US envoy calls on UN to renew Iran arms embargo

A UN ban on weapons sales to Tehran will come to an end in October 2020. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 16 October 2019

US envoy calls on UN to renew Iran arms embargo

  • US says maximum pressure campaign on Iran is working
  • US willing to meet with Iranians and negotiate without preconditions

LONDON: The US special envoy to Iran said on Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council must renew the Iranian arms embargo, which is due to expire next year.

Under the Iran nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year, a UN ban on weapons sales to Tehran will come to an end in October 2020.

“Countries like Russia and China will be able to sell conventional weapons to Iran,” Brian Hook told a congressional hearing on US-Iran policy. “The Iranian regime will also be free to sell weapons to anyone. 

“The moment Iran is allowed to buy advanced drones, missiles, tanks, and jets, it will do so. This will be a win for its proxies across the region, who will use such arms to then attack other nations on Iran’s behalf.”

Since withdrawing from the Iran deal, the US has implemented what it calls an unprecedented pressure campaign on Iran, mostly through punishing rounds of sanctions. 

The measures aim to “deny the regime the revenue it needs to fund a revolutionary and expansionist policy and to increase the incentive for Iran to come to the negotiating table,” Hook said.

The hearing, described as a matter of pressing national security importance, explored the relationship the US and other countries maintain with Iran.

“If you look at the 40-year history that the US and other nations have had with this republic, you see a consistent pattern that requires either economic pressure, diplomatic isolation or the threat of military force and its is one or more of these factors that inform Iran’s decision making calculus,” Hook said.

Hook reiterated US President Donald Trump’s willingness to meet with the Iranians and negotiate without preconditions.

“Unfortunately, Iran has responded to our diplomacy with violence and kinetic force and in recent months, Iran has launched a series of panicked attacks to intimidate the world into halting our pressure.”

He said Iran was responsible for attacks on ships in a UAE port, an assault on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and a missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities last month.

Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also welcomed the joint statement from the UK, France and Germany following the attacks on the Abqaiq oil processing plant and Khurais oil field. 

“Apart from rightly identifying Iran as the culprits, our partners addressed the importance of addressing regional security issues as well as the nuclear question,” Risch said.

He said Iran’s pursuit of regional domination following the 1979 revolution transformed the fabric of the Middle East and that the “Iranian regime dangerously catalyzed sectarian identities and weaponized sect and religion against its neighbors, triggering a Sunni/Shiite war that continues to unravel through the greater Middle East.”

“The nuclear issue is but one aspect of the regime’s malign conduct,” Risch said, adding “every riyal and dollar we deny the regime is money not spent on terrorism.”

Risch said one of his main issues with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was that it only touched on the nuclear aspects of Iran’s behavior. 

“Iran continues to threaten its neighbors with ballistic missiles, conducts criminal maritime activity in international waters, continues to unlawfully hold American citizens, and fuels dangerous proxy conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon,” he told the hearing.

“It is my assessment that the maximum pressure campaign against Iran is working and can serve as the bridge to more meaningful negotiations,” Risch said.

The hearing heard that since May of last year, over 30 rounds of sanctions have denied the regime of more than  $25 billion in oil revenue. The riyal has plunged, inflation is around 50 percent and climbing and Iran’s economy is shrinking rapidly.

Hook said the US is seeking a comprehensive deal to address the threats that Iran presents to international peace and security “including their nuclear and missile programs and its support to terror groups and proxies.”


Innovation, cooperation key to GCC’s economic vitality

The speakers underscored the need for GCC countries to strengthen their economies by continuing to invest in health care and education. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 12 November 2019

Innovation, cooperation key to GCC’s economic vitality

  • Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate features discussions on pressing geopolitical issues

ABU DHABI: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could become the sixth-largest economic power in the world by 2030 if it can maintain the same pace of growth and development, according to a senior Bahraini official. Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (DERASAT), made the remark while speaking at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate (ADSD) on Monday.
With “Old Power Competition in the New Age” as its theme, the conference has featured an impressive lineup of speakers. The topics for the second and final day were broadly “Power distribution in the Gulf region” and “Repercussions of conflicts on the future of Arab states.”
Al-Khalifa underscored the need for GCC countries to strengthen their economies by continuing to invest in health care and education and boosting the quality of human resources.
On the subject of regional tensions, Al-Khalifa had three likely scenarios, starting with one in which Gulf states become a united political bloc that serves as a “regional center for innovation, entrepreneurship, cooperation and sustainable development.” In the second scenario, a dire fate awaits the region, with terrorism and unrest prevailing over the forces of social and economic stability.
An equally worse-case scenario sees a “static” future, with the GCC region condemned to a prolonged period of unrest and constant interference by regional and global powers in their affairs.
Similar apprehensions were expressed by Mahmoud Jibril, a former prime minister of Libya and president of the National Forces’ Alliance, during a separate panel discussion, “Middle East Power Distribution: Hard, Soft and Artificial.”
Arguing that Israel has emerged as “the main winner” in Middle East conflicts, Jibril blamed the Arab world for not moving in step with “the trends of this era.”

HIGHLIGHT

With ‘Old Power Competition in the New Age’ as its theme, the conference has featured an impressive line-up of speakers.

He said that Israel was the recipient of 21 percent of international investments by technology giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in their research and development centers.
“Investment channeled to Israel is 200 times as a proportion of the country’s population. These are its source of power,” Jibril said. By contrast, he said, the Arab world has one of the highest budgets for military acquisitions and yet its security environment keeps deteriorating.
Jibril identified three forces that he said are shaping modern history. The first is technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence) and digitalization. The second is youth, which he described as a “game changer” in the region. The third force, according to Jibril, is climate change.
“In the coming years, cities will disappear because of rising temperatures and economies will collapse due to expanding desertification,” he said. “The consequences will be migration and conflict. Unfortunately, these three forces cannot be reversed. At best, their impacts can be mitigated.”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Center, the ADSD’s organizer, said that the Gulf region is witnessing “fierce competition among states over power redistribution.”
While the region’s security and stability will continue to be among the primary challenges, change will come once a deal with Iran is reached, she said.
“Iran doesn’t have anything to lose at the level of infrastructure,” El-Ketbi said.
“If a missile hits Iran, the country will not lose much but if a missile hits Aramco from Iran, there is a lot to lose.”
Al-Ketbi said that a balance of hard and soft power is crucial for achieving stability in the region. “Having hard power alone leads to wars and acts of sabotage,” she said, evidently alluding to recent incidents in the Gulf, while “possession of soft power alone is not enough for achieving security, especially for the GCC countries.”