Iran Rejects U.S. Disputed U.N. Move, Seizes UAE Ship and Shows Off New Missiles

Iran has rejected the United States' widely disputed attempt to restore international sanctions against the Islamic Republic at the United Nations, while at home the revolutionary Shiite Muslim power seized a vessel of the United Arab Emirates amid a diplomatic spat and unveiled two new missiles named after top officials slain at the orders of President Donald Trump.

Trump announced Wednesday he was dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to New York with orders to notify the U.N. of Washington's decision to officially trigger a "snapback" of economic restrictions lifted from Iran in the wake of a 2015 nuclear deal the U.S. abandoned more than two years ago. While the administration is adamant in its ability to do so, other countries including allies have mostly rejected this line of reasoning and Iran has especially challenged the legality of the move.

"The U.S. move to 'snapback' U.N. sanctions is manifestly illegal, illegitimate and will not be accepted by neither Security Council or JCPOA members nor the rest of the world community," Iranian mission to the United Nations spokesperson Alireza Miryousefi told Newsweek, using an abbreviation to refer to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the nuclear deal as encoded in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.

"The U.S. is no longer a 'participant' in the JCPOA, and as such has no rights under that accord or UNSCR 2231 which endorsed it," he added. "Even the former national security adviser, John Bolton, said so in 2018 and repeated it just this past weekend."

Bolton, a veteran Iran hawk, argued that attempting to trigger the snapback "isn't worth the risk" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sunday, which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said in a tweet shows that "he is consistent—a trait notably absent in this US administration...US recourse to Dispute Resolution Mechanism in 2231 has NO LEG TO STAND ON."

Tehran's top diplomat was soon set to address the U.N. in a letter, according to Iranian Foreign Minister spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh, who also dismissed the legality of the U.S. action.

iran, flag, zarif, iraq
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference with President of Iraq's Kurdistan Region in Arbil, the regional capital in northern Iraq, on July 19. The Iranian top diplomat was set to send a letter to the United Nations in protest of the United States' widely dismissed attempt to restore international sanctions against Iran. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Fellow nuclear deal signatories China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom have all also rejected the U.S. authority to reinstitute sanctions since unilaterally leaving the agreement, as has the European Union. When the U.S. attempted to override the accord by extending an arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October, it garnered support from only the Dominican Republic, with China and Russia vetoing and the three European parties abstaining alongside eight other nations.

Still, Pompeo expressed confidence in a Wednesday evening interview with Fox News.

"I'll meet with the U.N. Security Council president, and then the secretary-general will provide notification of the snapback, and then 30 days from now all the sanctions that were in place will resume," Pompeo said. "They have been temporarily paused because of the ridiculous nuclear deal, and the world will be a safer place."

But in the strategic Persian Gulf, signs of new unrest had already begun emerging in the wake of another controversial move brokered by Washington. Just one day after Iran's top general announced Sunday the country's stance toward the nearby United Arab Emirates would "change fundamentally" due to its recent peace deal with Israel, a series of maritime incidents occurred between the two, leading Tehran to summon Abu Dhabi's envoy on Thursday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the country's maritime authorities seized one UAE vessel after accusing it of illegally entering Iranian waters and charged the UAE's coast guard that same day with opening fire on Iranian fishermen, killing two. Abu Dhabi sent an official note expressing regret over the incident, the ministry said.

The UAE, from which a vessel sailing to Somalia was also reportedly hijacked by pirates off the coast of the East African nation on Wednesday, has complicated ties with Iran.

Emirati officials tend to side with neighboring Saudi Arabia on certain geopolitical issues, including membership in a U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct formed last year in the wake of unclaimed attacks on oil tankers and, including UAE ships, in the nearby Gulf of Oman, and a missile and drone attack claimed by Yemeni rebels against Saudi oil sites. At the same time, the UAE refrained from outright blaming Iran for the tanker attacks, as did the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has also emphasized that the recent decision to establish ties with Israel was not directed toward Iran and UAE Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan had a rare call with Zarif earlier this month in what was seen as a tactic to defuse Persian Gulf tensions. Still, the region remained on edge as Iran prepared for the possibility of a sanctions snapback the country said would lead it to immediately return to full nuclear production, including the development of nuclear-powered submarines.

iran, missile, qassem, soleimani
An Iranian missile named after the "Martyr Hajj Qassem" Soleimani is unveiled at an exposition marking Iran's national Defense Industry Day, August 20. The missile is said to have a range of up to 870 miles. Iranian Ministry of Defense

Iran has vowed not to seek nuclear weapons but has continued to build up its conventional missile arsenal, already considered the largest and most advanced in the region, in response to the U.S. "maximum pressure" campaign. Trump has left open the possibility of military action as he attempted to isolate Iran economically and diplomatically over its support for foreign militias and missile research.

The president made good on his threats with the killing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, along with leading Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces official Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport in January. The event dramatically escalated already-soaring tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which on Thursday displayed two new missiles named after Soleimani and Muhandis.

To mark the country's national Defense Industry Day, the "Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani" ballistic missile with a range of around 870 miles and "Martyr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis" cruise missile with a range of roughly 620 miles were showcased.

An accompanying statement released by the Revolutionary Guard called the missiles' debut "a symbol of country's national determination in line with the doctrine of defense and 'offensive deterrence.'" The elite force said the country's growing domestic military capabilities were "the manifestation of effective defense power and deterrence, and by increasing the strategic depth of the country's security, they have warned the enemies against even thinking about approaching the land, air and sea borders of the Islamic homeland."

iran, missile, range, map
A graphic provided by Statista shows the range of some of Iran's various missiles, as estimated by the Soufan Center. The Islamic Republic has continued to develop its missile program despite warnings from the United States. Statista