US faces opposition to demand to 'snap back' Iran sanctions

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters following a meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the United Nations. The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its demand for all U.N. sanctions on Iran to be restored, citing significant Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal. (Mike Segar/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration ran into immediate opposition after its top diplomat officially informed the United Nations it is demanding the restoration of all U.N. sanctions on Iran, with allies and opponents declaring the U.S. action illegal and doomed to failure.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Thursday that the United States has the legal right to “snap back” U.N. sanctions even though President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Russia and China, along with European allies Britain, France and Germany, who often disagree, are united in declaring the U.S. action “illegal” on grounds that you can’t withdraw from a deal and then use the resolution that endorsed it to re-impose sanctions.

How this dispute plays out in the weeks ahead remains to be seen, but Thursday’s U.S. move set the stage for a showdown in the United Nations that could lead to a crisis of credibility for the Security Council, its most important and powerful body.

Pompeo came to the U.N. to deliver a letter to Indonesia’s ambassador to the U.N., Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country currently holds the rotating council presidency. It cited significant Iranian violations of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, a requirement to “snap back” U.N. sanctions.

Pompeo said his message was simple: “The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons ... (or) to have a nuclear weapon.”

And he said U.N. sanctions will continue the arms embargo on Iran, set to expire on Oct. 18, as well as prohibit ballistic missile testing and nuclear enrichment that could lead to a nuclear weapons program — which Tehran insists it is not pursuing.

Pompeo was sharply critical of “our friends in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom” who didn’t support a U.S. resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, which was resoundingly defeated a week ago.