78°F
weather icon Clear

Despite US objections, UN arms embargoes on Iran expire

TEHRAN, Iran — A decade-long U.N. arms embargo on Iran that barred it from purchasing foreign weapons like tanks and fighter jets expired Sunday as planned under its nuclear deal with world powers, despite objections from the United States, which insists the ban remains in place.

While Iran says it plans no “buying spree,” it can now in theory purchase weapons to upgrade military armaments dating back to before its 1979 Islamic Revolution and sell its own locally produced gear abroad.

In practice, however, Iran’s economy remains crippled by broad-reaching U.S. sanctions, and other nations may avoid arms deals with Tehran for fear of American financial retaliation. The Trump administration has warned that any sales of weapons to Iran or exports from Iran will be penalized.

The Islamic Republic heralded the end of the arms embargo as “a momentous day for the international community … in defiance of the U.S. regime’s effort.” The Trump administration, meanwhile, says the expiration is moot since it reimposed all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, via a clause in the nuclear deal Trump withdrew from in 2018, a claim ignored by the rest of the world.

“Today’s normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flatly rejected the expiration.

“The United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial support and services, and other assistance related to these arms,” he said in a statement.

“For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various U.N. measures,” Pompeo said. “Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security.”

‘Snapback’ rejected

Sunday’s expiration of the arms embargo was, in fact, the proximate cause for the U.S. decision last month to move forward with the so-called “snapback” of international sanctions in Iran. The Americans tried unsuccessfully to get the U.N. Security Council to extend the embargo but suffered a humiliating defeat when only one country on the 15-member panel supported it.

In response, the administration announced that it had invoked “snapback” — a mechanism provided for in the Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear deal that allows any participant in the accord to restore U.N. sanctions if they determine Iran is not complying with its terms. The rest of the council, however, rejected U.S. standing to trigger snapback, saying it had lost its right to do so when Trump pulled our of the deal.

The United Nations banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. An earlier embargo targeted Iranian arms exports.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in 2019 that if the embargo ended, Iran likely would try to purchase Russian Su-30 fighter jets, Yak-130 trainer aircraft and T-90 tanks. Tehran also may try to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and its Bastian coastal defense missile system, the DIA said. China also could sell Iran arms.

Outmatched in sales

Iran long has been outmatched by U.S.-backed Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have purchased billions of dollars of advanced American weaponry. In response, Tehran turned toward developing locally made ballistic missiles.

Iran has blasted Gulf Arab purchases of U.S.-made defense equipment as “regrettably lucrative weapon deals” with some of those arms used in the ongoing war in Yemen. That conflict pits a Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s internationally recognized government against rebel forces backed by Iran.

The U.N. arms embargoes, however, did not stop Iran from sending weapons ranging from assault rifles to ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. While Tehran denies arming the Houthis, Western governments and weapons experts repeatedly have linked Iranian arms to the rebels.

Six Gulf Arab nations that backed the extension of the arms embargoes noted arms shipments to Yemen in their objection to the resumption of any weapon sales to Iran. They also mentioned in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane in January and its navy accidentally killed 19 of its own sailors in a missile strike during an exercise. The U.N. also linked Iran to a 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s main crude oil refinery, though Tehran denies any links and Yemen’s rebel Houthis claimed responsibility.

Sunday also marked the end of U.N. travel bans on a number of Iranian military and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard members.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. reached fever pitch at the start of the year, when an American drone killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Tehran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq that injured dozens. Meanwhile, Iran has steadily broken limits of the nuclear deal in an attempt to pressure Europe at salvaging the accord.

In recent months, provocations on both sides have slowed as President Donald Trump faces a re-election campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has said he’s willing to offer Iran “a credible path back to diplomacy” if Tehran returns to “strict compliance” with the deal.

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

THE LATEST
100K evacuated as 80 mph winds whip California fires

Forecasts called for Santa Ana winds up to 50 to 80 mph at times over much of Southern California, with some of the strongest gusts howling through Orange County, where two blazes sped through brushy hills near major urban centers.

Barrett sworn in as newest Supreme Court justice

Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Monday as the latest justice of the United States Supreme Court, the fifth woman to serve on the bench and President Trump’s third appointment.

60K to evacuate after Southern California blaze grows

A fast-moving wildfire has forced evacuations for 60,000 people in Southern California as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.

Mike Pence’s top aide tests positive for coronavirus

A spokesman says Vice President Mike Pence will continue with his aggressive campaign schedule after his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday.

Murkowski backs Barrett as confirmation vote looms

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett won crucial backing Saturday when one of the last Republican holdouts against filling the seat during an election season announced support for President Donald Trump’s pick ahead of a confirmation vote expected Monday.

60,000 travelers arrive in Hawaii with pre-travel testing

Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program, a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again amid the pandemic.

FDA approves remdesivir to treat COVID-19

U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given to hospitalized patients through an IV.

Slain Utah student’s family receives $13.5M settlement

The parents of a University of Utah track athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend on campus two years ago reached a $13.5 million settlement Thursday with the university, which acknowledged that it didn’t handle the woman’s case properly.

Fatal shooting causes closure of Interstate 15 in California

A California Highway Patrol officer was wounded and a stolen-car suspect was killed in a gun battle at the end of a pursuit on a highway northeast of Los Angeles on Thursday, authorities said.