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‘A disgrace’: Israel condemns UN for rejecting extension of Iran arms embargo

Netanyahu slams ‘scandalous’ Security Council vote, vows Jewish state will act ‘with full force against whoever seeks to undermine its security’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 13, 2020 about the new Israel-UAE peace deal. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 13, 2020 about the new Israel-UAE peace deal. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli leaders on Saturday condemned the United Nations Security Council for rejecting a US-sponsored resolution that would have indefinitely extended an international arms embargo on Iran that is about to expire.

“The decision of the UN Security Council not to renew the arms embargo on Iran is scandalous,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Iranian terrorism and aggression threaten the peace of the region and the entire world. Instead of opposing weapons sales, the Security Council is encouraging them.”

Only two of the council’s 15 members voted Friday in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.

Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.

An Iranian cleric looks at domestically built surface-to-surface missiles at a military show marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran on February 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“We will continue to act in close cooperation with the US and countries in the region to block the Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu said. “The State of Israel will continue to act with full force against whoever seeks to undermine its security.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the council’s rejection of the US resolution was a mistake that would be detrimental to regional stability and global security.

“In its unceasing attempts to achieve nuclear weapons, and its efforts to fuel terror and violence, Iran is undermining the peace of the region and the world,” he said in a statement. “Israel will continue to work with its partners across the world and the Middle East to stop Iranian aggression.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said he spoke over the weekend with several of his colleagues in different countries asking them to confront Iran’s aggression.

“Iran doesn’t just finance terror, it also carries it out and represents a danger to regional and international stability,” he said.

Israel’s incoming ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who arrived in New York only a few days ago, issued his first statement on Friday’s Security Council vote, calling it “a disgrace.”

“Instead of allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to acquire deadly weapons, the council should impose crippling sanctions on Iran,” he said. “The council has utterly failed in its responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. This decision will further destabilize the Middle East, and increase the spread of violence around the world.”

Iran, on the other hand, celebrated the vote as a rare diplomatic victory, saying the US has “never been so isolated.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.

“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the inauguration of the new parliament in Tehran, Iran, May, 27, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them,” he tweeted.

The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.

‘Inexcusable’

“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Middle East, November 20, 2019, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Since Trump pulled out of the JCPOA and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of “maximum pressure,” Tehran has taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.

European allies of the United States — who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran — have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Friday, August 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.

The US text, seen by AFP, effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear agreement.

Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.

AFP contributed to this report.

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