Pompeo vows US will ‘vigorously defend’ against Iran court challenge

Pompeo vows US will ‘vigorously defend’ against Iran court challenge

US secretary of state accuses Tehran of misuse of UN’s top court with ‘merit-less’ claims against reimposed sanctions

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department, in Washington, DC, on August 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department, in Washington, DC, on August 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON, DC — The United States will “vigorously defend” itself in the International Court of Justice against Iran’s challenge to the reimposition of US sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday.

Iran demanded in The Hague that the top UN court suspend the unilateral US sanctions, which were slapped back on three weeks ago following the US withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.

“We will vigorously defend against Iran’s merit-less claims this week in The Hague,” Pompeo said.

He said Iran’s filing with the International Court of Justice was “an attempt to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security.

“The proceedings instituted by Iran are a misuse of the court,” he contended.

In oral arguments in The Hague, Iran’s representative Mohsen Mohebi accused Washington of plotting his country’s “economic strangulation.”

Pompeo countered: “President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA for a simple reason: it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risk created by Iran’s leaders.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the name given to the 2015 international agreement under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Mohsen Mohebi (L), representative of Iran, is pictured during the opening of case between Iran and the United States at the The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on August 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/ANP/Jerry Lampen)

In its lawsuit, Iran claims Trump’s move breaches a 1955 treaty. It told the court the measures were already devastating its economy and threatening the welfare of its citizens.

“The United States is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran’s economy and Iranian nationals and companies,” Mohebi told the court.

“This policy is nothing but naked economic aggression against my country,” he added.

“Iran will put up the strongest resistance to the US economic strangulation, by all peaceful means.”

US lawyers are due to give their response in arguments before the court on Tuesday.

Sanctions had been lifted under a 2015 multilateral agreement in return for Iran committing not to pursue nuclear weapons.

But Trump reimposed unilateral sanctions three weeks ago. He said they were needed to ensure Iran never builds a nuclear bomb.

A second wave of punitive measures are due to hit Iran in early November, targeting its vital energy sector including oil exports.

The US measures have added to Iran’s economic woes, helping to fuel strikes and protests from across the country and political spectrum.

An Iranian family walks past the shuttered window of the closed offices of a travel agency showing the logos of various airlines in the capital Tehran on August 24, 2018. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Iran’s currency the rial has lost around half its value since April.

International companies including France’s Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany’s Siemens and Daimler, have suspended operations in Iran since Trump announced the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May.

Air France and British Airways announced Thursday they would halt flights to Tehran next month, saying they were not commercially viable. The British carrier added however that the decision was unrelated to the fresh sanctions.

In the latest blow, Iran’s parliament impeached Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian on Sunday.

The ICJ is expected to take a couple of months to decide whether to grant Tehran’s request for a provisional ruling. A final decision in the case may take years.

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