Open season on weapons sales to Iran as UN embargo expires

Military equipment on display in Tehran. The expiry of an arms embargo means weapons can be sold to Iran since 2006. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Open season on weapons sales to Iran as UN embargo expires

  • Pompeo threatens sanctions on arms sellers
  • Experts warn of ‘critical threat to world peace’

CHICAGO: The end on Sunday of a UN embargo on selling conventional weapons to Iran is “a critical threat to regional and international stability,” analysts told Arab News.

The arms ban expired under the terms of the UN resolution that confirmed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 agreement between Tehran and world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

Iran can now buy weapons from Russia, China and elsewhere, and Tehran claims the expiry of the embargo is a diplomatic victory over the US.
Nevertheless, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on Sunday that arms sales to Iran would still breach UN resolutions and result in sanctions. “The US is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran,” Pompeo said.

“Every nation that seeks peace and stability in the Middle East and supports the fight against terrorism should refrain from any arms transactions with Iran.
“For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security.”

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The Iranian-American Harvard scholar Dr. Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News: “The lifting of Iran’s arms embargo is a critical threat to regional and international stability. Allowing the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism to have an unlimited supply chain of conventional weapons may sadly go down in history as one of the most dangerous acts against world peace. 

“The beneficiaries are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its proxies and militia groups across the region. Sophisticated weapons could fall into the hand of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Iran’s terror and militia groups such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran-backed armed factions in Iraq.”

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said Iran primarily sought technical data from other countries in order to build up its domestic arms manufacturing capacity.

“Tehran’s culture of weapons engineering and reverse engineering means possible purchases of small weapons such as the Kornet anti-tank missile from Russia, and components such as Chinese optical jammers against drone attacks,” said Karasik, senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, D.C.

“Iran also seeks off-the-shelf systems such as the Russian S-400 air defense and the Bastion coastal defense system. China will benefit too. It is thought that Iran will purchase C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles and possiblyChinese naval patrol craft.”


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 9 min 34 sec ago

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

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Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassim Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).