Erdan meets with Pompeo, thanks him for push to reimpose Iran sanctions

Israel’s new UN envoy praises Washington-brokered UAE normalization deal, calls for altering UNIFIL mandate; meeting joined by US ambassador to UN and special envoy on Iran

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

(From L-R) UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, US UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet in New York on August 21, 2020. (Ronny Przysucha/Israeli UN Mission)
(From L-R) UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, US UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet in New York on August 21, 2020. (Ronny Przysucha/Israeli UN Mission)

NEW YORK — Gilad Erdan held his first meeting as UN ambassador with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, using the opportunity to thank the top American diplomat for Washington’s long-shot bid to have the United Nations Security Council reinstate sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Joining Erdan and Pompeo at an undisclosed New York hotel were US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

Erdan, a former senior minister from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, arrived in New York earlier this month. He is also set to replace Ron Dermer as Ambassador to the US after the inauguration of the next US administration in January.

According to a statement from his office, Erdan told Pompeo that by not supporting the US effort, the “Security Council is absconding its mission and its mandate, and is paving the way for a nuclear Iran that will threaten the entire global community.”

He claimed that the European Union’s stance was effectively one in support of the Iranian regime.

Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, November 5, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

On Thursday, Pompeo formally notified the Security Council that the US was seeking to restore UN sanctions on Iran lifted in 2015, citing Tehran’s non-compliance with the terms of the landmark agreement, which saw Iran agree to curb enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.

Pompeo argued that though the US pulled out of the deal, it still has the right to invoke a snapback as an original participant and a permanent Security Council member.

The other signatories to the Iran deal — China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany — have already signaled that they are unlikely to support putting sanctions back on Iran, fearing it could lead to the total collapse of the nuclear agreement allowing Tehran to plow ahead with efforts to develop atomic weapons.

The Trump administration says it withdrew precisely because the deal eased sanctions, opening major revenue streams for Iran while gradually easing restrictions on its nuclear activities that those revenues could pay for.

US President Donald Trump and Pompeo had made no secret of their intention to pursue snapback sanctions, particularly after the administration’s embarrassing defeat last week at the Security Council on extending the arms embargo on Iran that expires in October. The US won just one other “yes” vote, with China and Russia opposed and the 11 other members abstaining.

Also during Friday’s meeting, the sides discussed the recent normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates brokered by the Trump administration. Erdan reiterated his belief that the deal would lead to similar agreements between the Jewish state and other countries in the region, the statement said.

Asked if the parties discussed Israeli plans to annex large parts of the West Bank that were “suspended” as part of the normalization agreement, a spokesman for Israel’s UN mission declined to comment.

But Erdan did express alarm regarding “Hezbollah’s military build-up in southern Lebanon and the need to strengthen UNIFIL’s authority to inspect and carry out its mandate effectively,” according to the statement.

The Israeli envoy added that if a sufficient bolstering to the UN peacekeeper force’s mandate is not achieved “there will be a need to reassess the need for the mission altogether.”

A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal on December 16, 2018, shows a United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldier monitoring the border between Lebanon and Israel. On his right is a flag of the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Israel has for years complained that the contingent of UNIFIL Blue Helmets deployed along the ceasefire line between Israel and Lebanon is ineffective at keeping the Hezbollah terror group from maintaining an armed presence on its doorstep, claims that Washington is now reportedly backing.

However, the rest of the Security Council seemingly backs a simple renewal of the existing mandate without changes, especially with Lebanon currently wracked by instability following the Beirut port explosion and the fall of its government.

Pompeo tweeted out after the Friday meeting, “We will continue our strong partnership with Israel at the UN where we will work to counter Iran’s malign influence and promote prosperity, security, commerce and stability in the region.”

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