Rohani Says U.S. Faces Defeat as UN Chief Says He Can't Act to Reimpose Sanctions

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a press conference, July 21, 2020.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a press conference, July 21, 2020.Credit: AFP

The United States faces defeat in its move to reimpose UN sanctions on Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a televised speech on Sunday, as Washington declared all UN sanctions on Iran had been restored while key Security Council members said such reimposition is legally void. 

"America is approaching a certain defeat in its sanctions move ... It faced defeat and negative response from the international community. We will never yield to U.S. pressure and Iran will give a crushing response to America's bullying," Rohani said. 

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Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council he cannot take any action on the U.S. declaration because "there would appear to be uncertainty" on the issue.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he triggered a 30-day process at the council leading to the return of UN sanctions on Iran on Saturday evening that would also stop a conventional arms embargo on Tehran from expiring on October 18.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York on September 14, 2020 Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters

But 13 of the 15 Security Council members say Washington's move is void because Pompeo used a mechanism agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States quit in 2018.

"There would appear to be uncertainty whether or not the process ... was indeed initiated and concomitantly whether or not the (sanctions) terminations ... continue in effect," Guterres wrote in a letter to the council, seen by Reuters.

"It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists," he said.

UN officials provide administrative and technical support to the Security Council to implement its sanctions regimes and Guterres appoints independent experts to monitor implementation. He said that "pending clarification" of the status of the Iran sanctions, he would not take any action to provide that support.

Washington argues it triggered the return of sanctions - known as "snapback" - because a UN resolution that enshrines the pact still names it as a participant. Diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the measures lifted under the 2015 deal that aimed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"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 for those failures," Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday.

He said that in the coming days Washington would announce additional measures to strengthen the implementation of the UN sanctions and "hold violators accountable." The United States is trying to push Iran to negotiate a new deal with Washington.

Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy responded on Twitter, "We all clearly said in August that U.S. claims to trigger snapback are illegitimate. Is Washington deaf?"

Longtime U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany told the council on Friday that UN sanctions relief for Iran would continue and that any decision or action taken to reimpose UN sanctions "would be incapable of legal effect."

Iran's UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said on Twitter on Saturday, "U.S. illegal and false 'deadline' has come and gone ... Swimming against international currents will only bring it more isolation."