President Hassan Rouhani (R) and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting a nuclear plant, Tehran, April 9, 2019

All but two of the UN Security Council’s 15 members have rejected the Trump Administration’s attempt to impose “snapback” sanctions on Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, claiming Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) announced the initiative on Thursday. It follows the Security Council’s rejection of a months-long US effort to extend an arms embargo on Tehran, with only the Dominican Republic supporting Washington.

Within 24 hours, the 13 countries filed letters opposing the US. They include American allies the UK, France, Germany and Belgium, as well as China, Russia, Vietnam, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Indonesia, Estonia, and Tunisia.

They noted that the US cannot invoke the snapback provision in an agreement which the Trump Administration left in May 2018, six months before it imposed comprehensive sanctions on Tehran.

the UK, Germany, and France wrote: “Any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on its possible outcome would also be devoid of any legal effect.”

The Dominican Republic has not yet declared its position.

Pompeo fumed, in an appearance at UN headquarters, that the three European nations were “siding with the Ayatollahs.” He declared that Iran is non-compliant with the nuclear deal, but “no country but the United States has had the courage and conviction to put forward a resolution”.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian pushed back that the US call is “nothing but a self-serving political manipulation”:

Like we stressed many times, the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] means renunciation of its rights as a participant of the deal, and it is in no position to demand enacting the snap-back mechanism.

“Illegitimate and Felonious”

Responding to the Trump Administration’s withdrawal and sanctions, Iran began suspending some commitments under the nuclear deal last June. Tehran has broken the limit on stocks of 3.67% uranium, raised enrichment to 4.5%, and installed advanced centrifuges.

However, the Rouhani Government says it is remaining in the deal if no snapback sanctions are imposed. It has refrained from resumption of pre-2015 production of 20% uranium, which can be further enriched to military-grade 90%.

Responding to Pompeo, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the Trump Administration’s attempt is “illegitimate and felonious”: “The United States explicitly terminated its partnership in the JCPOA and abrogated any right to the Dispute Resolution Mechanism.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi added via Twitter, “US notification is incapable of having legal effect. It is null and void. None of the remaining JCPOA participants considers the notification as effective.”

At the UN, Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht-Ravanchi proclaimed that the American step “is definitely doomed to failure”: “The Security Council will reject the U.S. move because it violates international law.”