UK, France and Germany agree to keep up resistance to US demand for UN snapback sanctions on Iran

By bne IntelIiNews September 10, 2020

Foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany on September 10 reportedly agreed to maintain a united resistance against US demands for a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran.

The Guardian reported that following a meeting hosted by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab in Chevening in the UK, attended by his German and French counterparts Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Europe’s big three—the ‘E3’—agreed not to cave on US President Donald Trump’s demand for the snapback. They were said to be keeping to their standpoint despite intensified pressure from the US, most especially on the UK government—which needs a good post-Brexit trade deal from Washington—to fall into line. Given the present row between the EU and the UK over the British government’s plans to override the EU withdrawal agreement in a fashion that breaks international law, the French and German governments might now harbour some doubts as to whether the UK will stick with the deal made at Chevening through to the very end.

The US received almost no support at all at the UN in August when it said it wished to reimpose snapback sanctions on Tehran. The E3 contended that the US was no longer a participant in the nuclear deal that lifted the sanctions and was unable to act unilaterally. The US, which left the deal in 2018, claimed that as an original nuclear deal member it had the power to bring the sanctions back. It described the European refusal to play ball as pandering to terrorists. A further showdown on the issue at the UN is expected this month.

The US also wants the E3 to vote at the UN security council against an automatic lifting of an embargo on the export of conventional weapons to Iran. From October, it will be incrementally lifted as things stand. The E3 want the US to negotiate a compromise on the extent of the ban but the US has shown no interest in doing so. If the US keeps to its policy that it wants a full arms ban, any push to extend the embargo will fall as Russia and Germany will use their veto at the security council, the E3 believes. China too is not minded to agree to a full ban extension.

Earlier this week, Raab stated that the legal advice was reasonably clear that the US had excluded itself from imposing snapback sanctions by leaving the nuclear deal. In a tweet after the Chevening meeting, Raab said “we are committed to holding Iran to account”. The German foreign office, meanwhile, took the line that Berlin “rejects the US snapback attempt and remains committed to preserving the nuclear agreement, but Iran urgently needs to return to full compliance”.

There are unconfirmed reports that Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is personally under US sanctions, will tour Europe next week ahead of the further UN showdown over the US demand for a snapback.

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