US launches ‘Countdown to Terror’ clock
Secretary of state warns against ending an arms embargo on Iran as US ramps up pressure on international community to fall in line
The US has launched a “countdown to terror” clock, warning countries against breaking the United Nations arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire next year.
It comes as the Trump administration looks to ramp up pressure on the international community to fall in behind its strategy of isolating the Islamic republic.
The UN-imposed arms embargo, which covers all weapons sales and “related material” to Iran, is set to expire in 2020 as part of the terms set out in the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal.
Donald Trump has since pulled the US out of the agreement and reimposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran, and has been looking at ways to pressure other signatories and major global powers to follow his lead.
To that end, the US State Department released what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has termed a “#CountdownToTerror clock”, tracking the time until the arms embargo and a travel ban on Qasem Soleimani, who is responsible for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ overseas activities, expire next year.
The State Department website warns: “Time is running out on international agreements restraining the Iranian regime.” It adds that soon “the Iranian regime will also be free to sell weapons to anyone, including terrorist proxies, and countries like Russia and China will be able to sell the Iranian regime tanks, missiles, and air defense equipment”.
“This could start a new arms race in the Middle East and further destabilize the region and the world,” it says.
Pompeo echoed this by warning: “Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran's capacity to foment its terror regime. The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening.”
CNN says “the push to extend the ban on weapons sales to Tehran comes amid increasing efforts by Washington to restrict Iran's oil exports” and is part of Washington’s attempt “to use what it calls ‘maximum pressure’ to change Iran's behavior and limit its nuclear ambitions”.
Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal has been “a divisive issue among Western allies”, says the Washington Examiner, but a US presentation at the UN Security Council “put a spotlight on the weapons systems that alarm key European powers”.
It appears the US strategy is beginning to pay off. While the UK remains committed to the Iran nuclear agreement, it has adopted a more hostile approach to Iran than its European allies.
Last month the British government detained an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar on the pretext it was seeking to break an oil embargo on Syria. In response, Iran held a British ship that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, which has become a hotspot of tension in the region.
Some are predicting the Trump administration could demand that Britain severe ties with Iran in exchange for securing a quick transatlantic trade deal after Brexit.