The bet could spark an escalation with Iran in the home stretch of the election and risks highlighting the administration’s growing isolation on the global stage – although the election could also mean countries stay in a pattern of waiting until then.
“Even a gradual or gradual escalation of Iran, by being on the nuclear or regional issue, can always go wrong,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “But it is clear that the United States and Iran do not want to be in a new [escalation] cycle before the elections. ”
The European allies of the United States, he added, are likewise “motivated by the desire to keep the JCPOA on ice in the hope of a change in Iranian policy from Washington” if President Trump loses. his re-election.
At stake is the Trump administration’s effort to reverse the UN sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and several world powers, officially called the Plan d joint global action (JCPOA).
The issue of sanctions comes to a head just before President Trump virtually takes the floor at the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week, where he is expected to criticize Iran. At last year’s UN meeting, Trump criticized Iran’s “bloodlust”.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike PompeoPanel Michael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse ends contempt procedure against Pompeo after handing over documents Outgoing ambassador to China criticized Beijing for coronavirus: “Could have been contained in Wuhan” Hillicon Valley: head of FBI says Russia tries to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Ministry of Treasury Sanctions Iranian Government-Backed Hackers READ MORE cited the process to cancel the sanctions, saying he had set off a 30-day timer for the sanctions to be put in place.
Pompeo’s decision came after the UN Security Council strongly rejected a US resolution to extend a conventional arms embargo against Iran that expires in October. The reinstatement of pre-agreed nuclear sanctions would prolong the arms embargo.
But all members of the 15-member Security Council except the Dominican Republic have rejected the United States’ position to force the reimposition of sanctions since Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018.
However, the administration retains that the rejection means nothing and that legally the sanctions will return at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“We expect every nation to comply with UN Security Council resolutions – period, period,” Pompeo said at a press conference this week. “And the United States intends to enforce all UN Security Council resolutions.”
Elliott Abrams, the administration’s special envoy for Iran, also told reporters that announcements will be made this weekend or Monday on the application of sanctions against those violating the arms embargo.
The impending action would involve Trump signing an executive order authorizing secondary sanctions against anyone violating the arms embargo.
While European countries are concerned about the expiration of the arms embargo, they continue to support the nuclear deal and fear that the Trump administration’s decisions are driven by a desire to kill the deal. After Pompeo’s announcement last month, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he would “continue to do everything possible to ensure the preservation and full implementation of the JCPOA by all”.
Russia and China have expressed interest in selling Iranian weapons after the arms embargo was lifted in October.
Taleblu said Trump’s executive order would serve as a “chilling message” by indicating when the United States “is hitting these entities like a ton of bricks.”
“We hope that it remains symbolic because we hope that the threat will be enough to dissuade them,” he said. “It’s important to see these sanctions both as a form of deterrence and only if deterrence fails that these sanctions should then react to that behavior on the other side. ”
Trump’s fiercest critics have accused him of stoking tensions with Iran over his reelection bid.
In addition to snapback sanctions, Trump this week threatened “an attack on Iran on a 1,000 times greater scale” if he conspires to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for the US assassination of the Iranian general. Qassem Soleimani.
“Trump’s Twitter threat must be seen for what it is: a transparent ploy to escalate the conflict with Iran in the hope of bolstering its electoral prospects,” said Win Without War deputy director Sara Haghdoosti , in a statement after Trump’s tweet.
The South African government said on Friday that the information presented to it by the United States “is not sufficient to support the claim that there is a credible threat against the United States ambassador to South Africa “.
Peter Harrel, deputy senior researcher at the Center for a New American Security, predicted that Trump’s executive order of sanctions “will be primarily a demonstration rather than a substance,” because he said the United States has the power to sanction unilaterally countries that sell arms to Iran.
Still, Harrel expressed concern that the Trump administration’s move was undermining the credibility of the United Nations.
“UN sanctions have always been a very valuable tool for the United States because they are legally binding on all countries and, in general, countries feel obligated to implement them”, a- he declared. “I hope this is just some kind of one-of-a-kind piece that blends into the story and becomes something for law students to write newspaper articles.
Harrel said he wouldn’t expect an arms deal immediately so as not to provoke a pre-election fight with Trump, nor does he expect Iran to immediately unleash itself.
“I would bet that the Iranians do not commit a truly provocative act until after the American elections,” he said. “I think they probably want to see where this ends up as well. ”
Political risk consultancy Eurasia Group also predicted that Iran would react quietly to the resumption of sanctions, saying Tehran could announce further nuclear advances but “will likely stop before major or tangible steps that would trigger a international outcry ”.
“Iranian leaders have taken pleasure in pointing out Washington’s failure to secure membership in the Security Council; Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani are likely to describe the contested snapback as a victory, not a setback, thereby reducing domestic pressure to respond, ”Eurasia Group analysts wrote in a note to clients and the media this week, adding that Tehran also “continues to await the outcome of the US presidential election. “