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U.S. prepared to enforce sweeping U.N. sanctions on Iran, Pompeo says

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the media at a joint news conference with the Czech prime minister, at the start of a four-nation tour of Europe, in Prague, Czech Republic August 12, 2020.

Petr David Josek | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted Friday that Washington would enforce sweeping sanctions on Iran, even though the United Nations Security Council voted to not extend an arms embargo on the rogue regime.

Pompeo, who addressed the 15 member nations of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, reiterated that the Trump administration will continue its maximum pressure campaign in order to rein in Tehran’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“I have not had a single world leader or one of my counterparts tell me that they think it makes any sense at all for the Iranians to be able to purchase and sell high-end weapons systems, which is what will happen on October 18th of this year, absent the actions that we took at the United Nations yesterday,” Pompeo told CNBC.

“We’re not going to let them have a nuclear weapon, we’re not going to let them have hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth from selling weapons systems. Every leader around the world knows it’s a bad idea,” he said, calling Iran “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

The Trump administration has previously pushed members of the Security Council to extend a U.N.-imposed arms embargo on Iran. The embargo is currently set to end in October under the 2015 nuclear deal brokered, in part, by the Obama administration. 

Last week, the Security Council voted to not extend the international arms embargo on Iran, a decision that prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to formally notify the group on Thursday of the U.S. intention to “snap back” or restore all U.N. sanctions on Iran.

Thirty days after Pompeo’s notification, a range of U.N. sanctions will be restored, including the requirement that Iran suspends all enrichment-related activities. The “snap back” will also extend the 13-year arms embargo on Iran.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, pauses whilst speaking during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted following Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement in 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

The 2015 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 until the terms expire in 2025.

Trump has previously said that the U.S. wants to reach a broader deal with Iran that puts stricter limits on its nuclear and ballistic missile work and suppresses the regime’s role in regional proxy wars. Tehran has refused to negotiate while U.S. sanctions remain in place.

Following Washington’s exit from the nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact ⁠— France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China ⁠— tried to keep the agreement alive. 

Earlier this year, a U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military general triggered the regime to further scale back compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January, Iran said it would no longer limit its uranium enrichment capacity or nuclear research.

‘An enormous mistake’

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations on Thursday, Pompeo said Washington was disappointed in the decision to not extend the arms embargo on Iran.

“It is an enormous mistake not to extend this arms embargo. It’s nuts!” Pompeo told reporters at the United Nations, adding that the Trump administration was prepared to enforce a “snap back” of all Iran-related sanctions.

Pompeo’s remarks to members of the U.N. Security Council come hours after Iran’s defense minister unveiled new missiles aimed at strengthening “Iran’s deterrence power.”

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said in a televised address that the new ballistic missile has a range of approximately 870 miles and is named after Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. strike in Iraq in January.

Hatami also said the regime had a new cruise missile boasting a range more than 620 miles and was named after Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who also was killed in the strike.

A new cruise missile unveiled by Iran and called martyr Abu Mahdi is seen in an unknown location in Iran in this picture received by Reuters on August 20, 2020.

WANA News Agency | Reuters

The relationship between the U.S. and Iran took a turn for the worse last summer following a string of attacks in the Persian Gulf.

In June, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory. That strike came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.

The U.S. then slapped more retaliatory sanctions on Iranian military leaders for shooting down the U.S. drone. The measures also aimed to block financial resources for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Tensions soared again in September when the U.S. blamed Iran for strikes in Saudi Arabia on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field.

The pre-dawn attack forced the kingdom to cut its production operations in half and triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a new conflict in the Middle East. Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks.

In January, the U.S. took responsibility for the death of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani. On the heels of the attack, Trump said that America does not seek “regime change” in Iran but that the U.S. is “ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatens American lives, Trump added at the time. 

Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, has been a key figure in Iranian and Middle East politics. He and an aide were killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport.

Iran responded by firing missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq which then led the Trump administration to announce new sanctions on Iran’s metal exports and eight senior Iranian officials.

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