Rude Awakening At UN: Trump And Iran ‘Snapback’ – OpEd


After getting bruised by an embarrassing defeat at the UN Security Council over the failed attempt to extend an Iran arms restriction, the Trump administration is now drawing the wrong lesson from that bitter experience by hammering the Council with yet another highly questionable, and indeed illegal, demand, namely, to re-impose the UN sanctions on Iran — by invoking an aspect of the 2015 nuclear accord that it unilaterally scuttled two years ago.   

By now, it is of course abundantly clear that this administration is absolutely clueless about international law and norms and constantly seeks to bully the international community without having any qualm whatsoever about appearing incoherent and contradictory. 

Indeed, why else Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brag about “complying” with UN resolution, without bothering with the fact that his administration has violated UNSC 2231, which mandates compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement.  Little surprise then, that nearly all the other permanent and non-permanent members of UN Security Council either abstained or voted against the US-sponsored draft resolution on Iran arms last week. 

Already, various European officials have gone record opposing the post-defeat ‘snapback’ initiative, yet their voices do not seem to reach the ears of Secretary Pompeo or anyone else at the White House including President Trump, who ordered the interdiction of several oil vessels en route to Venezuela, purportedly carrying Iranian fuel, although Iran has denied that.  Irrespective of whether or not the said cargo belongs to Iran, the fact remains that US has engaged in an illegal act of piracy on high seas, condemnable from the prism of international commercial laws. 

With respect to the ‘snapback’ provision of the Iran nuclear agreement, US obviously wants to have it both ways, that is, simultaneously tear apart the agreement and question its validity and, yet ironically, resorting to it to solidify its “maximum pressure strategy” against Iran, which has clearly failed to obtain its objectives, as Iran has refused to buckle and or consent to direct dialogue with an administration that has shown pure hostility toward it.      

Henceforth, the Trump administration has set the stage for a second embarrassing defeat the Security Council within a month, which does not bode well for a Western superpower and its global prestige, at the same time weakening the Council, tantamount to yet another stab by this rogue administration at the pillars of world order, by sowing chaos and anarchy of rules through a crude substitution of its will for that of international community.   

Hopefully, this nightmare plaguing our world since Trump’s victory in 2016 will soon be over come the November presidential elections.  Sadly, between now and then this administration is capable of producing many more inflictions on global norms. 

In contrast, a Joe Biden presidency promises to restore at least some of the core American commitments to international principles, which have suffered a serious setback in the Trump era. 

It is entirely against the American national interests to have a White House occupant who is fundamentally averse toward multilateralism and respect for the accepted post-WWII values.  Biden may have several shortcomings, but at least he is a pragmatic realist who recognizes the importance of US abiding by its international commitments.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D. is an Iranian-American political scientist and author specializing in Iran’s foreign and nuclear affairs, and author of several books.

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