‘Iran is world’s most heinous terrorist regime,’ Pompeo warns UN in embargo talks

The Secretary of State told the U.N. Security Council not to fall prey to Tehran’s “extortion diplomacy.”

By Associated Press

Calling Iran “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to extend the U.N. arms embargo against Tehran, which expires in October, and reject “extortion diplomacy.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif countered calling President Donald Trump’s administration “an outlaw bully” that is waging “economic terrorism” on his country to satisfy domestic constituencies and “personal aggrandizement.”

He claimed Iran’s options “will be firm” if the embargo is maintained and the U.S. will bear full responsibility.

The U.S. has circulated a draft Security Council resolution to extend the arms embargo indefinitely, and Pompeo said the United States’ “overwhelming preference” is to work with its 15 members to adopt it.

But he indicated that if the resolution isn’t approved, which is likely because of Russian and Chinese opposition, the U.S. will move to invoke a provision of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers to re-impose all U.N. sanctions against Iran. The U.S. administration pulled out of the deal in 2018.

Pompeo spoke at a virtual open meeting of the council on implementation of resolution 2231, which was adopted in 2015 to endorse the Iran nuclear deal. The arms embargo is included in the measure.

Zarif later claimed that the U.S. violated all provisions of the deal by its withdrawal and insisted that the arms embargo be lifted completely on its Oct. 18 expiration date.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow opposes “blessing” the U.S. maximum pressure policy through the arms embargo resolution. He called it a “maximum suffocation” policy aimed at regime change or creating “a situation where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe,” adding in an illusion to the death of George Floyd by a policeman in Minnesota: “This is like putting a knee on one’s neck.”

“It is obvious that the ultimate goal is to antagonize Iran and push it to radical retaliation, which will become an invitation for further sanctions,” Nebenzia said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun also opposed extending the arms embargo saying having quit the nuclear agreement the U.S. is no longer a participant and “has no right to trigger” the so-called snap-back provision in the resolution to re-impose U.N. sanctions.

Pompeo noted that Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani recently declared that “Iran will give a crushing response if the arms embargo on Tehran is extended.” He expressed hope that Zarif would later say who Iran intended to “crush” and how, but the Iranian leader refused to name names.

Pompeo seized on findings in a report this month by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said the United Nations has determined that Iran was the source for several items in two arms shipments seized by the U.S., and for debris left by attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations and an international airport.

The report also said some of the items seized by the U.S. in November 2019 and February 2020 “were identical or similar” to those found after cruise missiles and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019.

Pompeo also blamed Iran for other actions, including an attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq in January using its advanced missiles, and supplying Shiite militia forces who have launched dozens of rocket attacks since last year against U.S. and coalition forces fighting Islamic State extremists.

If the arms embargo is lifted, he said “Iran will be free to purchase Russian-made fighter jets that can strike up to a 3,000-kilometer radius – putting cities like Riyadh, New Delhi, Rome, and Warsaw in Iranian crosshairs.”

Pompeo said Iran would also be free to upgrade and expand its submarine fleet and to purchase advanced technologies for its Middle East terror proxies including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi Shiite rebels.

And it will be free “to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan,” he said.

In response, Zarif accused the U.S. of “maliciously” raising matters extraneous to the nuclear agreement.

Pompeo said he detailed only a fraction of “the overwhelming evidence” against Iran and told the council that the U.S. call to maintain the arms embargo is backed by Middle East countries from Israel to the Gulf “who are most exposed to Iran’s predations.”

The council meeting took place a day after Iran issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in detaining President Donald Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad earlier this year. Trump faces no danger of arrest and Interpol later said it would not consider Iran’s request.

However, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. since Trump  withdrew America from the nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and re-imposed crippling U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

The five other powers that signed the nuclear deal — Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany — remain committed to it, saying the agreement is key to continuing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.