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US motion to Reimpose Sanctions on Iran Outvoted 2-15 in the UN Security Council

On Friday, The United States found itself massively outvoted as thirteen out of 15 members of United Nations Security voted against the re-imposition of international sanctions against Iran, saying that the move is void because Washington is no longer part of the deal.

FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

As soon as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared a 30-day countdown for the return of UN sanctions on Iran, Britain, France, Germany and Belgium as well as China, Russia, Vietnam, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Indonesia, Estonia and Tunisia have all written letters opposing the move.

This comes after reports that Iran has breached some of the JCPOA provisions after the US imposed unilateral sanctions against it after withdrawing from the deal. Iran has refused to follow the restrictions on the stockpiling of enriched uranium as well as the level of enrichment, citing certain provisions of the JCPOA. The Iranian authorities have however assured compliance with the JCPOA once satisfied of the measures taken by other signatories, primarily the EU, to save the deal.

“Our message is very, very simple,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting with the Security Council’s president and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. “The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons.”

The UN sanctions referred to pertain to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Nuclear Deal, signed under the Obama Presidency, that lifted sanctions on Iran provided they dismantle their nuclear weaponry system. Under the JCPOA, the five permanent Security Council members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany agreed with Iran to gradually lift the sanctions in return for limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities that would prevent it from making a nuclear bomb. It also reopened Iran’s markets to many foreign investors. However, In 2018, under President Donald Trump, the US left the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran that it has refused to lift despite the pandemic.

While the Iran Health Ministry has reported 356,792 cases and 20,502 deaths as of Saturday, the BBC has reported that the numbers may be far greater. In July, President Hassan Rouhani said, “Our estimate is that so far 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their lives.”

According to a report by Human Rights Watch in October, "broad restrictions on financial transactions, coupled with aggressive rhetoric from US officials, have drastically constrained the ability of Iranian entities to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment". The sanctions have made it extremely difficult for the country to access crucial medical goods and equipment like ventilators, N95 masks or even protective masks for medical professionals.

The Iranian President wrote a letter on March 14 to world leaders that the country’s effort to contain the outbreak was “severely hampered” by US sanctions and urged other nations to ignore them. The United States has responded that the sanctions in no way affect aid from reaching Iran, and allow for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices by U.S persons or from the United States to Iran. They have refused to lift the sanctions placed, believing that any relief offered would go on to fund terrorism rather than humanitarian activities in Iran.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also called for an easing of sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and North Korea, for they make it harder for medical relief systems to function. She cited the impact of sanctions on the import of medical supplies and devices such as protective equipment, respirators and ventilators in Iran in particular, claiming that this will cause long-lasting harm to vulnerable communities. “The populations in these countries are in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods”.

In March, the European Union gave 20 million pounds as humanitarian aid to Iran. Dozens of countries including China, Germany, Britain, France, Russia, UAE and Turkey have sent humanitarian aid to the sanctions-trapped Iran.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the US has "no right" to restore all the pre-2015 UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Zarif made the remarks in a letter to the rotating chairman of the UN Security Council (UNSC), reports Xinhua news agency. "The Dispute Resolution Mechanism is only open to the actual JCPOA participants," Zarif said in the letter which was written on Thursday and made public by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

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