UN urged to retain weapons ban on Tehran

Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, speaks at a news conference in London, Britain June 28, 2019. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 29 June 2020

UN urged to retain weapons ban on Tehran

  • Iran would be the ‘arms dealer of choice for world’s rogue regimes’
  • Brian Hook told AP that the world should ignore Iran’s threats to retaliate if the arms embargo set to expire in October is extended, calling it a “mafia tactic”

JEDDAH: Easing international pressure on Iran would enable it to become “the arms dealer of choice for rogue regimes and terrorist organizations around the world,” the US warned on Sunday.

Threats by Tehran to retaliate if the UN extends a weapons embargo due to expire in October were a “mafia tactic,” said Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran. Hook said both an arms import and export ban on Tehran must remain in place to secure the wider Middle East. 

“If we let it expire, you can be certain that what Iran has been doing in the dark, it will do in broad daylight and then some,” he said.

Hook made the comments while on a visit to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the US-allied United Arab Emirates, as part of a Mideast tour. 

Hook met Saturday with Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and planned Sunday to meet with other officials. Hook declined to say where else he would travel on his trip.

Hook spoke to AP journalists in Dubai via videoconference as Abu Dhabi’s borders remain closed to the UAE’s six other sheikhdoms over the pandemic.

The United Nations banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. That blocked Iran from replacing its aging equipment, much of which had been purchased by the shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. An earlier embargo targeted Iranian arms exports.

If the embargo is lifted, the US Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in 2019 that Iran likely would try to purchase Russian Su-30 fighter jets, Yak-130 trainer aircraft and T-90 tanks. 

Tehran also may try to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and its Bastian coastal defense missile system, the DIA said.

Iran long has been outmatched by US-backed Gulf nations like the UAE, which have purchased billions of dollars of advanced American weaponry. 

In response, Tehran turned toward developing ballistic missiles as a deterrent. Hook declined to discuss an explosion Friday in Iran near an area analysts believe hides an underground tunnel system and missile production sites.

Being able to pay for new, foreign weapons systems, however, remains in question. US sanctions imposed after Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal have crushed Iran’s oil sales, a major source of revenue. Energy prices have also collapsed amid the pandemic.

Asked about how Iran would pay for the new weapons, Hook said Tehran’s lowered revenues represented “a good thing for the region” and affected its ability to back its regional proxies, like Syria.

“We have put this regime through our strategy on the horns of a dilemma,” Hook said. “They have to choose between guns in Damascus or butter in Tehran.”

That financial pressure has led to sporadic anti-government protests in Iran, including nationwide demonstrations in November that Amnesty International says saw over 300 people killed. 

While the Trump administration has maintained it doesn’t seek to overthrow Iran’s government, its pressure campaign has exacerbated public anger against its Shiite theocracy.

Since Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran has broken all the accord’s production limits. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iranian nuclear activity as part of the deal, says Tehran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium continues to grow.

While not at weapons-grade levels, the growing stockpile and increased production shortens the one-year timeline analysts believe Iran would need to have enough material for a nuclear weapon if it chose to pursue one. Iran long has denied seeking atomic bombs, though the IAEA previously said Iran had done work in “support of a possible military dimension to its nuclear program” that largely halted in late 2003.

Iran has threatened to expel IAEA inspectors and withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty amid the US pressure campaign. North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, is the only country to ever withdraw from the treaty.

“If we play by Iran’s rules, Iran wins,” Hook said. “It is a mafia tactic where people are intimidated into accepting a certain kind of behavior for fear of something far worse.”

Hook maintained that the UN’s ban on Iran exporting weapons abroad also needed to remain in place, even though it has not prevented Tehran from smuggling arms. Iranian arms in particular have turned up in Yemen, where Tehran-backed Houthi rebels fight a Saudi-led coalition.

“I don’t think anyone believes that Iran’s behavior merits loosening restrictions on their ability to move weapons,” Hook said.

(With AP)

Related


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 03 August 2020

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.