15 August 2020   Leave a comment

As expected, the US lost the vote on its resolution to the UN Security Council demanding the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran. The size of the defeat was decisive, as only the Dominican Republic voted to support the resolution in the 15-member Council. Russia and China voted against the resolution and all the rest of the members abstained, including US allies France, Germany, and Great Britain. The decision to abstain reflected a strong desire to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the part of many members. If the resolution had passed, Iran most likely would have left the nuclear deal. Iran celebrated the defeat of the resolution:

“Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.

“’In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,’said [Iranian] foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“’Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilise a small country (to vote) with them,’ he tweeted.”

The outcome was predictable, which raises the question of why the US pursued the objective despite the certainty of defeat. The US has announced that it will seek the “snapback” sanctions outlined in the JCPOA which were mandated if Iran violated the agreement. Those sanctions are supposed to become operative on 18 October. The US pulled out of the JCPOA last year and most states do not believe that the US has the legal standing to demand those sanctions: why should a state not bound by an agreement force others to adhere to that agreement?

Additionally, it is not at all clear that an arms embargo will have much effect on Iran, as pointed out by an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

“Because of Iran’s remarkable advances in domestic defense and control systems, it is unlikely that lifting the arms embargo would make a significant difference in how the country maintains its conventional military capability. Most of Iran’s military hardware is locally produced, meaning there is little pressure or demand for major systems.

“Moreover, even if the Iranians do rush to purchase conventional weapons from Chinese or Russian suppliers, it would have little overall effect given Iran’s recent history; Iran has not initiated a war with its neighbors in the last 150 years. But it has repeatedly fallen victim to military occupation, referred to by CIA strategists as Iran’s ‘modern tradition of defeat.’ So any new arms procurement would likely be for defensive or deterrent purposes and would be perceived by Iranians as an insurance policy against any potential attack on Iran by its adversaries.

“Plus, Iran’s defense budget is a fraction of its regional rivals’. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Iran’s defense budget in 2019 was an estimated $12.6 billion. Compare that to the United States defense budget of $732 billion, the Saudi defense budget of $61.9 billion, and the Israeli defense budget of $20.4 billion. Iran’s leaders are well aware that if they begin a buildup of conventional military capacity, the result would be that world powers, including the United States and European countries, would flood the Middle East with more advanced weaponry. Ironically, such a situation could end up restraining Iran, given that other countries are better able to engage in arms competition if the need arises.”

The fear is that if the US suffers another defeat on the sanctions matter, then it will take unilateral action to eliminate what it regards as Iran’s threat to “international peace and security”–the mandate of the UN Security Council. Such an action would certainly have the active support of Israel. And it may be regarded by some in the Trump Administration as an act that would mobilize support for Mr. Trump in the November election as there is often a “rally around the flag” mentality after military action. That attitude is very dangerous and borders on the delusional.

Posted August 15, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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