US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Washington’s case for an extension to the UN weapons embargo on Iran during discussions with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.
Mr Pompeo arrived in the British capital on Tuesday wearing what is quickly becoming his hallmark stars and stripes face mask to discuss the security concerns facing the US and Britain.
At a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Mr Pompeo said he discussed the importance of extending the arms embargo, which is due to expire in October.
“We welcome the recent statement from the United Kingdom, France and Germany recognising that allowing the arms embargo to expire would have major implications for regional insecurity and stability,” Mr Pompeo said.
Behind the scenes, diplomatic momentum has also been building before a critical UN Security Council decision over whether to extend the 13-year weapons embargo.
The US, with Mr Pompeo leading the charge, is pursuing a policy of maximum pressure on Iran, withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran and reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.
While Britain and the other signatories to the 2015 accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have clung to the deal, the US has in its sights an extension to the UN’s weapons embargo.
Valuable discussion with @SecPompeo about shared priority issues, including the Middle East and the diversification of telecoms & the full range of bilateral issues. 🇬🇧 & 🇺🇸 do a tremendous amount together – we'll always work together to uphold security & prosperity of our people pic.twitter.com/FJ2RJ0j5fn
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) July 21, 2020
The extension of the embargo could deliver a mortal blow to the 2015 deal, which Britain and its European allies are seeking to maintain.
“There’s a lot of back-channel momentum between all parties,” Sanam Vakil, deputy director of think tank Chatham House’s Middle East North Africa Programme, told The National. “It’s a big priority for the UK.”
Both the US and the UK will look to turn the build-up to the October deadline on the Iran weapons embargo to their advantage, Dr Vakil said.
While Britain could look to burnish its post-Brexit credentials as a mediator between continental Europe and the US, Washington could view the UK as a potential ally at the UN Security Council.
“I think that the Americans see the relationship with the UK right now as being one where there can be a bit of give and take on a variety of issues,” Dr Vakil said.
In June, Britain, France and Germany admonished Iran for breaching its commitments under the terms of the nuclear deal and expressed reservations about lifting the arms embargo.
However, the three nations also hit out at the US for withdrawing from the deal in 2018 and said they would look to work with Russia and China, all other rotating Security Council members and other major stakeholders to resolve the looming impasse.
Ellie Geranmayeh, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Britain’s track record on Iran in the past year meant it was unlikely to join the US in its policy of maximum pressure.
After the British-flagged Stena Impero was seized in the Strait of Hormuz last year, Britain did not seek to escalate tensions with Iran. Neither did it do so after a British military medic was killed at Taji military base, north of Baghdad, in March.
“At that time, there was a push for the UK to come on board … and actually the UK had a much more measured approach,” she said.
In the face of opposition to the extension from Russia, China, Germany and France on the UN Security Council, it is possible the US will acquiesce and allow the embargo to be lifted with restrictive measures, such as a code of conduct, imposed on Iran over arms sales.
“I do think that there is a way to moderate the response from Iran by having this code of conduct, which means that they are not locked into a UN Security Council arrangement,” Ms Geranmayeh said.
Source » thenational