Iran Hits Back at U.S. Sanctions Threat After Arms Embargo Expiry

In response to recent U.S. threats for sanctions on Iranian arms, Iran claims that the threats from Washington are weak and baseless. The 5-year UN arms embargo on Iran ended Sunday, and U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, subsequently warned that any individuals or groups that choose to conduct arms deals with Iran will face consequences.


Spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said that, “Pompeo’s remarks are the most important sign that not even he believes unilateral U.S. sanctions have been successful, and no [UN sanctions] have been reinstated,” reports Al Jazeera. “Iran continues to believe it can operate within the framework of international agreements. What they fear is Iran’s return to the massive market of technology and arms exports,” Khatibzadeh continues. Iran’s Defense Minister, Amir Hatami, echoed these sentiments, explaining that the sale of arms would be conducted in a safe manner exclusively. Hatami claimed that Iran would only sell weapons to countries that it is positive “won’t misuse them,” reports Al Jazeera. Hatami went on to emphasize the fact that weapon sales will not be conducted for the purposes of economic development, claiming that “Unlike the Americans, we wouldn’t do just about everything for money.” Iran’s foreign ministry went even further to defend itself, stating that “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place” in the country’s defense doctrine.


In contrast, the U.S. tried on two separate occasions to prevent the arms embargo on Iran from being lifted. August saw the introduction of a resolution to extend the arms embargo for an indefinite amount of time, while September saw the U.S. claim to unilaterally reinstate all UN sanctions on Iran, the arms embargo included. Neither of these attempts were successful, as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) rejected them due to their lack of any legal basis.


In 2015 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed to give Iran sanctions relief in return for several restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program. In 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the deal and subsequently blacklisted the vast majority of Iran’s economy. With the ban ending under Resolution 2231 of the JCPOA, Iran will no longer face difficulty in buying or selling conventional weapons. This said, a European ban also exists outside of the UN one and is set to hold until 2023.


A statement from Pompeo issues a dire warning to much of the world: “For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security.” For many, the sense of urgency to reach a resolution on the topic of arms in Iran is fueled by a desire for peace. Many Americans vividly remember the Iran hostage crisis that brought on the first U.S. sanctions and are desperate for a resolution, especially with nuclear weapons on the line. It is no news that a nuclear conflict would be survived by no one, which may explain the desire of much of the world to maintain an arms ban until a long-lasting resolution is found.


With the possibility of a change in U.S. administration weeks away, it is unclear what will come of further talks between Iran and the U.S. What does remain clear, however, is that some sort of agreement must be reached to ensure a long-lasting calm in international relations. Though Iran and the U.S. are at the center of this conflict, it is impossible that the effects of possible physical conflict would be confined to these areas alone. Globalization has created a thoroughly interconnected community, meaning that large scale violence between the two states has the possibility to serve as a catalyst for a chain reaction of disastrous effects globally. We may only hope that dialogue around the issue continues peacefully and productively so that peace may be found for years to come.

Jenna Segal