US nixes 1955 treaty with Iran after UN court rules to lift sanctions

Pompeo announces end of accord that established economic relations between two countries, blasts Russian sale of S-300 to Syria as ‘very serious escalation’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2018. (AFP/Jim Watson)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2018. (AFP/Jim Watson)

The United States said Wednesday that it was terminating a 1955 treaty reached with then-ally Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court ruling against Washington’s sanctions policy.

“I’m announcing that the US is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters, referring to the date of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He said Iran’s claims under the treaty, which established economic relations and consular rights between the two nations, were “absurd.”

The UN’s top court ordered the US earlier in the day to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran in a ruling that was widely seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump but which Pompeo described as a “defeat for Iran.”

Iran alleged that the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after its withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran violated the Treaty of Amity.

Pompeo told reporters that Iran was abusing the International Court of Justice for political and propaganda purposes.

Officials said the administration also will withdraw from an amendment to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that Iran or others, notably the Palestinians, could use to sue the US at The Hague-based tribunal. A White House announcement was expected, and the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t publicly authorized to discuss the development.

Pompeo also told reporters that the Russian delivery this week of the S-300 air defense system to Syria was a “very serious escalation,” but refused to say if the US will respond to the move.

In this illustrative photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

“Having the Russians deliver the S-300 into Syria presents greater risk to all of those in the affected areas, and to stability in the Middle East,” he said. “We consider this a very serious escalation.”

Russia announced last week that it would boost security measures in Syria — including supplying the S-300 — following the downing of a Russian military plane by a the previous-generation S-200 missile by mistake, in an incident that Moscow blamed on nearby Israeli planes.

Both Israel and the US have protested the decision to supply Syria with the S-300, which could complicate ongoing Israeli efforts to prevent Iran deepening its military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of weapons in Syria to Hezbollah.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria over the last several years, with fighter jets going nearly unchallenged by the country’s air defenses — though an F-16 was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile in February in what the IDF later said was the result of a professional error by the pilots.

A senior Israeli official said Saturday that Syria’s possession of the S-300 posed a “complex challenge” for the Jewish state, but added that Israel was working on ways to prevent the development from becoming a major threat to the country’s security.

“We are dealing with the [decision] in different ways, not necessarily by preventing shipment [of the anti-aircraft system],” the official said.

The official added that he believes Putin understands that while Moscow “made a move, the playing field is very large,” indicating that Israel reserved the right to protect itself and that it had the support of the United States.

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