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UN Security Council head says no ‘further action’ on US bid for return to Iran sanctions

The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York, also known as the Norwegian Room. (Cancillería Argentina/WikiCommons)

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

The rotating, Indonesian presidency of the UN Security Council has cited a lack of consensus and “significant numbers of…contesting views” to forestall further action on a U.S. push to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran.

Indonesian UN Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani said in response to a question from Russia and China on August 25 that “the president is not in the position to take further action” on the U.S. request.

The United States responded that it is “on firm legal ground” and that a lack of unanimity does not preclude debate, adding that opponents on the council “find themselves standing with terrorists.”

Thirteen of the Security Council’s 15 members last week said they opposed Washington’s bid to invoke a “snapback” clause of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that the United States withdrew from more than two years ago.

Besides the United States and Iran, the deal was signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia.

Washington argues that it still has the legal right to trigger the sanctions, which were dropped under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) reached in 2015, because a UN resolution at the time names the United States as a participant.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that by lodging a complaint with the council on August 20 he set in motion a 30-day process for reimposing the sanctions.

“Having contacted the members and received letters from many member countries it is clear to me that there is one member which has a particular position on the issues, while there are significant numbers of members who have contesting views,” Djani said.

“In my view there is no consensus in the council.”

Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the UN as saying that Washington “is on firm legal ground to initiate the restoration of sanctions” and “the fact that some council members expressed disagreement…does not have any legal effect.”

“Let me just make it really, really clear: the Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company on this matter,” U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council. “I only regret that other members of this council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists.”

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the U.S. effort “not only illegal, but simply will not lead to achieving the result that was envisaged by the United States.”

“It means, there is NO SNAPBACK,” he tweeted.

U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned in part in 2016 on opposition to the JCPOA , saying it fails to sufficiently ensure Iran won’t acquire a nuclear bomb-making capacity.

He withdrew the country from the deal in May 2018, citing Tehran’s meddling and misbehavior in the region and around the world, and reimposed unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy.

But defenders of the deal have countered that the accord should be preserved, saying it provides the best available guarantee to keep an atomic weapon out of Iranian hands.

The Security Council rejected a U.S. attempt on August 14 to extend an arms embargo on Iran beyond its expiration in October, with only the Dominican Republic voting with Washington.

The ambassador of Niger, which takes over the rotating presidency in September, reportedly also submitted a letter in which Niamey rejects the U.S. “snapback” move as illegal.