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Germany aligns with China against US on Iran sanctions

From left, Head of Mission of People's Republic of China to the European Union Hailong Wu, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat, an unidentified Russian official, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. (U.S. State Department/Released)
July 15, 2020

Germany sided with China against the United States following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning that the U.S. can force all nations to renew the sanctions lifted in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if the global leaders refuse to extend an arms embargo set to expire in October.

A senior Chinese diplomat said President Trump “has no right to trigger” the mechanism that would allow the United States to destroy the deal.

“Having quit the JCPOA, the U.S. is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger the snapback” of sanctions, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said during a virtual meeting of the U.N. Security Council, according to the Washington Examiner.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen agreed with the Chinese Ambassador’s perspective, saying, “I would also align myself with what my Chinese colleague just said about the snapback mechanism.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear deal endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 231, initially involved China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. the U.S. and Iran. But President Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and warned that the United States could reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.

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“The United States’ overwhelming preference is to work with this council to extend the arms embargo to protect human life, to protect our national security, and to protect yours,” Pompeo told the council.

Pompeo made clear that the Iran deal was written specifically to allow the U.S. to invoke the snapback regardless of whether the U.S. is in the pact.

“So, our rights as a participant is something which exists independently of the JCPOA. I’ve been working on U.N. Security Council resolution for years. This is the plain reading of the text,” U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said during a special briefing via teleconference earlier this year.

Other Europeans in the council expressed concern with the U.S. but did not outright deny President Trump’s right to invoke the snapback.

“We intend to address this issue in close consultation with all members of this council, in particular the remaining participants in the JCPOA and other key actors,” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said regarding the expiring arms embargo. “We would not, however, support unilateral proposals leading to the return of sanctions. They would only deepen divisions in the Security Council and beyond and would not be likely to improve the situation on the ground of nuclear non-proliferation.”

While Heusgen agrees with Pompeo’s concerns about the expiring embargo, he suggested a compromise involving other international import and export restrictions.