Rouhani warns against extension of Iran arms embargo

President Hassan Rouhani urged the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to stand up for multilateralism by rejecting US calls for the extension of an arms embargo against Tehran.

al-monitor Iran's envoy to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo speaks during a Security Council meeting after a vote on the Iran resolution at the UN headquarters in New York on July 20, 2015. Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images.

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unsc, hassan rouhani, us-iran escalation, us-iranian conflict, arms embargo, jcpoa, iran nuclear deal

Jul 15, 2020

“It is about safeguarding international law and multilateralism,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in reference to the October expiry of an Iran arms embargo, as set in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as well as UN Resolution 2231.

Rouhani’s televised July 15 address came as the United States was in the middle of an intense and challenging campaign to get the UN Security Council to vote on extending the embargo. The Islamic Republic has been working relentlessly to counterbalance the US push by seeking support from the remaining JCPOA signatories, China and Russia in particular. In the opening of a series of US-called Security Council meetings on the matter in late June, the members emphasized the need to preserve the JCPOA.

The Iranian president advised the 4+1 countries (China, Russia, UK, France and Germany) to resist the US pressure because “it’s not just about their ties with Tehran” and said failure to stop an extension “will devalue international treaties … leaving all sides at loss.” According to Rouhani, Washington will face “yet another defeat” in its political and legal war against Tehran should the 4+1 nations act with “vigilance.”

Rouhani’s speech came on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the nuclear deal, and he used the chance to renew attacks on the US government for its “illegal” withdrawal from the pact in May 2018, a decision he blamed “on Zionists [the Israeli government], reactionaries and hard-liners in America.”

Since its departure from the deal, the administration of President Donald Trump has been pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy to squeeze Iran economically. Rouhani again downplayed it, saying, “Despite US efforts, Iran has not and will never become isolated.” The campaign has sought to drain Iran’s oil exports, one impact of which has emerged in the form of an unprecedented depreciation of Iran’s national currency, the rial. The nosedive has accelerated in the past two months amid dwindling hard currency reserves as banking restrictions continue to cut off Tehran’s access to its oil income. And that income is already fast diminishing as buyers are scared off by US penalties on business with the Islamic Republic.  

The nuclear deal’s failure to bring the promised economic relief appears to have forced the Iranian president to narrow his expectations and invest almost all his hopes in the end of the arms embargo. Rouhani described the expiration in his address as a key “achievement,” the protection of which is “a big test” for the UN Security Council. It is perhaps his top defendable gain in the face of stinging rhetoric from his hard-line critics before he bids farewell to the presidency next year.

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