Iran Claims Victory Over U.S. After Allies Abandon Sanctions Effort

Iranian officials are celebrating what they claim is a victory over President Donald Trump's administration, after U.S. efforts to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Tehran fell flat this weekend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that the U.S. had reimposed international sanctions using a so-called "snapback" mechanism in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal—but American allies disputed the announcement.

The Trump administration is trying to reimpose sanctions after it failed to gain enough support to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire under the terms of the JCPOA.

The other JCPOA signatories and the UN Security Council have rebuffed U.S. efforts, claiming Washington cannot use JCPOA mechanisms against Iran because Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani thanked other nations for resisting the U.S. move Sunday, and claimed that Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran has only served to isolate his administration.

Rouhani described the effort to reimpose sanctions as "illegal and incorrect," warning that the U.S. will face consequences for its unilateralism.

"Today we can say that the maximum U.S. pressure against the Iranian nation in the political and legal fields has not only failed but also turned into the maximum isolation of the United States," Rouhani claimed, according to the Mehr News Agency.

The other JCPOA signatories—Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union—have been steadfast in their support for the deal, condemnation of Trump's efforts to undermine it, and opposition to the proposed arms embargo extension.

Rouhani thanked those nations for their support, singling out Russia and China as "two friendly countries, for standing firm against the irrationality of the United States, both in the past and the present."

Foreign minister Javad Zarif, meanwhile, issued a more scathing condemnation of the administration. Zarif has become known for his frank and mocking remarks on the Trump administration, and on Sunday said U.S. officials were "mythomaniacs— who just can't help themselves in their pathological lying."

On Twitter—which is banned in Iran but still used by top regime figures—Zarif said Trump officials "actually get lost in their own web of deceit." He added: "@realDonaldTrump should change tack before @SecPompeo further turns #MAGA into a global laughing stock."

The world says NO Security Council sanctions were restored.

But Mr. "We lied, We cheated, We stole" threatens to punish a world that refuses to live in his parallel universe.@realDonaldTrump should change tack before @SecPompeo further turns #MAGA into a global laughing stock.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 20, 2020

Pompeo said Saturday that the U.S. had reimposed UN sanctions on Iran and expected "all UN member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures." Pompeo said he would shortly announce measures to punish nations violating the sanctions, potentially including U.S. allies.

But American allies and the UN disputed the announcement. The foreign ministers of the so-called E3 nations—France, Germany and the U.K.—released a joint statement Sunday saying any American effort to impose sanctions was legally void.

"The United States of America ceased to be a participant in the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the agreement on 8 May, 2018," the statement read.

"Consequently, the notification received from the United States and transmitted to the member states of the Security Council, has no legal effect. It follows that any decision or action which would be taken on the basis of this procedure or its outcome have no legal effect."

The E3 has sent a letter to the Security Council challenging the U.S.'s right to unilaterally reimpose sanctions in the UN's name. The European group said it remains committed to the JCPOA.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, said the legal dispute over the U.S. move meant it is not possible to say whether UN sanctions on Iran had been reimposed or not. Guterres said he cannot take any action while such uncertainty remains.

The U.S. is seeking to ramp up pressure on Tehran over its violation of the terms of the JCPOA, which when signed in 2015 lifted crippling international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

Iran announced it would no longer comply with the JCPOA restrictions after the U.S. withdrew from the deal, imposed new unilateral sanctions on Tehran and assassinated top commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in January.

Trump has said he wants a new, more restrictive nuclear deal with Iran, which would include limits on its ballistic missile program and regional influence. The president has urged Iran to "make the big deal" before the November presidential election, but Tehran has repeatedly dismissed any suggestion of new talks.

Iran, US, JCPOA, sanctions, UN, nuclear deal
A woman walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on September 20, 2020. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty