Trump, Iran And The End Of UN – OpEd


In a remarkable display of complete disregard for the United Nations and its founding principles enshrined in the UN Charter, the Trump administration has unilaterally re-imposed the UN sanctions on Iran, even though its effort to do so have been soundly rebuffed by the UN Security Council.

Thus, Elliott Abrams, the hawkish head of US State Department’s Iran Group, has announced an indefinite extension of Iran’s arms embargo and US’ intention of imposing sanctions on any country daring to ignore Washington’s order, despite the fact that per UN Security Council Resolution 2231 the existing arms restrictions on Iran are about to expire.  

Ironically, the blatantly unlawful bullying of the international community has been thinly-disguised as legal by the false pretense that US is abiding by the UN resolution and is still a “participant” in the 2015 Iran nuclear accord backed by that resolution, which calls on all UN member states to fully implement the nuclear agreement; the latter calls for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran and the normalization of Iran’s external trade.

Unfortunately, the latest US salvo against the UN, undermining the preeminent world organization responsible for maintaining global peace and security, has not elicited the necessary condemnation by other governments, including the European governments, as a major affront to the pillars of world order.   

Piling on top of all the other rogue behavior of the Trump administration — ranging from deep cuts in US contribution to UN, to exiting several international treaties, to targeting the judges of International Criminal Court, withdrawing from UNESCO and UN’s Human Rights Council, etc. — the decision to frontally challenge the authority of Security Council and re-impose the UN sanctions has profound ramifications, not just with respect to escalating tensions with Iran and setting the stage for a military showdown, but also for the post-WWII world order, by virtue of promoting hegemonic unilateralism at the expense of international norms and principles, thus fashioning a new stage in global anarchy where might determines right, i.e., a Hobbesian nightmare.

For the moment, however, it seems unlikely that China and Russia will consent to Washington’s bullying on Iran as both countries are on record opposing both the extension of Iran arms embargo and UN ‘snapback’ sanctions.  Even the European Union as well as Germany, France, and England, have reacted to the US announcement on sanctions by indicating that their current “sanctions relief” activities with Iran will continue, thus sending a mild signal that they are not on board with Washington’s “maximum pressure strategy” on Iran.    

But, given the enormous negative implications of Trump administration’s move on Iran for the UN and the world order, what is absolutely necessary is an immediate condemnation of US by the UN Security Council threatened by US’ UN substitutionism.   

In fact, this should have happened immediately after Trump’s announcement of US’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement in May, 2018, in clear violation of Resolution 2231.  Sadly, both the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, as well as the European leaders confined themselves to expressions of regret instead of forceful statements outright condemning a member state’s blatant defiance of the will of Security Council. 

As expected, that failure simply emboldened the rogue US president, who earlier this year ordered the assassination of an Iranian general on Iraqi soil, soundly condemned by a UN expert as both illegal and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. 

Threatening Iran and “October Surprise” in the Offing

By all indications, the Trump administration is not content with harsh sanctions on Iran, which have failed to bring Tehran to its knees, and is contemplating adding a military dimension, in line with the recommendations from Tel Aviv and the powerful Jewish lobby groups in Washington.   

The recent interdiction of four oil vessels on high seas, which now turns out to be Iran-unrelated and the subject of a law suit in a US court by other nationalities, appears to be a mere dress rehearsal for an impending move by US military to intercept cargoes to and from Iran. 

Accordingly, US has beefed up its naval presence in Persian Gulf and the vicinity waters, and chances are that the White House is plotting a military showdown with Iran before the November presidential elections, in order to make Trump look more presidential, whip up xenophobic nationalism, and thus secure a second term in office.     

In this scenario, accusing Iran of plotting to assassinate US ambassador in South Africa, eliciting Trump’s dire warning of responding to any Iranian violence with “1000 times greater magnitude,” simply shows a warmongering US administration intent on utilizing its overwhelming military superiority against an inferior enemy, reminding one of Thucydides’ famous Melian debate, where the Athenians argued that might makes right. 

In comparison, Iran’s ‘Melian dilemma’ is that it counts on its own arsenal of self-defense under the doctrine of “asymmetrical warfare” at a crucial juncture in world history when a declining Western superpower resorts to brute coercion to sustain its hegemony.  In this fateful struggle, the stakes are indeed very high, as the fate of Iran and that of UN are inevitably intertwined.  

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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