7 August 2020   Leave a comment

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook has resigned his position from the US State Department and will be replaced by Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams. Hook’s departure follows the resignation of Acting inspector general Stephen Akard from the State Department. The move comes at a particularly crucial time, as explained by CNBC:

“Next week, the United Nations Security Council will vote on whether global powers should extend an international arms embargo on Iran. The arms embargo on Iran is currently set to end on Oct. 18 under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program and allowed international inspectors into its facilities. Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while sanctions are in place.”

Abrams is a noted foreign policy hawk and his appointment suggests that the US policy toward Iran will take an even harder line. Abrams was convicted of “unlawfully withheld information from congressional committees in 1986 when he testified about the secret Contra supply network and his role in soliciting a $10 million contribution for anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. He was subsequently pardoned by President George Herbert Walker Bush. Abrams also served in the George W. Bush administration and was an advocate of the Iraq War.”

The US will introduce a resolution to the UN Security Council extending its current arms embargo on Iran to all states. US Secretary of State Pompeo said this in a press conference yesterday:

“…the United States will put forward a resolution in the Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran.

“The Security Council’s mission is to maintain ‘international peace and security.’

“The Council would make an absolute mockery of that mission if it allowed the number-one state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons freely.

“The United States has conducted now a years-long diplomacy on this matter. We have a bipartisan consensus in Congress. We have a 13-year consensus on the Council. And the proposal we put forward is eminently reasonable.

“One way or another – one way or another, we will do the right thing. We will ensure that the arms embargo is extended.”

That resolution will likely be vetoed by both Russia and China. That veto will then trigger another step in the US strategy, as outlined by Middle East Eye:

“The UN imposed a ban on the export of most major conventional weapons to Iran in 2010. But when the Iran nuclear deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – went into effect in October 2015, a potential date for some aspects of the embargo to expire was set for 18 October 2020.

“Since the US withdrew from the accord, Iran has steadily reduced its compliance with restrictions on its production of enriched uranium and has substantially boosted its stockpiles.

“If the US is unsuccessful in extending the embargo, the Trump administration has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under a process agreed in the 2015 deal.

“Such a move would kill the deal, touted as a way to suspend Tehran’s alleged drive to develop nuclear weapons. Washington argues it can trigger the sanctions because a Security Council resolution still identifies it as a participant.”

The strategy is straight out of a Kafka novel. The agreement to impose sanctions if Iran violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA–more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal) was part of the deal between Iran and the US, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and Germany. But the US withdrew from the agreement in May 2018, raising questions about the legitimacy of the agreement. Iran upheld strictly to the terms of the agreement for a full year after the US withdrawal, but matters have become quite complicated since then:

“Iran accused the United States of reneging on its commitments, and Europe of submitting to U.S. unilateralism. In a bid to keep the nuclear agreement alive, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom launched a barter system, known as INSTEX, to facilitate transactions with Iran outside of the U.S. banking system, but it is only meant for food and medicine, which are already exempt from U.S. sanctions.

“Following the U.S. withdrawal, several countries, U.S. allies among them, continued to import Iranian oil under waivers granted by the Trump administration, and Iran continued to abide by its commitments. But a year later, the United States ended the waivers. ‘This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,’ the White House said.

“This was the tipping point for Iran, which said it would no longer be bound to its commitments as long as the other parties to the JCPOA were in breach of theirs. In July 2019, Iran exceeded the agreed-upon limits to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and then began enriching uranium to the higher concentration used in medical isotopes, still far short of the 90 percent purity required for weapons. Zarif said that these incremental breaches of the JCPOA were reversible but would continue absent European compliance. The European signatories reiterated their commitment to the JCPOA, and Mogherini said that INSTEX will be opened to additional countries, and that its shareholders were considering using it to trade oil. In September, Iran further weakened its commitments by starting to develop new centrifuges to speed up uranium enrichment, and in November, it resumed heavy water production at its Arak facility.”

We are left with the bizarre circumstance that the US is insisting upon the terms of an agreement it no longer honors. The gambit will undoubtedly fail and the US will lose both prestige and credibility in this fool’s errand.

Posted August 7, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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