An Iranian analyst believes that it looks increasingly unlikely that Russia and China will wield their veto power in the UN Security Council to oppose an attempt by the United States to extend an arms embargo against Iran.
An article published by Iranian news website Khabar Online has referred to the latest developments surrounding a draft UN Security Council resolution that the US has proposed to extend the arms embargo on Iran before it expires in October, and has cited a brief analysis of the situation provided by Ahmad Bigdeli, an expert in international studies, to conclude that Russia and China will refrain from exercising their veto in favor of Iran.
However, what the article does not take into account is that if China supports the US move against Iran, it would contribute to the victory of Donald Trump in the November elections, and that is not what Beijing would desire considering Trump’s belligerent approach towards China.
The article also does not mention the current chaotic situation in the US, which is far from what Trump had promised in his presidential campaign, and may influence any global consensus in favour of Washington.
What follows is the full text of the article, originally written in Persian:
On Friday, June 5, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said she has shared a draft UN Security Council resolution with Russia that would extend the arms embargo on Iran indefinitely. Craft told a press briefing that she also shared the draft with the UK, France, Germany and Estonia and hopes to give the draft to the rest of the 15-member Security Council “pretty soon.”
The UN arms embargo on Iran expires on October 18 as per the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
Brian Hook, the US State Department’s special representative on Iran, has publicly threatened that the US would trigger a so-called snapback mechanism for a return of all UN sanctions on Iran if the UN Security Council does not extend the arms embargo on Tehran.
Hook has also threatened that “one way or another” Washington would ensure the arms embargo remains.
According to the nuclear deal that Iran and six world powers signed in 2015, the arms embargo on Tehran will expire in October 2020 and the Islamic Republic will be able to purchase conventional weapons from the other countries afterwards.
The UN Security Council resolution drafted by the US would need nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the US, Britain or France to pass. Meanwhile, Russia has already announced that Moscow will oppose any US attempts to extend the arms embargo, which expires in October on the basis of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Hook has written in the Wall Street Journal, “If American diplomacy is frustrated by a veto, however, the US retains the right to renew the arms embargo by other means.”
Although resolution 2231, passed by the UN Security Council in 2015 to endorse the JCPOA, has terminated the provisions of the previous resolutions, it has left the door open for a reinstatement of the seven previous resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.
The US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018, but it argues that it can initiate the snapback mechanism under the deal because the United States was a participant in the Iran nuclear deal and in the approval of the resolution 2231.
Russia has opposed such US argument. Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has recently denounced the US for arguing it can use the snapback mechanism, saying, “This is ridiculous. They are not members, they have no right to trigger.”
Over the past recent weeks, representatives of Russia at the UN and other international organizations in Vienna have repeatedly taken stances against an extension of the arms embargo on Iran. But what makes the Iranians have a mistrust of Russians?
A group of international observers believe that Russians are pursuing their own interests with the purpose of gaining more bargaining power vis-à-vis the US. Russians want to extract concessions from the United States on the issues relating to Ukraine and Syria, hoping that the European and the US sanctions against Russian would be lifted as soon as the negotiations between the two countries yield results. As Russia is negotiating with Israel and the US, it hopes that Iran’s role in Syria would diminish steadily, in the same way that it is after the closure of the bases of resistance forces and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq. The speculation about the regional developments suggests such Russian plans, but only time will prove how long the Russians will play a game with Iran’s card.
Others believe that China may also agree on the US draft resolution, because Trump is threatening China’s economy. These political and economic issues have overshadowed the upcoming meeting of the UN Security Council. The question that has arisen is what the final decision of the two Eastern powers will be.
In an interview with Khabar Online, Ahmad Bigdeli, a researcher of strategic issues, has commented on the prospect of Russian and Chinese support for the US-initiated resolution against Iran.
“China will very like not veto the resolution against Iran, because the Chinese won’t spend their cards on Iran. That’s because China is grappling and negotiating with the US over several issues, which would ultimately make China win concessions from the US with Iran’s card and back off. The other point is that China benefits from an Iran under sanctions and does not need the cheap Iranian energy for the moment. China might support Iran verbally and generally. It appears that this time the direct competition is between Iran and the US. If the US wins in the Security Council meeting, there will be a possibility of tensions and conflict between the two countries. That’s because the US is on the verge of holding elections and Iran hopes that Democrats would take the Oval Office. Therefore, Iran seeks to undermine Trump in the JCPOA issue to make him lose the election, so Trump has accelerated efforts to persuade Iran into holding talks in order to prevent Iran from achieving its objective,” Bigdeli said.
The analyst further pointed to Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections and Moscow’s plans to beat off China by bringing Trump to the White House, adding, “Trump has weakened China, and a weak China is much better than a superpower China for Russia, and it was only Trump who could restrict China vis-à-vis Russia. It is unlikely that these two countries (Russia and China) will vote in favor of Iran, as both of them benefit from Iran being sanctioned. Beijing and Moscow plan to align with each other to reduce Iran’s regional power and to enter construction and trade markets in Syria. On the other hand, China is also pursuing another objective in the tensions between Iran and the US, which is an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf. By refusing to support Iran, Beijing would be seeking to shift the focus of US attention from the South China Sea and Hong Kong to the Persian Gulf tensions. All in all, China is after the transition of center of tensions to the Middle East.”
On the reasons for such Chinese strategy, Bigdeli said, “At present, countries like China and Saudi Arabia have focused efforts on converting their capital into assets, because the coronavirus has sapped their economies and the markets and stock markets have crashed to some extent. As a result, China is worried about its assets in the US, and seeks to strengthen its financial position by sacrificing Iran. Accordingly, the continuation of tensions and crisis in the relations between Iran and the US will be perfectly suitable for and in the interests of China.”
In spite of a pessimistic view of the Russian and Chinese votes on a resolution extending the arms embargo on Iran, one should not forget that Iran’s conditions in the international arena have totally changed in the post-JCPOA era.
The US at present is far from the great America that Donald Trump had pledged to make in his election campaign. The US’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal has given Iran the upper hand. Moreover, China is extremely unlikely to leave Iran alone and refrain from vetoing the US-initiated resolution on the arms embargo extension, as such move will greatly help Donald Trump’s reelection, who will undoubtedly keep the tensions with China in place.