TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Iranian president said Wednesday that lifting a UN arms embargo on Tehran would be an “obvious right” and added a veiled warning of unspecified steps Iran could take if the embargo is extended, as the United States wants.
Hassan Rouhani’s remarks were in response to a push by the US, which last month circulated a draft UN resolution that would indefinitely extend the embargo set to expire in October. Such a move is almost certain to spark opposition from Russia, which has made no secret of its desire to resume conventional weapons sales to Tehran.
“Iran considers the lifting of the arms embargo an obvious right,” Rouhani said during a Cabinet meeting broadcast live on state TV.
A UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers envisages an end to the embargo five years after the deal. President Donald Trump pulled America out of the deal in 2018 and imposed harsher sanctions on Iran.
The arms embargo was not a part of the 2015 accord, but Iran has long sought its removal and its expiration was included in the council resolution as a reward for Iranian compliance with the agreement’s nuclear restrictions.
Since Iran is admittedly no longer complying with several elements of the nuclear deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the US administration believes it has a case to make that the embargo should not be lifted.
“Iran will not accept violation of the …. (UN) resolution under any circumstances,” Rouhani said. He said extending the embargo would lead to “serious consequence and a historic failure” for the West.
If the embargo is extended, Rouhani said Iran’s response would mirror the steps it took after the US pullout from nuclear deal — including going beyond the deal’s enrichment and stockpile limitations and injecting uranium gas into over a thousand centrifuges at a fortified nuclear facility built inside a mountain.
Rouhani did not elaborate but insisted that Iran’s arms program has always been a “defensive” one.
Before the embargo, Iran had said it was exporting arms to dozens of countries but never offered specifics. Though it is not independently verifiable, Iran has been seeking a military self-sufficiency program since 1992, producing an array of weapons, including missiles, torpedoes, submarines and jetfighters.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped both the US and Iran, which has the worst outbreak in the Middle East, tensions have escalated between Tehran and Washington in recent months.
In April, the US Navy said that 11 gunboats belonging to Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces carried out “dangerous and harassing approaches” to American Navy and Coast Guard vessels in the Persian Gulf. The Americans said they used a variety of nonlethal means to warn off the Iranian boats, which eventually left. Iran, meanwhile, accused the US of sparking the incident.