National Security

Trump Admin Confronts U.N. Over Iran Sanctions Impasse

U.S. says Europe ‘standing in the company of terrorists’

The United Nations headquarters in New York / Getty Images

The Trump administration is moving forward with efforts to reimpose all international sanctions on Iran despite opposition from European nations that claim the United States does not have the authority to reinstate the contested economic penalties.

European nations on the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday expressed opposition to a U.S. effort to invoke "snapback," a mechanism included in the Iran nuclear agreement that permits member nations to reimpose sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the deal. During a virtual meeting of member nations, European diplomats argued that there is not a consensus on the matter and that the United States has no authority to move forward alone.

U.S. officials disagree with this assessment and are prepared to fight the diplomatic battle alone, according to American officials involved in the matter. Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., went so far as to accuse traditional U.S. allies such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom of "standing in the company of terrorists."

The fight over reimposing Iran sanctions has pitted the United States against most of its traditional allies, straining diplomatic ties in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election. The Trump administration vows to reimpose all economic sanctions on Iran to stop an international arms ban on Tehran from lifting in mid-October. If those restrictions are lifted, nations such as China and Russia will be legally permitted to sell Iran advanced weaponry and military equipment. The Trump administration attempted to advance a U.N. resolution exclusively focused on extending the arms ban, but it was rejected by nearly all the U.N. Security Council members. Snapback is now the only avenue to keep the arms ban in place and stop Tehran from arming its military and terror proxy groups.

The United States maintains that it has full authority under the U.N. resolution that codified the nuclear deal to invoke the snapback mechanism. The administration is now prepared to do battle with traditional foes such as Russia and China, as well as its traditional European allies on the Security Council.

"The United States is on firm legal ground to initiate the restoration of sanctions under [U.N.] Resolution 2231," which solidified the nuclear deal under international law, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N. told the Washington Free Beacon. "The fact that some Council members expressed disagreement with our legal position in an informal [teleconference] does not have any legal effect. The Council already spoke unanimously when it adopted Resolution 2231, which is specifically designed to lead to the reimposition of sanctions without consensus in the Council."

Craft, in remarks on Tuesday, called European nations' stance on the matter hypocritical, particularly because they "have expressed privately their concerns about lifting sanctions on Iran, but have taken no actions to address that concern."

"Let me just make it really, really clear," Craft said. "The Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company on this matter, in light of the unmistakable truth guiding our actions. I only regret that other members of this Council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists."