UNITED NATIONS: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran, warning that the Middle East's stability was at risk, but he faced wide skepticism over US threats to trigger sanctions.
The United States is adamant about prolonging the ban on conventional arms sales to its adversary which expires in October and has threatened to use a disputed legal move to force a return of UN sanctions on Iran. Russia and China, which stand to gain major arms contracts from Iran, oppose an extension of the embargo which was established for five years under a 2015 resolution that blessed a nuclear accord with Iran negotiated under former US president Barack Obama. Taking his case to the Security Council, Pompeo - an outspoken opponent of the nuclear accord - said that ending the ban would lead Iran to send more advanced weapons to regional allies such as the Palestinian militant movement Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. "Iran will hold a sword of Damocles over the economic stability of the Middle East, endangering nations like Russia and China that rely on stable energy prices," Pompeo told the session, held virtually due to coronavirus precautions. He also said that Iran could become a "rogue weapons dealer" after the ban, selling arms as far away as Venezuela, where President Donald Trump's administration is seeking to topple leftist leader Nicolas Maduro. The Security Council session publicly unveiled a report that found that cruise missiles and drones used in attacks last year on Saudi Arabia - including on Abqaiq, the world's largest oil processing center - included material of Iranian origin. "Iran is already violating the arms embargo even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned - authorized - by this group if the restrictions are lifted," Pompeo said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to address the session later Tuesday.