By J Nastranis
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has announced that President Donald Trump will chair a Security Council meeting on Iran later this month to spotlight its “violations of international law” during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly.
Haley who holds the Council’s rotating monthly presidency said, Trump will kick off a high-level event on the global call to action on the world drug problem on September 24, and preside over a meeting relating to Iran on September 26. Trump would chair the meeting “to address Iran’s violations of international law and the general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region,” she added.
Reports quoted diplomats signifying, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – who is expected to address the General Assembly on September 25 – might request to speak at the September 26 Security Council meeting. Haley was reported saying she would not object to Rouhani speaking.
In response, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said the September 26 meeting should focus on the implementation of the nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and hoped that there would be “views voiced in connection with the U.S. withdrawal.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet that he does not see any hope of Europe salvaging the nuclear deal that Iran reached with six countries and the European Union in 2015.
As Kelsey Davenport, director for non-proliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association points out, Khamenei and other Iranian officials contend that the remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are not doing enough to counteract sanctions re-imposed by the U.S.
With sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector set to enter into effect November 5, Iran is looking for the EU to create mechanisms that will allow oil exports to continue. Davenport refers to Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi’s statement on September 4 that Iran will give Europe until November 5 to come up with “practical mechanisms” to circumvent U.S. oil sanctions.
European countries are considering options, such as using their central banks, to facilitate the necessary transactions. “Europe may be betting that the United States would not take the extreme step of penalizing the central banks of its allies, but it is unclear if this approach is viable and will proceed,” writes Davenport.
However, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said: “As Europeans, we have made it clear to the Americans that we consider the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran to be a mistake.” Meanwhile, the first U.S. sanctions have come back into force.”
“In this situation,” adds Maas, “it is of strategic importance that we make it clear to Washington that we want to work together. But also: That we will not allow you to go over our heads, and at our expense. That is why it was right to protect European companies legally from sanctions.
“It is therefore essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels independent of the U.S., a European monetary fund and an independent SWIFT [payments] system. The devil is in thousands of details. But every day that the Iran agreement lasts, is better than the potentially explosive crisis that threatens the Middle East otherwise.”
Maas explains in his OpEd in the German newspaper Handelsblatt that the policy towards Iran is part of plans for “a new world order”. This lend great significance to his remarks – particularly also because Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, has been elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for two years beginning January 2019.
Maas favours “a balanced partnership” with the U.S. This, he says, means that Europeans bring more weight to bear when the U.S. withdraws. “We are concerned about Washington’s withdrawal of affection, in financial and other terms, from the UN – and not only because we will soon be on the Security Council.
“Of course we can’ t fill all the gaps. But together with others, we can cushion the most damaging consequences of the thinking that says success is measured in dollars saved. That is why we have increased funding for relief organizations working with Palestinian refugees and sought support from Arab states.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister is striving for a “multilateral alliance, a network of partners who, like us, are committed to sticking to the rules and to fair competition.” This network is in his view “an association of states convinced of the benefits of multilateralism, who believe in international cooperation and the rule of the law,” and “an alliance that supports and enhances a global, multilateral order… from climate change to fair trade.”
This is a part of the reason that despite Iran’s frustrations with the sanctions situation, Tehran is continuing to abide by the nuclear deal. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed August 31 that the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report demonstrates that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement.
Tehran has however not been sitting back and reeling under Washington’s verbal assaults. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Trump of planning to “abuse” the presidency of the UN Security Council to criticize Tehran. The U.S. leader “plans to abuse its SC presidency to divert a session – item devoted to Palestine for 70 years – to blame Iran for horrors U.S. clients have unleashed across ME [Middle East].”
Zarif said there is only one UN Security Council resolution on Iran, and Trump is “violating it and bullying others to do the same.” Zarif is likely referring to Resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA, notes Davenport.
She avers however that Resolution 2231 “calls upon” Tehran to refrain from undertaking “any activity” related to ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear-capable. “Resolution 2231 does prohibit transfers of ballistic missiles and related technology without Security Council approval and there is evidence that Tehran is violating this provision,” notes Davenport.
She expressed this view in an Arms Control Association blog on September 7 commenting Iran’s Defence Ministry plans announced on September 1 to boost production of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Specifically, Amir Mohammad Ahadi, a senior adviser at the Iranian Defence Ministry, said Iran will be enhancing the power of “different types of ballistic and cruise missiles.”
He said Iran has developed the necessary infrastructure to pursue these developments. Iran’s recently unveiled new short-range Fateh ballistic missile with “pinpoint accuracy” appears to confirm the plans to enhance the country’s missile capabilities.
Davenport states that in addition to the destabilizing implications of the spread of ballistic missiles, transferring the systems outside of Iran without Security Council permission is a clear violation of Resolution 2231. Tehran has reportedly placed short-range missiles at the disposal of Shia groups in Iraq, inciting the UN Secretary-General to start investigating evidence that Tehran has violated Resolution 2231 by exporting ballistic missiles, including systems used by the Houthis.
The Trump administration maintains that its approach to Iran is designed to counter Iran’s regional activities and missiles – areas not covered by the JCPOA – as well as fixing what it sees as the “flaws” in the nuclear deal.
But the decision to pull the U.S. out of the nuclear deal only makes negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missiles more challenging, notes Davenport. Not only has the United States lost the credibility to conduct such a negotiation, but the P4+1 are now having to spend time trying to save the deal, rather than focus on areas of shared concern.
She adds: The E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) in particular had been open to working with the United States on a fortified approach to address Iran’s ballistic missiles outside of the nuclear deal. “But Trump’s short-sighted approach effectively ended that cooperation. Now, Iranian officials consistently maintain that they are not interested in negotiation on ballistic missiles.”
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