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Pompeo says he'll go to UN 'soon' to push for snapback sanctions on Iran

CNN logo CNN 8/19/2020 By Kylie Atwood, Michael Conte and Richard Roth, CNN
Mike Pompeo wearing a suit and tie: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on August 5, 2020. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/POOL/AFP/Getty Images) © Pablo Martinez Monsivais/POOL/AFP/Getty Images US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on August 5, 2020. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he would be going to the United Nations "soon" to begin the process of triggering snapback sanctions on Iran, setting up a likely clash with other members of the UN Security Council.

The US wants to reimpose sanctions related to the Iran nuclear deal after suffering an embarrassing loss Friday in the Security Council trying to extend an arms embargo on Tehran that expires in October.

The process is expected to be messy, as China and Russia openly oppose the effort to snap back sanctions, and other parties to the deal -- Germany, the UK, France -- are also against the move. All of them question the legality of the US trying to reimpose sanctions under the 2015 nuclear pact, which the Trump administration announced it was leaving in May 2018.

President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House news conference later Wednesday, said he had directed Pompeo "to notify the UN Security council that the United States intends to restore all the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran. It's a snapback. Not uncommon."

Earlier in the day, Pompeo told reporters, "This will be a fully valid, enforceable UN Security Council resolution." Pompeo did not provide the precise legal justification for how the US plans to trigger snapback sanctions.

'Every expectation'

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"It has a set of provisions, it has a set of rights and obligations, and we will be in full compliance with that," Pompeo said.

Despite the failed US effort to extend the Iran arms embargo last week and the Trump administration's exit from the deal two years ago, Pompeo sought to put pressure on Security Council member countries to support the snapback effort.

"We have every expectation that every country in the world will live up to its obligations, including every member of the P5, and every member of the UN that will take seriously the international commitments to which they have signed up for," Pompeo said, speaking at the State Department.

On Wednesday evening, the State Department released a statement saying Pompeo will travel to New York City from August 20 to August 21 to notify the Security Council "that the United States will initiate the process to restore UN sanctions on Iran. Thirty days after Secretary Pompeo's notification, a range of UN sanctions will be restored, including the requirement that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities. This will also extend the 13-year arms embargo on Iran."

The statement noted that "Pompeo's notification to the Council follows its inexcusable failure last week to extend the arms embargo on the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that Pompeo will meet Thursday afternoon with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at his private residence. The meeting is expected to be around 2 p.m. ET, Dujarric said, speaking at the UN daily press briefing.

Guterres is currently under quarantine for two weeks, having traveled on vacation out of New York.

A UN diplomat tells CNN Pompeo will also have meetings inside the UN, and a second UN diplomat said Pompeo is expected to meet with the current President of the Security Council, the Ambassador from Indonesia.

After leaving the nuclear deal, the Trump administration imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, part of its "maximum pressure" campaign that has fueled increasing tensions in the region and between Washington and Tehran.

In the years since, the Trump administration has assassinated Iran's second most powerful leader, Qassem Soleimani, while Tehran has supported attacks on US military targets and started exceeding nuclear enrichment limits set out in the deal.

Amid these tensions, the expiring arms embargo would once again allow Iran to buy and sell weapons such as tanks and aircraft. For months, Trump administration officials have warned that if the vote to extend the embargo failed, the US would use a provision of the nuclear pact that says any Iranian violations can be punished by reimposing all sanctions lifted when the deal took effect -- a range of penalties that cover oil sales, financial transactions as well as arms sales, and would be devastating for the struggling Iranian economy.

This story has been updated.


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