Trump Is Right In Calling For ‘Snapback’
Last Thursday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking on behalf of President Donald Trump, mentioned that the U.S. is initiating the restoration of virtually all UN sanctions on Iran lifted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as the Iran Nuclear deal—it was anchored by the previous Obama administration in 2015.
“I’m pleased to say, too, that these restored sanctions will also reimpose accountability for other forms of Iranian malign activity that the authors of the nuclear deal foolishly downplayed. Iran will be again prohibited from ballistic missile testing. Iran will be back under sanctions for ongoing nuclear activities—such as the enrichment of nuclear material—that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program.”
The request to reimpose sanctions was shot down by the UN Security Council—eleven of the fifteen members abstained, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, while only the Dominican Republic joined the U.S. in voting yea, both China and Russia voted nay. Pompeo stated that the U.S. government, in the interest of protecting Americans and the world be pursue ‘snapback’ as envisioned by Resolution 2231.
What is ‘Snapback’?
‘Snapback’ is the term used that allows any JCPOA signee to trigger a process of UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran back into place if the regime is not complying with the deal. As per Resolution 2231, those sanctions include an embargo on Iran selling or buying specific weapons, a ban on Tehran’s activities tied to nuclear enrichment and reprocessing and any outside support for them, sanctions on certain Iranian officials and entities, and more.
The member-state has to file a formal complaint to the UN Security Council first—which Pompeo did on Thursday. The Security Council then has up to 30 days to pass a resolution to maintain sanctions waived, or they ‘snap back.’ Nevertheless, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the U.S. can and will veto any such resolution, making ‘snapback’ all but inevitable, which would thereby sink the Iran nuclear deal.
Iran Has Already Violated the Deal
Since May 2019, the Iranian regime has been violating its commitments under the deal, such as amassing more enriched uranium at higher levels and spinning more centrifuges. Iranian officials say that they were justified in doing so after President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018; he reinstated U.S. sanctions to an even greater extent than ever before.
The truth of the matter is that Tehran has continually lied in complying with the JCPOA, while simultaneously it and the other countries that co-signed the deal financially profited at the cost of the Iranian people. And it is exactly that amount of money Tehran needs to sponsor its international terrorism. In fact, President Hassan Rouhani was able to increase its military budget by at least 145 percent.
According to Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, leading expert on Iran and U.S. foreign policy and president of the International American Council, the billions of dollars in frozen assets released to the regime only empowered its hegemony in the region: “In Iraq, the Iranian regime currently supports at least 40 militia groups under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Some of these militias are known for committing war crimes, serious violations of international laws, and egregious crimes against humanity. After the nuclear deal, the Iranian leaders have even pushed and succeeded at making the Iraqi government officially recognize these militias and incorporate them into its political and security establishment.”
In February 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee saying—in contradiction to President Trump—that Iran was abiding by the nuclear deal.
What they—and the European Union—failed to notice was that just a few days earlier Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi disclosed how Iran made a mockery out of the agreement, even to the point of admitting pictures of cement being poured down the Arak plutonium reactor’s core (as required by the agreement) were photoshopped.
Iran did pour concrete down the pipes of the heavy water reactor, but only after procuring new replacement pipes, Salehi revealed in a January 22 interview.
As a consequence, instead of the Iran nuclear deal serving as leverage for stability, countries in the Middle East such as Syria became a repository for dead bodies as Iran funneled its new-found money to terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah. And while the European Union and other nations condemned Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, their adverse judgment was clearly not out of concern for nuclear proliferation—to say nothing of human rights—but due to the fact they would have risked capital losses.
France’s trade with Iran grew 118% from January to October 2017, for example, (as compared to the same timeframe from the previous year). The French oil company Total concluded a $4.8 billion deal to develop the world’s largest gas field in Pars (southwest Iran) over the next 20 years. Germany gained $3.5 billion in exports to Iran in 2017. China’s trade with Iran was more than $37 billion in 2017; it exported over $18 billion worth of goods, a growth of 13 percent from the previous year.
The regime has also refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect sites suspected of undeclared nuclear activity. Interesting enough, since the U.S. has filed with the UN a reimposition of the sanctions, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog , IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, will go to Tehran to meet with Iranian authorities and urge them to grant the agency access to a number of suspected sites of undeclared nuclear material.
Can the U.S. Do ‘Snapback’?
Most member-states of the UN hold that the U.S. cannot file and expect a ‘snapback’ of sanctions it has standing since it pulled out of the deal in May 2018—a position shared by the European Union.
Secretary Pompeo and other officials have argued that although Trump pulled out of the deal, as a permanent member of the Security Council resolution that enshrined the deal, it still has this right. Pompeo, in response to a question asked by a journalist, stated:
“The President in May of 2018 made a decision that we would no longer comply with the political commitments attached to the JCPOA. But go read paragraphs 10 through 12 of the 2231. They are completely separate. We provided no notice to the UN, right, when we withdrew, because it wouldn’t have made any sense to provide notice 2231 is completely independent.”
It will be interesting to see how the UN deals with this unprecedented request. While, according to Pompeo, representatives of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all told him privately that they do not want the arms embargo lifted either, they abstained from voting—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent a letter to the Security Council urging a renewal of the arms embargo before it expires in October.
The reader should know that Iran is a state-sponsor of international terrorism. While not the only Islamic country that carries out such atrocities, as shi’ite Muslims, it is in their interest to create an apocalyptic environment in order to “wake up” the (Twelfth) Imam al-Mahdi who will ‘reestablish’ a shi’ite society.
All this being said, Iran has broken the deal before it admitted to doing so. Hence, the theocratic regime should not be surprised, with Trump at the helm, that the U.S. will do everything to curtail Iran’s jihadist endeavors. And this is something that the European Union and the rest of the world need to hop on board.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University.
Sources not cited may be found in my book Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up. Book available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or WestBow Press.