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The Role Of Europe In Iran Arms Embargo Diplomacy

From left, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. FILE PHOTO
Radio Farda is publishing a series of expert analysis and commentaries on the United States move to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran beyond October 2020.

Russia and China have made their positions clear that they reject the US assertion it can still snap-back UN sanctions against Iran. The E3 has so far not taken a joint public stance on this.

It is likely the Europeans will attempt, till the last possible moment, to avert a clash with Washington at the UN Security Council through private diplomatic efforts.

One way the E3 may seek to achieve this is by offering to bridge a compromise between the US, China and Russia over the lifting of the arms embargo - for example through a side agreement or code of conduct over the sale of arms to Iran. In return, they may be able to dissuade the Trump administration from taking the snap-back route which would create a major dilemma at the UNSC and create further tensions in transatlantic relations.

However, the US claim that they wish to extend the arms embargo, may really just be a fig leaf for the snap-back route.

European countries at the UNSC will need to start preparing for the real possibility that the US will take this measure regardless of any compromise position over the arms embargo, in order to destroy any trace of the JCPOA and make it much more challenging for any US president to engage in negotiations with Iran.

In this scenario, the E3 can resort to a series of procedural measures at the UNSC that can slow down and possibly block the US measures on snap-back (indeed Russia and China have already started this process).

If the US manages to successfully issue its notification of snap-back at the UNSC (which sets the clock ticking for 30 days before UN sanctions are reimposed) at this point the E3, together with Russia and China should deny any legitimacy and effect to this action.

This can be done politically: by refusing to accept that the snap-back takes effect and making statements to this effect at the UNSC. And legally: by refusing to implement the UN sanction given they lack legitimacy and seeking a determination from the International Court of Justice over the issue.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Radio Farda
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    Ellie Gernmayeh

    Ellie Geranmayeh is Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa program at European council on foreign relations