The head of US diplomacy Mike Pompeo went to the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday to trigger the so-called “snapback” mechanism, which aims to restore international sanctions against Tehran. France, Germany and the United Kingdom opposed this initiative. A legal battle is imminent.
American-European duel at the UN. The United States formally activated, on Thursday, August 20, a controversial procedure to demand the reintroduction of international sanctions against Iran within a month. They faced the categorical refusal of their European allies.
The tone has rarely risen between the two coasts of the Atlantic, the head of US diplomacy Mike Pompeo goes so far as to accuse France, Britain and Germany of having “chosen to conform to the ayatollahs” who have power in the Islamic Republic.
While traveling to New York, the UN headquarters, the US Secretary of State informed the “Security Council” about “Iran’s significant non-compliance with its commitments” under the agreement reached in Vienna in 2015 to prevent him from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The United States specifies that this mechanism, called “snapback”, triggers as a country that “participates” in the Vienna Agreement. Security Council Resolution 2231, which had ratified it, was indeed designated as a “participant” by all the original signatories, namely the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Iran.
US President Donald Trump has slammed the door on this international compromise in 2018, and Washington’s ability to claim this status, however, is legally questioned by most other countries, including its European allies.
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom note that the United States ceased to be a participant” during “their withdrawal from the agreement on May 8, 2018”, the diplomats from the three countries responded in a joint press release. “So we can not support this initiative,” they added. They stressed that they still wanted, “despite the great challenges posed by the withdrawal of the United States”, to “preserve” the agreement signed five years ago and presented at the time as the only chance to prevent an Iran nuclear attack.
The Chinese representation at the UN also considered that the United States was a country that did not “participate” in the agreement and that the letter from Mike Pompeo could therefore not be “considered an activation of the snapback”. The same story on the Russian side, where we consider “snapback” as “non-existent”.
The US report “is invalid”, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi decided on Twitter, noting that all other signatories in 2015 were on the same page.
Donald Trump, who on the contrary considers this agreement “catastrophic” and promises to get a “better” by exerting “maximum pressure” on Tehran, has already restored and even tightened all US sanctions. In response, the Iranian authorities have begun to back down on their nuclear commitments, especially with regard to uranium enrichment.
While acknowledging the “extensive efforts and exhaustive diplomacy” carried out by Europeans to get the Islamic Republic back on track, its violations continue “, Mike Pompeo claims in his letter and appreciates that” the United States therefore has no choice “but to to enable “snapback”.
He blames Paris, London and Berlin for not voting last week on the US resolution to extend the embargo on conventional weapons against Iran, which expires in October. The text has only been approved by two of the 15 Security Council countries.
“Their actions endanger the people of Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and even their own citizens,” Mike Pompeo told Europeans. “America will not join this leadership failure,” he insisted.
The complaint was soon closed without follow-up?
Theoretically, “snapback”, a complex process provided for in the 2015 resolution, would allow the rest of the international sanctions to return within 30 days, almost automatically. Among them are the arms embargo and the sanctions associated with uranium enrichment. However, according to several observers, the Indonesian ambassador, after consulting with the other members of the council, was able to reject the US complaint.
Donald Trump could still in 30 days – at the UN General Assembly – claim that international sanctions are in force again. This provokes lively legal and even legal debates and disputes.
If the sanctions are de facto back, Iran could mark the final death of the agreement in 2015. But it may also decide to wait and see if Donald Trump wins a second presidential term on November 3. Meanwhile, Washington is more isolated than ever on this issue, and the Security Council is more divided than ever.