Bipartisan US House Majority Backs Extending UN Arms Embargo on Iran

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In a letter on Monday, 387 members—or nearly 90 percent—of the U.S. House of Representatives called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work with U.S. allies in extending the U.N. arms embargo on Iran.

Reuters first reported the letter on Thursday, citing congressional sources.

The embargo will expire on Oct. 18, as will U.N. travel restrictions on Iranians associated with arms proliferation—the latter of which the letter also calls to be extended.

“The U.N. arms embargo is set to expire in October, and we are concerned that the ban’s expiration will lead to more states buying and selling weapons to and from Iran,” stated the letter, efforts of which are being led by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), the committee’s ranking Republican.

The representatives wrote to Pompeo, “America must continue its longstanding, bipartisan leadership in order to limit Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the world. We look forward to working with you to reauthorize these expiring U.N. restrictions, which are essential to protecting our national security and the American people.”

The letter comes as Pompeo is reportedly expected to present a legal argument that the United States is still a “participant state” of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from in May 2018 in an effort to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Tehran and institute harsher sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic, which it has since done.

The new strategy comes as the United States has made known a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend the 2010 arms embargo on Iran—a resolution that is all but guaranteed to fail, as China and Russia would likely each exercise its permanent veto on the council. The Russians have already stated their intention of resuming the trade of arms to the Islamic regime.

If such a resolution does not pass, the United States is expected to unilaterally activate the snapback sanctions under the deal that would include restoring previous U.N. bans on Iran, which, along with the arms embargo, were lifted under the nuclear deal.

On Thursday, U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook reiterated the strategy.

“We can’t let the arms embargo expire. It was a mistake to ever put this in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” he said on a conference call for members of the media. “And we have drafted a resolution. It’s quite easy to renew the arms embargo, and since the arms embargo has been voted on unanimously in the past, there’s a lot of policy precedent to support renewing the arms embargo.

“We have started our diplomacy on this,” continued Hook. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do this in a very clean way through the U.N. Security Council, but we’re also prepared to use every diplomatic option available to us if those efforts are frustrated.”