Gantz: Israel will do whatever it takes to stop Iran rearming as UN embargo ends

Defense minister calls on countries around the world to confront Tehran after US bid to renew international ban on weapons sales to the Islamic Republic fails

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers, during a visit int the Southern city of Ashdod. September 14, 2020. (FLASH90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers, during a visit int the Southern city of Ashdod. September 14, 2020. (FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday vowed to take “whatever measures necessary” to prevent Iran from purchasing weapons after a United Nations arms embargo against the country ended despite an American effort to extend it.

Earlier on Sunday, the Iranian foreign ministry announced that it considered the ban on weapons sales to be fully over.

“As of today, the Islamic Republic may procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions, and solely based on its defensive needs,” the ministry added in the statement sent out on Twitter.

Iran over the years has expressed considerable interest in purchasing new airplanes to replace its aging fleets, as well as advanced missile defense systems, mostly from Russia — a potential source of concern for Israel.

The embargo on the sale of arms to Iran was due to start expiring progressively from Sunday under the terms of the UN resolution that blessed the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system is on display for the annual Defense Week, marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, September 24, 2017. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

In August, the United States — which pulled out of the JCPOA under President Donald Trump in 2018 — tried to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, in a move that was anticipated to fail as it effectively relied upon the very agreement that the US had abandoned.

In his statement, Gantz called on countries around the world to work with Israel to block Iranian weapons purchases.

“With the expiration of the arms embargo on Iran today, we must be stronger and more determined than ever. Iran has never been an Israeli problem, but, first and foremost, a global and regional problem,” Gantz said.

“As defense minister, I will continue to take whatever measures necessary, together with our partners, old and new, to prevent Iranian expansion and armament. All countries should get on board with this important effort,” he said.

Washington has said it has decided to unilaterally reinstate virtually all of the UN sanctions on Iran lifted under the accord.

But the US legal argument has been rejected by almost the entire UN Security Council, with European allies of the United States saying the priority is to salvage a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear program.

In this July 20, 2015, file photo, members of the Security Council vote at United Nations headquarters on the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. (AP/Seth Wenig, File)

Iran on Sunday morning said it was “a momentous day for the international community,” adding that the world had stood with Tehran “in defiance of the US regime’s efforts.”

But it stressed that “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

Moscow said in September that it was ready to boost its military cooperation with Tehran, while Beijing has also spoken of willingness to sell arms to Iran after October 18.

Washington maintained it will seek to prevent Iran from purchasing Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the international community had “protected” the nuclear deal and Sunday marked the “normalization of Iran’s cooperation with the world.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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