Iran takes fight to UN in strongly-worded letter as US extends sanctions

Iran takes fight to UN in strongly-worded letter as US extends sanctions
Iran has lodged an official complaint with the UN over Washington’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, which Tehran deems a “violation of US commitments” made last year.

In a strongly-worded letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Ambassador Gholamali Khoshrou wrote: “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the recent US Congress approval on renewal of anti-Iran sanctions as blatant contradiction to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and violation of the US commitments under the nuclear agreement.”

The US Congress voted to extend the sanctions by 10 years.

According to Iran state news agency IRNA, Khoshrou then reminded the UN chief of the commitments the US made last year under the nuclear deal established under the ISA and the JCPOA, while urging the UN chief to note the alleged violation in his upcoming report to the UNSC. He also stressed that the US will be to blame for any consequences resulting from the extension.

The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) was first adopted in 1996 to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, which Washington feared were aimed at creating an atomic weapon, in return for lifting Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The Act itself is largely symbolic, and bears no direct relation to last year’s deal between Tehran and the 5+1 powers. However, its extension could give the Trump Administration the tools it will need to prolong the existing sanctions, or even change the terms of the JCPOA altogether. Iran has always denied that it is, or has ever, tried to develop nuclear weapons.

Outgoing President Barack Obama is yet to sign the extension into law.

Khoshrou’s letter to the UN, which is the latest in a series of reactions to the extension, follows the categorical response that President Hassan Rouhani gave in a speech at the University of Tehran on Tuesday, when he said, President-elect Donald Trump “wants to do many things, but none of his actions would affect us... Do you think the United States can rip up the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal]? Do you think we and our nation will let him do that?"

A similarly worded response was offered by Iran’s religious leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who said that Iran “will not stand by idly” as the JCPOA is violated.

Iran has feared a renewal of international sanctions – as well as the US possibly imposing restrictions on its nuclear program – since November.

Only on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated last year’s deal, emphasized the “absolute urgency” of America’s commitment to the deal, amid fears that Trump would make a U-turn after taking over in January.

“I know that President Obama has already engaged in conversations with the president-elect and we will work as diligently as we can to impart to the incoming team the absolute urgency of keeping that and other agreements intact,” Kerry was cited as saying by Press TV.

According to the deal between Tehran and the 5+1 powers, which includes the US, Iran agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges by two-thirds, cap its uranium enrichment below the level needed for bomb-grade material, reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000 kilograms to 300 for 15 years, and allow international inspectors access to its nuclear facilities. In response, Western countries agreed to lift international sanctions on Iran.

Although the deal has been hailed by outgoing US President Barack Obama as the best way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while campaigning for the White House, President-elect Trump called the agreement a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.” In May, he told an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that his “number one priority” was to dismantle the deal.