The U.N. Security Council on Friday rejected a U.S. resolution to extend a thirteen-years-old arms embargo on Iran due to expire in October — a move that will likely result in the Trump administration attempting to extend the embargo unilaterally.
The short resolution, which would have extended the embargo “until the Security Council decides otherwise,” mustered only two votes in the chamber — the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. It needed nine to pass, and even if it had gained that many, would likely have been shot down by a veto from China and Russia.
Russia and China voted no, but did not need to deploy a veto, while the remaining members of the Council abstained.
The embargo is due to expire on Oct. 18 as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). The U.S. has been engaged in a significant diplomatic effort to get allies to embargo extended, warning that it would give Iran access to weapons that it could use to destabilize the region and sell to countries like Yemen, Venezuela and Syria.
U.S. officials have warned that the expiration of the embargo would allow Iran to buy fighter jets, attack choppers, tanks, submarines and missiles with a range of up to 300 km.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Council “failed today to uphold its fundamental mission set.”
“It rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific U.N. restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade,” he said. “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.”
U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft said the U.S. was “sickened – but not surprised – as the clear majority of Council members gave the green light to Iran to buy and sell all manner of conventional weapons.”
“Failing to step up to this moral challenge validates the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, just to save face and protect a failed political deal made outside the Council,” she said, saying the resolution’s failure “outlines perfectly this Council’s current condition of paralysis and inaction in the face of growing threats.”
Pompeo said that a number of Arab nations as well as Israel supported extending the embargo. But a number of diplomats were concerned that if it extended the arms embargo, Iran would leave the already-fragile deal, from which the U.S. announced its withdrawal in 2018.
Acting UK Ambassador Jonathan Allen said in a statement that while the U.K. had set out its concerns of Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, the UK abstained, “because it was clear that it would not attract the support of the Council and would not represent a basis for achieving consensus” and would therefore not contribute to regional stability.
“Nevertheless, we stand ready to work with Council Members and JCPoA participants to seek a path forward that could secure the support of the Council,” he said.
In a long statement to the Council, Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi accused the U.S. of creating a “manufactured crisis about Iran’s nuclear program,” and that it was now “manufacturing a new crisis under the so-called label of “arms proliferation.”
Iranian dissidents were dismayed at the possibility of the embargo’s expiration, with Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), describing an embargo as as “indispensable to regional and global peace and security.”
“The regime’s unimpeded purchase and sale of weapons will have no result other than terrorism, warmongering, and export of fundamentalism,” she said.
Israel’s newly-installed Ambassador Gilad Erdan hard harsh words for the the Council, calling the rejection of the resolution “a disgrace.”
“The Council has utterly failed in its responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. This decision will further destabilize the Middle East, and increase the spread of violence around the world,” he said.
The U.S. has said in no uncertain terms that it intends to use other means to extend the arms embargo, and could do so as early as next week. U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft had said that the U.S. will “use every tool in our toolbox.”
Specifically, U.N. Resolution 2231, which enshrined the deal, includes a snapback mechanism that allows an individual nation to reimpose expiring sanctions on Iran — including the arms embargo. Although the U.S. left the Iran deal, it claims to still retain rights under 2231 and is likely to seek to use that power.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow and Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Fox News that while Iran was the “big winner,” so too were Russia and China.
“From both a mercantilist and strategic perspective, selectively empowering Iran means more headaches for America in the Middle East, which translates to less time and resources spent on great power competition,” he said.
However, he warned that the diplomatic setback for the U.S. was likely only to be temporary: “Today’s vote means that Washington will almost certainly have to press ahead for a full ‘snapback’ of sanctions. A piecemeal approach does not work.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Friday called for a meeting of leaders of the five permanent Security Council members, along with Germany and Iran, in what the Kremlin called an effort to avoid escalation.
”If the leaders are fundamentally ready for a conversation, we propose to promptly coordinate the agenda,” Putin said. “The alternative is to further build up tension, to increase the risk of conflict. This development must be avoided.”
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office confirmed France’s “availability in principle” to Putin’s proposal.
Craft said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that the United States was “keeping the space open” for talks with Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China.
However, she warned that “we will not take no for an answer.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.