US says all UN sanctions on Iran restored

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 20 September 2020

US says all UN sanctions on Iran restored

  • “Snapback” mechanism in the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had taken effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, says Pompeo

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration declared Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been restored, a move most of the rest of the world rejects as illegal and sets the stage for an ugly showdown at the world body ahead of its annual General Assembly.
The administration said that its triggering of the “snapback” mechanism in the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had taken effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. That is 30 days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the council that Iran was in “significant non-performance” with its obligations under the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
“The United States took this decisive action because, in addition to Iran’s failure to perform its JCPOA commitments, the Security Council failed to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, which had been in place for 13 years,” Pompeo said in a statement released at precisely 8 p.m.
“In accordance with our rights ... we initiated the snapback process to restore virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions, including the arms embargo,” he said. “The world will be safer as a result.”
The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how the US will enforce the restored sanctions, and the State and Treasury departments are expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalized for violations.
“The United States expects all UN, member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures,” Pompeo said. “If UN, member states fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity.”
But the US move faces stiff opposition from the other members of the Security Council who have vowed to ignore it. They say the US lost legal standing to invoke snapback when President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed American sanctions on Iran. The US argues it retains the right to do it as an original participant in the deal and a member of the council.
Even before the US declaration, fellow Security Council members said the declaration had no legal force, calling into question the ability to enforce snapback. Snapback means that international sanctions eased or lifted by the nuclear deal are reimposed and must be enforced by UN member states, including hitting Iran with penalties for uranium enrichment to any level, ballistic missile activity and buying or selling conventional weapons.
Those bans were either removed or set to expire under the terms of the deal in which Iran was granted billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
China and Russia have been particularly adamant in rejecting the US position, but US allies have not been shy either. In a letter sent Friday to the president of the Security Council, Britain, France and Germany — the three European participants who remain committed to the deal — said the US announcement “is incapable of having legal effect and so cannot bring in to effect the procedure.”
“It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on its possible outcome would also be incapable of having any legal effect,” they wrote. Thus, the three countries said, the sanctions relief provided by the nuclear deal will remain in place.
US officials have talked tough about their intentions to ensure the sanctions are enforced, but it remains unclear how the administration will respond to being ignored, particularly by its European allies, which have pledged to keep the nuclear deal alive. A wholesale rejection of the US position could push the administration, which has already withdrawn from multiple UN agencies, organizations and treaties, further away from the international community.
In the midst of a heated campaign for reelection, Trump plans to address Iran in a speech to the General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting on Tuesday. Officials say he will also touch on his brokering of agreements for Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations in part to solidify a regional bulwark against Iran.
And, as he seeks to demonstrate statesmanlike credentials ahead of the election, Trump has injected another element of uncertainty into the mix by threatening to retaliate “1,000 times” harder against Iran if it attacks US personnel overseas.
Iran earlier Saturday warned that it may still strike US interests to avenge the death of a top Iranian general in an American airstrike earlier this year. But the head of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps mocked a report that it was plotting to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa, saying Iran’s response would target people directly or indirectly involved in the general’s death.
Amid uncertainty over that, the other 14 members of the Security Council and all but about five of the UN‘s 195 member states say the US lost its legal standing to act on sanctions when Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord more than two years ago.
Pompeo traveled to the United Nations on Aug. 20 to formally notify the Security Council that the US was triggering snapback because Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal. He dismissed suggestions that the administration was engaged in anything legally questionable or even controversial.
He has said the snapback mechanism was the “one thing that the previous administration got right” in the nuclear deal that Trump has denounced as the worst deal ever negotiated. Yet, aside from Israel and the Gulf Arab states, almost no country in the world agrees with the US
Trump administration officials have been attacking the 2015 nuclear deal for years. They say it is fatally flawed because certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity gradually expire and will allow the country to eventually develop atomic weapons.
The immediate concern of the US has been the indefinite extension of the arms embargo that would otherwise expire on Oct. 18. The Security Council rejected a US effort to extend the embargo in a lopsided vote which saw the United States get support from only one country, the Dominican Republic.

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UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

Updated 31 October 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

  • Lockdown starts just after midnight on Thursday morning
  • United Kingdom has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England back into a national lockdown after the United Kingdom passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases and a second wave of infections threatened to overwhelm the health service.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Johnson, at a hastily convened news conference in Downing Street after news of a lockdown leaked to local media, said that the one-month lockdown across England would kick in at a minute past midnight on Thursday morning and last until Dec. 2.
In some of the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, people will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons such as education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials and medicines or caring for the vulnerable.
“Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative,” Johnson said, flanked by his chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
The government will revive its emergency coronavirus wage subsidy scheme to ensure workers who are temporarily laid off during a new England-wide lockdown receive 80% of their pay.
Essential shops, schools, and universities will remain open, Johnson said. Pubs and restaurants will be shut apart from for takeaways. All non-essential retail will close.
Johnson’s imposition of stricter curbs came after scientists warned the outbreak was going in the wrong direction and that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas.
Johnson was criticized by political opponents for moving too slowly into the first national lockdown, which stretched from March 23 to July 4. He fell ill with COVID in late March and was hospitalized in early April.
The measures bring England into alignment with France and Germany by imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.
So far the United Kingdom has reported 46,555 COVID-19 deaths — defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. A broader death measure of those with COVID-19 on their death certificates gives the toll as 58,925.
The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth largest official death toll, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.