferation regime.

He said Russia was actively working with the European Union, China, and Iran to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Security Council the Iran nuclear deal was a “hard-won achievement of multilateralism” that bolstered nuclear nonproliferation as well as peace and stability in the Middle East.

Wang said that “there is no international agreement that is perfect,” but the Iran nuclear deal “has been endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council” and the past three years had shown it is “a “viable agreement.”

“China encourages Iran to continue to fulfill all commitments it has made,” Wang said. “At the same time, the legitimate right of all countries to normal economic relations and trade with Iran should be respected.”

“China calls on the relevant parties to bear in mind the big picture, think long-term, and uphold the sanctity and integrity” of the Iran nuclear deal, Wang said.