Pompeo Vows to Stop U.N. From Lifting Iranian Arms Embargo

Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo / Getty Images
April 29, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the Trump administration will not permit the United Nations to lift a ban on Iran's purchase of advanced military technology later this year.

"We're not going to let that happen," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

Pompeo said the United States is laying the groundwork to stop U.N. member nations—primarily Russia and China—from lifting an international arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire under the terms of the landmark nuclear deal.

While President Donald Trump removed the United States from the nuclear accord, the administration maintains that it still has sufficient leverage at the U.N. to stop the arms embargo from lifting. If these efforts fail, the Trump administration could petition the U.N. Security Council for what is known as snapback, the reimposition of all global sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal signed during the Obama administration.

"The failures of the Iran nuclear deal are legion. One of them is now upon us," Pompeo said. "It's now just several months out where China, Russia, other countries from around the world can all sell significant conventional weapons systems to the Iranians in October of this year. This isn't far off. This isn't some fantasy by conservatives. This is a reality."

Pompeo said it is clear Iran will immediately move to purchase a range of advanced military equipment once the embargo is lifted. Russia and China, which have sold Iran military equipment in the past, have the most to gain if the embargo is removed, he said.

"Does anybody think that the nation that today is conducting terror campaigns by Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraqi Shia movements or firing military missiles into the air ought to be permitted to purchase conventional weapons systems in just a few months?" Pompeo asked. "I think the world realizes that's a mistake."

U.S. officials are currently working to convince their European counterparts the arms embargo remains critical to stopping Iran's terrorism enterprise.

"We're urging our E3 partners (France, Germany, and Italy) to take action, which is within their capacity to do," Pompeo said. "We'll go—we'll work with the U.N. Security Council to extend that prohibition on those arms sales. And then in the event we can't get anyone else to act, the United States is evaluating every possibility about how we might do that."

While some nations have argued the United States has no right to sway the arms embargo debate since it abandoned the nuclear accord, Pompeo made clear the State Department rejects this view.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—including the restrictions on the arms embargo and its subsequent expiration date—does not bar the United States from taking action.

"We don't have to declare ourselves a participant," Pompeo said.

"It's unambiguous and the rights that accrue to participants in the U.N. Security Council resolution are fully available to all those participants," he said. "We're going to—we are going to make sure that come October of this year, the Iranians aren't able to buy conventional weapons that they would be given what President Obama and Vice President Biden delivered to the world in that terrible deal."