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On Iran Sanctions, US Demands Right to Act in Place of UN Security Council

In another extraordinary attack on international law, the US demands the right to reimpose sanctions on Iran whenever it chooses, disregarding Russia's and China's vetoes in the Security Council.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Back in April I wrote an article in which I said that a key reason for the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Iran is to isolate Iran from its natural allies, China and Russia.

In that article I said that Iran is a natural part of the emerging Eurasian system led by China and Russia. 

I said that to the extent that the U.S. sees the process of Eurasian integration as an emerging threat to its global dominance, it will do whatever it can to isolate Iran from China and Russia, so as to slow down the process of Eurasian integration.

Just as the U.S. uses sanctions against Russia in order to isolate Russia from its natural economic partners in Europe, so the U.S. uses sanctions against Iran in order to isolate Iran from its natural Eurasian partners, China and Russia.

That is why China and Russia have been pushing hard to get the sanctions on Iran lifted. 

That is why the U.S. wants the sanctions to remain, even though its own intelligence agencies have been saying since 2007 that Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the pretext for the sanctions, has been put on ice.

Pepe Escobar, who knows this region far better than me, makes the same point.

The recent framework agreement that Iran struck with the big five powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France), which sets the scene for a possible settlement of this issue and for a lifting of sanctions, was therefore a major diplomatic victory for China and Russia.  

It happened because China and Russia have been taking steps that would erode the sanctions. 

Russia has agreed a major oil for goods trade deal with Iran. Both China and Russia are setting up interbank payment systems that can replace SWIFT, from which Iranian banks have been excluded. Russia and Iran have been discussing major nuclear energy deals. 

Lastly, in a move that has both diplomatic and military significance, since the signing of the framework agreement, Russia has agreed to supply S300 missiles to Iran.

Since the U.S. military has ruled out an attack on Iran, these Chinese and Russian moves have forced the U.S. to negotiate a framework agreement with Iran rather than see the entire sanctions regime simply erode out of existence in a way that would deprive the U.S. of whatever leverage it still has over Iran.

That what we are looking at is a geopolitical play rather than a genuine rapprochement with Iran is however shown by the proposal being made in Washington for procedures to allow Washington to reactivate sanctions on Iran whenever it chooses, without UN Security Council authorization, even if a nuclear deal is reached. 

Those who support this proposal, such as  UN ambassador Samantha Power, state quite openly that it is intended to prevent Chinese and Russian vetoes from stopping the reimposition of sanctions.

The reason is obvious.  Since sanctions are the U.S.’s only effective tool against Iran, it wants to be able to reimpose them whenever it wants, even if it grudgingly agrees to suspend them. Since the purpose of the sanctions is to make Iran’s integration into the Eurasian system led by China and Russia more difficult, the U.S. does not want China and Russia to have veto power over this.

The proposal is nonetheless extraordinary. The sanctions imposed on Iran were authorized by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  The U.S. is now demanding the legal right to act in place of the Security Council, usurping the power the UN Security Council is given by Chapter VII, so that it can override the vetoes of two of the Security Council’s permanent members.

Though some sort of diplomatic fudge is possible, especially if Iran sees it as the only way to get sanctions suspended --- and therefore supports it --- the Chinese and the Russians must be deeply disturbed by reports of this proposal, and will surely do whatever they can to block it.

That such an extraordinary proposal is being made at all shows the degree to which the U.S. has now come to see itself as above international law.  

Alternatively, another way of putting it would be to say that the U.S. now believes international law should be whatever it wants it to be.

The Chinese and the Russians and many others (including one suspects the Iranians) must find this attitude far more disturbing and dangerous than whatever nuclear program Iran has or has had. 


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