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Trump aggressively states ‘Iran will never have a nuclear weapon’ from White House announcing sanctions ‘snapback’

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks and takes questions from the press, July 22, 2020. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
August 20, 2020

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night said the U.S. will begin the process to restart sanctions against Iran that were eased under the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump announced what he described as the sanctions “snapback” against Iran during a White House press briefing. In his remarks, Trump said, “They will never have a nuclear weapon, Iran will never have — mark it down, mark it down, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon.”

Trump said during the press briefing that he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to notify the United Nations Security Council, “That the United States intends to restore virtually all of the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran.”

“It’s a snapback,” Trump added. “Not uncommon.”

The announcement comes after a failed effort last week, led by the U.S., to extend a U.N. arms embargo against Iran that is set to expire in October. Officials within the Trump administration have said that if the arms embargo vote failed, they would invoke the U.N. “snapback” measure to restore the sanctions against Iran.

It is not entirely clear if the U.S. has the authority to trigger the snapback since the Trump administration withdrew from the arms deal in 2018. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that the U.S. efforts to restore sanctions will “lead to nothing” but will create “a very serious and profound crisis in the UN Security Council.”

U.S. officials, however, have said they are still capable of triggering the sanctions snapback because the U.S. is still listed as a participant in the U.N. accord that encompasses the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump said Wednesday, “When the United States entered into the Iran deal it was always clear that the United States would always have the right to restore the U.N. sanctions that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We paid a fortune for a failed concept, a failed policy that would have made it impossible to have peace in the Middle East.”

In a State Department release ahead of Trump’s remarks Wednesday night, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo will attend the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Aug. 20-21 to “initiate the process to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran.”

“Thirty days after Secretary Pompeo’s notification, a range of UN sanctions will be restored,” Ortagus said, including a requirement that Iran ceases activities related to enriching nuclear materials.

She said Pompeo’s sanctions notification will also extend a 13-year arms embargo similar to those the U.N. voted against last week.

“Secretary Pompeo’s notification to the Council follows its inexcusable failure last week to extend the arms embargo on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism,” Ortagus said. “Secretary Pompeo will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss Iran and other issues of shared concern.”