Trump Administration Announces Sanctions on Iran Aimed at Preventing Lapse of Conventional Weapons Ban

Ayatollah Khamenei and Donald Trump
Iranian Supreme Leader Office via AP/AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The Trump administration announced on Monday a host of sanctions against Iran aimed at continuing a conventional weapons ban that is set to expire, amid the start of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a conventional weapons ban on Iran is set to expire in mid-October. The Trump administration has sought unsuccessfully to extend that ban at the U.N..

To that effect, President Trump on Monday morning signed an executive order to sanction nations, corporations, and individuals who contribute to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to Iran, and restore previously suspended UN sanctions.

“The Trump administration has always been honest about what the Iranian regime really is — a radical revolutionary and the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and antisemitism,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said at a press conference at the State Department.

“President Trump understood that the JCPOA was an abject failure. It didn’t bring Iran into the community of nations or block Tehran’s path to a nuclear weapon,” he said. He added:

Instead it was an exercise in appeasement. It gifted the regime billions and paved the way for Iran to become the arms dealer of choice for terrorist groups and dictators all across the world in just five short years. Just imagine what Iran would do if it were able to freely purchase more advanced weapons. We have no intention of letting that happen. The President’s executive order announced today gives us a new and powerful tool to enforce the UN arms embargo and hold those who seek to evade U.S. sanctions available accountable.

Pompeo was joined by Secretaries of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Defense Mark Esper, Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

Mnunchin, who detailed the Treasury’s actions under the executive order, said: “This administration will use every tool at our disposal to stop Iran’s nuclear ballistic missile and conventional weapons pursuit, which it uses directly to threaten and terrorize the rest of the world.”

Esper said over the past two years, Iran has carried out attacks on international shipping, regional infrastructure, and on U.S. and partner nation forces, and sent advanced conventional weapons to non-state actors including Hezbollah and the Houthis.

“Today’s executive order will further disrupt Iranian efforts to import and proliferate conventional weapons helping protect U.S. forces, our allies and partners, and civilian populations until Iran complies with international norms,” Esper said. “We encourage Tehran to cease its maligned activities throughout the region and to act like a normal country, but we are also prepared to respond to Iranian aggression.”

Ross added: “Iran must comply with its nuclear safeguard obligations and immediately cooperate with the international community. The Department of Commerce stands beside President Trump and his commitment to preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Craft said the new actions are “driven by a single purpose — the pursuit of peace.” Referencing reluctance by European allies to join the administration in restoring U.N. sanctions on Iran, she said:

What makes America unique is that we stand up for what is right. As we have in the past, we will stand alone to protect peace and security at all times. We don’t need a cheering section to validate our moral compass. We do not find comfort based solely on numbers, particularly when the majority has found themselves in an uncomfortable position of underwriting terrorism, chaos, and conflict. We refuse to be members of that club.

The United States is a force for good in the world. We led the creation of the multilateral system we know today and we remain its largest funder. But as I have said repeatedly, when it fails, we will not.

O’Brien added: The U.N. Security Council has sadly failed in its mission to promote international peace and security by not extending the conventional arms embargo on Iran.”

“Rather than waste resources chasing after it nuclear bomb or regional hegemony, the Iranian regime should provide the Iranian people with what they want and with what they deserve, a thriving and prosperous Iran,” he said.

He concluded: “Iran should use this moment in history. They should forswear terror, hegemony, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons and put away all grievances. Iran should join its neighbors who are embracing a better future based on progress, shared interest, and shared goals.

“The president has made it clear that if Iran is willing to choose the path of peace, America will walk beside it.”

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