US Says All UN Sanctions on Iran Restored Under ‘Snapback’

September 20, 2020 Updated: September 20, 2020

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration declared Saturday that all U.N. sanctions against Iran have been restored under a “snapback” mechanism, a move that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has not taken action pointing to “uncertainty” on the issue.

The administration said that its triggering of the “snapback” mechanism in the U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had taken effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. That is 30 days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the council that Iran was in “significant non-performance” with its obligations under the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“The United States took this decisive action because, in addition to Iran’s failure to perform its JCPOA commitments, the Security Council failed to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, which had been in place for 13 years,” Pompeo said in a statement released at precisely 8 p.m.

“The Security Council’s inaction would have paved the way for Iran to buy all manner of conventional weapons on Oct. 18. Fortunately for the world, the United States took responsible action to stop this from happening. In accordance with our rights under UNSCR 2231, we initiated the snapback process to restore virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions, including the arms embargo.”

“In accordance with our rights … we initiated the snapback process to restore virtually all previously terminated U.N. sanctions, including the arms embargo,” he said. “The world will be safer as a result.”

The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how the United States will enforce the restored sanctions, and the State and Treasury departments are expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalized for violations.

“The United States expects all U.N, member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures,” Pompeo said. “If U.N, member states fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of U.N.-prohibited activity.”

But 13 of the 15 Security Council members said the declaration had no legal force, arguing that the United States lost its right to invoke snapback when President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed American sanctions on Iran. The United States argues that it retains legal standing to do so as an original participant in the deal and a member of the council.

Snapback means that international sanctions eased or lifted by the nuclear deal are reimposed and must be enforced by U.N. member states, including hitting Iran with penalties for uranium enrichment to any level, ballistic missile activity, and buying or selling conventional weapons.

Those bans were either removed or set to expire under the terms of the deal in which Iran was granted billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Iran now stands in violation of the terms of the deal.

China and Russia have been particularly adamant in rejecting the U.S. position, but U.S. allies have not been shy either. In a letter sent Friday to the president of the Security Council, Britain, France and Germany—the three European participants who remain committed to the deal—said the U.S. announcement “is incapable of having legal effect and so cannot bring in to effect the procedure.”

“It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on its possible outcome would also be incapable of having any legal effect,” they wrote. Thus, the three countries said, the sanctions relief provided by the nuclear deal should remain in place.

They also said the snapback of sanctions would be “incompatible” with their current efforts to preserve the JCPOA deal, which they see as “the best deal that could have been reached,” Alex Vatanka, director of Iran program and senior fellow of the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told The Epoch Times earlier.

The JCPOA was the first international accord negotiated by the EU and is particularly important to EU leaders, who would see it as proof of the EU’s emerging ability to be an important actor in the international arena, Robert Czulda, an assistant professor at the University of Lodz in Poland and an Atlantic Council contributor, told The Epoch Times in an email earlier.

Pompeo told Fox News during an Aug. 21 interview of the European response, “To side with the Russians and the Chinese on this important issue at this important moment in time at the U.N., I think, is really dangerous for the world.”

Pompeo traveled to the United Nations on Aug. 20 to formally notify the Security Council that the United States was triggering snapback because Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal.

He has said the snapback mechanism was the “one thing that the previous administration got right” in the nuclear deal that Trump has denounced as the worst deal ever negotiated.

Trump administration officials have been attacking the 2015 nuclear deal for years. They say it is fatally flawed because certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity gradually expire and will allow the country to eventually develop atomic weapons.

Trump plans to address Iran in a speech to the General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting on Tuesday via videolink from the White House. Officials say he will also touch on his brokering of agreements for Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations in part to solidify a regional bulwark against Iran.

By Matthew Lee. Epoch Times reporter Ella Kietlinska and Reuters contributed to this article.