Mike Pompeo (Photo Credit: Adem Altan/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has laid into European leaders for failing to do anything to bring back the United Nations’ sanctions against Iran lifted under Tehran’s nuclear deal with the world powers.

Last month, Pompeo told the UN that Washington was “initiating” a process to return the sanctions, citing what he called Iran’s violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Thirteen members of the UN Security Council’s 15-strong board, however, refused to lend any credit to the US bid, reminding the US that it had left the JCPOA in 2018, therefore, giving up the right to invoke the sanctions “snapback” mechanism that is included in the deal.

On Saturday, the US top diplomat claimed the UN sanctions had been reimposed against Iran, a claim that came even as the Trump administration failed to extend the conventional weapons embargo set to expire next month under the deal.


He also said, “If UN Member States fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences.”

A day later, France, Germany and Britain issued a joint statement saying Washington’s “purported notification” was “incapable of having any legal effect”.


Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Pompeo criticized the European countries for not joining the US, saying, “They tell us privately we don’t want the arms sales to come back but they haven’t lifted a finger.”

He went on to say that “arms sales, tanks, air defense systems, all of those, in a couple of weeks, would have been permitted to have been sold” to Iran.

Meanwhile, China and Russia have both lashed out at the United States. Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun,  in a letter to the Security Council on Saturday seen by Bloomberg News, said, “It is illegitimate for the US to demand the Security Council invoke the snapback mechanism” because it is no longer a participant of the deal.

Also, Russian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted on Sunday that such position taken by the US was “unjustifiable.”


In addition, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres weighed in on the disagreement, noting in a letter that he could not proceed in acting upon the US snapback because of the “uncertainty over whether or not the process” was “indeed initiated.”

Ever since quitting the nuclear deal in May 2018, President Donald Trump has been running what he refers to as a “maximum pressure” campaign, which seeks to pressure Iran into negotiating a new deal that addresses its ballistic missile program and regional influence.

After imposing several rounds of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports, Washington has also sent warships and bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter what it calls Iran’s threat for shipping in the Persian Gulf.

In its effort to reimpose the sanctions against Iran, the Trump administration says the US is still part of the Iran deal despite Washington withdrawing from it.

In an article, The New York Times said, however, that is not true and that President Trump needed a tutorial on how international agreements work.

According to a State Department legal opinion, the US still remains a participant because a descriptive section of the UN Security Council Resolution that followed the accord lists the names of the countries that struck the deal, including the United States.

However, that argument does not hold water, the Times said in its article.

“It’s a matter of simple logic that if you are a participating state, you have to be participating,” said Larry Johnson, former assistant secretary general for legal affairs at the United Nations.

Even Iran hawks, like John Bolton, takes issue with the US. “It’s too cute by half to say we’re in the nuclear deal for purposes we want but not for those we don’t,” Bolton wrote in The Wall Street Journal.