Washington looks at multilateral options to pressure Tehran

Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said last week that a report from the UN’s Panel of Experts on Yemen proves that Iran is in ''violation of international norms.''

February 18, 2018 02:31
3 minute read.
"Qiam" ballistic missile manufactured in Iran and that the Pentagon says was fired by Houthi rebels

A missile that the U.S. Department of Defense says is a "Qiam" ballistic missile manufactured in Iran and that the Pentagon says was fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia on July 22, 2017 is seen on display at a U.S. military base in Washington, U.S.. (photo credit: JIM BOURG/ REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON – Once dismissive of international fora and of America’s historic security relationships, President Donald Trump is now turning to both in his effort to ramp up pressure on Iran over its ballistic missile work, its illicit weapons exports and its sponsorship of global terrorist networks.

Trump administration officials are calling for new Security Council sanctions on Iran and negotiating with Britain, France and Germany to coordinate a new US-EU sanctions regime that will target Iran’s “malign activities” – policies that Washington, Jerusalem and Arab capitals consider destabilizing, intrusive and hegemonic – which the president says were bolstered by the financial boon Tehran received from its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Administration officials say that sufficiently concrete actions from those three EU governments on Iran’s nonnuclear activities, in addition to clear indications that they are willing to negotiate an addendum agreement to the nuclear deal, will keep Trump from pulling out of the agreement outright in May – a deadline outlined by the White House last month.

It is part of Trump’s strategy to apply pressure to Iran on multiple fronts, including by threatening Europe with a trade war should it fail to take US concerns with Iran’s push through the region more seriously. EU governments have in recent years questioned whether Tehran is truly the main cause of the region’s instability, but have become increasingly vocal against Iran in recent months, indicating a willingness to sanction it for nonnuclear behavior so long as the 2015 deal is preserved.

On another multilateral front, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said last week that a report from the UN’s Panel of Experts on Yemen proves that Iran’s introduction of ballistic missiles there is a “violation of international norms” and Security Council sanctions, demanding action.

“This report highlights what we’ve been saying for months: Iran has been illegally transferring weapons in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions,” Haley said. “The United States will continue to call out Iran’s dangerous actions, but the world cannot continue to allow these blatant violations to go unanswered. Iran needs to know that there are consequences for defying the international community. It’s time for the Security Council to act.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, predicted new US moves at the UN this week and suggested they might be an indirect response to a recent aerial confrontation across Israel’s northern border.

“The appetite for war is low on both sides, which could make a different scenario more likely,” said Parsi, referring to the political moods in Israel and Iran. A drone understood to be of Iranian origin flew into Israeli airspace from Syria last week, prompting the IAF to shoot it down and retaliate against Iranian assets in Syria. Israel lost a jet in the process.

“Instead of a showdown in Syria, the showdown will move to New York and feed into an ongoing effort by Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration to use any pretext – missiles, drones or violating the ‘spirit’ of the Iran deal – to pass a Chapter VII UN [Security Council] resolution,” said Parsi, who supports the 2015 nuclear deal.

Last fall, Trump announced a comprehensive strategy to “counter” Iran, which he said would include new transnational sanctions and a fundamental reevaluation of the nuclear deal. Last month, the Trump administration targeted Hezbollah and Hamas individuals and entities with new sanctions, which it characterized as a part of its Iran strategy.

“We will no longer allow corrupt Hezbollah and other Iranian regime cronies to hide their crimes behind front companies,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Twitter at the time. “More to come.”

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