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.”


US sanctions Iran minister over Internet censorship

Updated 22 November 2019

US sanctions Iran minister over Internet censorship

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: We are sanctioning Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting Internet access
  • Mnuchin: Iran’s leaders know that a free and open Internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor Internet access to quell anti-regime protests

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury slapped punitive sanctions on Iran’s communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Friday after the Tehran regime blocked Internet communications amid violent protests triggered by a petrol price hike.
“We are sanctioning Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting Internet access, including to popular messaging applications that help tens of millions of Iranians stay connected to each other and the outside world,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
“Iran’s leaders know that a free and open Internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor Internet access to quell anti-regime protests,” Mnuchin said.
The protests erupted across the country on November 15, after the price of petrol was raised by as much as 200 percent.
Officials have confirmed five deaths, while Amnesty International said that more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed after authorities reportedly used live ammunition to quell the protests, which brought attacks on police stations and petrol stations and some looting of shops.
The Treasury said Azari Jahomi is a former official of the Ministry of Intelligence who has advanced Internet censorship since becoming minister two years ago.
He has “also been involved in surveillance against opposition activists,” the Treasury said.
Internet service remained mostly blocked on Friday for a sixth day, with officials and news agencies saying the blackout was gradually being rolled back.
The sanctions would freeze financial assets and property Azari Jahomi has in US jurisdictions and forbid Americans or US businesses, especially banks, from dealing with him.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump accused Iran of blocking the Internet to cover up “death and tragedy” resulting from the protests.
“Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country,” Trump tweeted.
“They want ZERO transparency, thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!” he wrote.