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.”

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 min 45 sec ago

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

  • The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations”
  • Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of presidential elections, winning 51.7 percent of the vote, official results showed.
He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south of the divided island, leaving attempts to relaunch long-stalled UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.
Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering and Turkish flag-waving supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s head of state and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.
“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbors in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Greek Cypriot government or ruling party in the south of the island, which is a European Union member state, although opposition parties were quick to lament the outcome.
Erdogan was swift to celebrate the victory, which followed a high 67-percent turnout at the polls.
“I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president ... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” he wrote on Twitter.


Ersin Tatar edged out incumbent Mustafa Akinc, leaving attempts to relaunch UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.

In a telephone call the same night, Erdogan said he was confident the two leaders would maintain close cooperation in all areas, “starting with the hydrocarbon linked activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” his office said.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters.
The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.
The second-round ballot was triggered after Tatar won 32 percent of the vote on Oct. 11 ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 percent.
Akinci was tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat who came third last time around.
After his defeat, Akinci, who had accused Ankara of meddling in the polls, thanked his supporters and said: “You know what happened ... I am not going to do politics on this.”
The TRNC, with a population of about 300,000, was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.
Earlier in October, Turkish troops angered the Republic of Cyprus by reopening public access to the fenced-off seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.
The reopening was announced jointly by Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara just days before the first round of polling.
It drew EU and UN criticism and sparked demonstrations in the Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the island’s south, separated from the TRNC by a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
On the eve of Sunday’s vote, Greek Cypriot demonstrators massed at a checkpoint along the so-called “Green Line,” holding signs that read “Cyprus is Greek,” in protest at the reopening of nearby Varosha to the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey has repeatedly said it seeks to defend Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akinci’s relationship with Ankara had come under strain, especially after he described the prospect of the north’s annexation by Turkey as “horrible” in February.
When Akinci took office in 2015, he was hailed as the leader best placed to revive peace talks.
But hopes were dashed in July 2017 after UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland, notably over Greek Cypriot demands for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers still stationed in the TRNC.