As the US continues its efforts to generate support for the renewal of an embargo on weapons sales to the Iranian regime, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now emphasizing that a short-term extension of the embargo would not be considered adequate. On Wednesday, he told reporters that the Trump administration’s goal is to impose indefinite limits on Tehran’s international activities, pending previously outlined, fundamental changes in the state’s behavior.
“The United States has the unambiguous right, without the consent of any other nation, to ensure that this arms embargo stays in place,” Pompeo said, reiterating the position that the US took with regard to the use of enforcement mechanisms written into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Although the US pulled out of that agreement in 2018, citing the Iranian regime’s malign activities, to initiate its “maximum pressure” strategy, it technically remains listed as a participant. This has led the US to assert its right to trigger the “snap back” of multilateral sanctions, in response to the Iranian regime’s violations.
The regime began gradually halting compliance with the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after having failed to blackmail European signatories to compensate for the effects of re-imposed US sanctions. This culminated in the abandonment of all limits on nuclear enrichment stockpiles and purity levels in the first month of 2020. The European signatories did respond by initiating the dispute resolution mechanism that could result in “snap back,” but they have remained hesitant about actually bringing the deal to a formal end.
The US has expressed impatience over its allies’ actions and has publicly examined unilateral options. However, questions persist about the practicality of these options, given that four out of the five other JCPOA signatories wield veto power in the United Nations Security Council, just as the US does. China and Russia, in particular, are standing fast in opposition to American plans, and have explicitly rejected both the broad prospect of re-imposing sanctions and the narrower goal of just extending the arms embargo.
Pompeo has sought to encourage support for the American plans by highlighting the specific dangers associated with a less restrained Iranian regime’s arms trade. In his remarks on Wednesday, the Secretary of State noted that mullahs’ regime is poised to become an arms dealer for other rogue states, including that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.