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US asks UN to maintain arms embargo on Iran, citing ‘malign activity’

U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Brian Hook speaks at the announcement of the creation of the Iran Action Group in the Press Briefing Room, at the Department of State, August 16, 2018. (U.S. State Department/Flickr)

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

The United States has formally asked the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran beyond October, when it is set to be progressively eased under the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

UN Ambassador Kelly Craft and Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook “virtually briefed” the council on a proposed resolution to extend the embargo, the State Department said in a statement on June 24.

Hook said the Security Council should be united over its concern with Iranian arms transfers and noted that it has maintained arms restrictions on Iran since 2007.

The statement said Hook updated council members on “the full range of Iran’s malign activity,” including drone and cruise-missile attacks on two Saudi oil facilities in September that U.S., Saudi, and European officials have said Iran was responsible for.

“Given that Iran has neither abided by current restrictions nor demonstrated a change in its threatening behavior, Special Representative Hook and Ambassador Craft called on Security Council members to extend the arms embargo,” the statement said.

While Washington has long argued that the embargo should not be lifted, the international community has been waiting for it to formally push the measure.

In an interview with Reuters, Hook complained about Russia and China blocking the extension of the ban, saying they risk being isolated at the United Nations and in the international community at large.

“We see a widening gap between Russia and China and the international community,” Hook said.

He noted that Russia and China were isolated at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week when it passed a resolution to demand Iran provide access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.

The five-year ban on selling conventional arms to Iran was established in conjunction with the 2015 nuclear agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. If it is lifted, Russia and China are two countries that experts say are most likely to sign arms deals with the Islamic republic.

The United States pulled out of the accord in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.

Tehran has been progressively breaking the restrictions laid down in the agreement, saying that it can reverse them if the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — comply with it. U.S. sanctions make it difficult for other parties to abide by their commitments.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany last week announced they oppose lifting the ban, but they also said their countries would not back U.S. efforts to unilaterally trigger the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier on June 24 he is “hopeful” that the “whole world” will understand the need to extend the embargo.

“I think all but a couple of nations understand that this should not expire and there is going to be a discussion about how it is that we extend it,” Pompeo told reporters in Washington.