National security experts urge US to introduce Iran ‘snapback’ sanctions

Special National security experts urge US to introduce Iran ‘snapback’ sanctions
Donald Trump said he will try a controversial ‘snapback’ to force a return of UN sanctions against Iran, after the Security Council rejected Washington’s bid to extend the arms embargo. (AFP)
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Updated 20 August 2020

National security experts urge US to introduce Iran ‘snapback’ sanctions

National security experts urge US to introduce Iran ‘snapback’ sanctions
  • Experts say sanctions have been an effective curb on Tehran’s hostile foreign policy, but that progress is now at risk
  • UN Security Council members previously voted to allow an arms embargo on Iran to expire despite US protests

LONDON: National security experts and former diplomats on Wednesday urged the US to introduce “snapback” sanctions on Iran, warning that lifting the arms embargo without any alternative restraints will amplify the threat that Tehran poses to the region.

“Iran was responsible for the missile attack on Saudi oil sites last year, and it funds and supplies proxy forces like Hezbollah, which have killed Americans in Iraq,” former US Ambassador Paula Dobriansky told an online webinar organized by the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) and attended by Arab News.

“Removing the arms embargo would give Iran a free hand to destabilize the region by exporting terror in support of its hegemonic interests,” said Dobriansky, now a senior fellow in the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University.

In addition to Iran’s hostile foreign policy, she said its treatment of its own people adds further impetus to the need to maintain pressure on Tehran. 


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She said its countless executions, including of “young children,” and the widespread use of lethal force against protesters in November 2019 “underscore the need for moving forward with the maximum-pressure campaign and the deployment and snapback of sanctions.”

Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, said the US strategy toward Iran has so far been successful, but relaxing the economic pressure jeopardizes that progress.

The sanctions regime to date, he added, has “constrained Iran’s resources, caused economic pain for Iran, and made it more difficult for them to fund their missile and nuclear programs.

“The regime is under more pressure now than it has ever been in its history. We’ve seen unprecedented protests and the economy is really suffering.”

But Kroenig warned that if the current embargo is lifted without a replacement sanctions program, Tehran and its proxies could quickly acquire advanced weaponry, making “the threat posed by Iran even more significant.” The “best remaining option,” he said, “is to snapback sanctions on Iran.” 

Formerly crippling sanctions on Iran were lifted as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal — which eased sanctions pressure on the country in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. 

The snapback is a mechanism built into the JCPOA that allows any of the deal’s signatories to unilaterally re-apply all UN sanctions lifted as part of the deal if Iran violates its terms.

The US had pushed for UN Security Council (UNSC) members to vote in favor of collectively re-imposing those sanctions — which had also enforced an arms embargo — saying Tehran had broken the terms of the JCPOA. 

But UNSC members voted against the US, allowing the blockade on Iran’s purchase of weaponry to expire.

The high-level diplomatic dispute has set the stage for a confrontation in the UN on Thursday, where US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to invoke the snapback clause despite opposition from Russia, China and other UNSC members.