On August 14, the United Nations Security Council voted to permit the 13-year arms embargo on Iran, "the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism," to expire. Pictured: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, flanked by US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, speaks after meeting with UN Security Council members about the restoration of sanctions against Iran, on August 20, 2020. (Photo by Mike Segar/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
One would think that one of the most dangerous things possible would be to allow what the US Department of State calls "the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism," Iran, freely to buy, sell, import and export advanced weapons. Yet, this is exactly what the United Nations just decided to do. The UN Security Council voted on August 14 to permit the 13-year arms embargo on the Iranian regime to expire.
Even the ruling mullahs do not seem to believe that they received such a great reward. "I don't remember [in the past] the US preparing a resolution for months to strike a blow at the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it garners only one vote [the Dominican Republic]," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. This, he added, was a humiliation and blow to the US. Iranian politicians and media outlets are also celebrating. As the headline of the Iranian newspaper Etemad read in Persian (Farsi): "US is Defeated in Home Game: Attempts in New York to Convince the UNSC Member States Fail".
Iran, thanks to the previous US administration, is crying victory. Among the many concessions that the Obama-Biden administration gave the ruling mullahs of Iran was setting a date when Iran's arms embargo would be lifted. President Obama agreed to add a provision in the nuclear deal -- which, by the way, Iran never signed – for the arms embargo's disappearance.
Although the US recently drafted a resolution to extend the Iran arms embargo, Russia and China exercised their UN security council vetoes. The other 11 members abstained. Russia's leaders appeared more than willing to help Iran. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, said in January 2020 that Russia needs to "offer Iran an agreement on military cooperation and urgently sell the most modern weapons so that no one dares throw anything in the direction of Iran."
Europe's leaders also did not support extending the arms embargo. They have been arguing that they want to preserve the nuclear deal. What deal? The deal that Iran never signed? The deal that Iran has been violating anyway?
According to the latest report from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has been violating all the restrictions of the JCPOA anyhow. Israel, too, has been collecting evidence of Iran's cheating for years. The European Union, however, has refrained from criticizing the Iranian regime even though it has increased its total stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 1,020.9 kilograms to 1,571.6 kilograms -- approximately eight times more than what the regime was allowed to maintain under the JCPOA deal. According to the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was permitted to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms, and to enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Iran is now enriching uranium up to the purity of 4.5% and possesses far more heavy water than permitted under the nuclear agreement.
The European powers have also ignored a recent plea by Iran's neighbors to extend the arms embargo, as well as a recent statement made by the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran. The six-country Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- submitted a plea to the UN Security Council to extend the Iranian arms embargo. The letter accurately stated:
"Iran has not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran... As such, it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons' movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilizing activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organizations."
The UN's decision to lift Iran's arms embargo is a critical threat to regional and international stability. As Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi pointed out:
"The extremist regime in Iran doesn't just finance terrorism: it takes an active part in terrorism through its branches around the world and uses it as a political tool. This behaviour represents a danger to regional and international stability."
The UN's decisions to allow "the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism," freely to have an unlimited supply chain of conventional weapons may sadly go down in history as one of the most dangerous acts against stability and world peace.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu