US launches UN bid to extend arms embargo on Iran

US launches UN bid to extend arms embargo on Iran
Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

US launches UN bid to extend arms embargo on Iran

US launches UN bid to extend arms embargo on Iran
  • The special representative for Iran asked members to respect the wishes of Middle East nations that “live in Iran’s dark shadow” and vote for the extension.
  • As Security Council considers resolution, Washington’s special representative for Iran vows ban will continue ‘one way or another’

NEW YORK: The US has introduced a draft UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for an extension of the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, described the resolution as “a clean rollover of the existing arms embargo,” which was implemented in 2007.

“Letting the arms embargo expire was a big deficiency of the Iran nuclear deal,” he said, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from which the US withdrew in 2018. “Its expiration should never have been based on an artificial timeline of five years. It was an irresponsible concession.”


Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, called on all members of the council to “wake up to the real-world implications of allowing the arms embargo to lapse. The UNSC’s purpose is to promote global peace and security. Failure to extend the arms embargo would make a mockery of that responsibility.”

Hook said the latest proposal is “a compromise text,” and the US has added provisions supported by all permanent members of the Security Council (the US, UK, China, France and Russia), and called on members to respect the wishes of the Middle East nations that “live in Iran’s dark shadow” by voting for the extension.

He read from a letter signed by the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — that asked the council to extend the embargo, in which they wrote: “(Iran) has continued to proliferate weapons across the region as an integral part of its expansionist regional policy and longstanding interference in the internal affairs of Arab states, including GCC member states, in clear violation of the UN Charter. We have stressed that Iran has been a state sponsor of terrorism in our region and has actively incubated, trained, equipped, and directed violent armed terrorists throughout the region.”

Hook urged council members to respect the wishes of those closest to the conflict, and cautioned those tempted to sit on the fence: “Abstaining may carry a certain appeal for those who want to have it both ways: to express concern without addressing the concern. But abstentions will not be forgotten by nations in the region who are counting on council members to vote yes.”

Hook announced this week that he is stepping down as special representative for Iran. Asked what his successor, Elliott Abrams, will bring to the table, Hook said: “People are getting an upgrade. He has been working on the Middle East’s issues for decades. He will do a great job on this file.”

Abrams’s nomination triggered speculation that, should US efforts to extend the arms embargo fail, Washington will attempt to activate the “snapback” mechanism that is part of the 2015 nuclear deal. This would automatically restore the UN sanctions against Iran that were in place before 2015, in the case of violations of the agreement.

Critics argue that because the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, it is legally unable to trigger a snapback, which would also face opposition from Russia and China. However authorities in Washington have circulated a legal memo they said explains US rights under Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 agreement, including its ability to initiate the snapback.

“It’s important for people to define their terms,” said Hook. “The Iran deal is a political arrangement consisting of non-binding political commitments. So those who argue that a state cannot avail itself of legal rights if it is in violation of corresponding legal obligations don’t know how to read 2231.”

However, he added that the administration’s current focus remains on ensuring that the Security Council resolution passes and securing the extension to the arms embargo.

“We certainly made the case on the merits for why it needs to be extended, and we’ll see how the council lines up. But … one way or the other, we are going to ensure that the arms embargo is extended,” he said.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.