Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Mike Pompeo warns Iran will unleash 'turmoil' next year

US Secretary of State says expiry of UN arms embargo will motivate Tehran

The expiry of a UN arms embargo on Iran and the planned end of a travel blacklist next year will lead to more insecurity in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned world leaders on Tuesday.

Speaking at the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Pompeo urged countries to quickly extend the provisions, which are due to lapse in October 2020.

The travel ban affects 23 people including Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force – the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – who is widely regarded as leader and chief planner of Tehran’s military activity across the region.

Both the arms embargo and the travel ban will end under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was passed early in 2016, months after the Iran nuclear deal from which the US withdrew in 2018.

Mr Pompeo called on members of the council to act soon but stressed that the US wanted to co-operate rather than go it alone.

“We are already tracking very closely the provisions expiring in October 2020, namely the UN arms embargo and the travel restrictions on Qassem Soleimani,” he said.

Read more: Strait of Hormuz: Australia to join US in Gulf effort to protect shipping

The arms embargo was in force for almost a decade before the nuclear deal revised its length.

“The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent that happening,” Mr Pompeo said.

“From Aleppo to Aden, Tripoli to Tehran, greater co-operation in the Middle East is needed more than ever. We need fresh thinking to solve old problems.”

Tuesday’s session on peace and security in the Middle East was called by Poland, the current holder of the 15-member council presidency, which in February hosted a summit on the region.

But US officials said the council meeting was not aimed solely at Iran.

Mr Pompeo highlighted the US military role against ISIS and spoke of other Middle East problems including conflict in Yemen, Syria and Libya, as well as recent US efforts to build a maritime coalition to maintain freedom of the seas in the Strait of Hormuz.

“These aren’t talkfests. We care about outcomes, not gestures,” he said of the Warsaw conference.

Mr Pompeo said working groups had since been established on cybersecurity, human rights, maritime and aviation security, energy security, missile proliferation, humanitarian and refugee issues, and counterterrorism.

A follow-up conference is planned for next year.

“We’ve welcomed the United Kingdom and Bahrain as partners, and look forward to other nations joining this mission,” Mr Pompeo said of the maritime coalition in the Gulf.

The coalition was formed after the US blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the region this summer.

“Today’s meeting built on what we started in Warsaw,” Mr Pompeo said later, standing alongside Polish Foreign Minister, Jacek Czaputowicz.

“Iran’s continued military development will only grow the regime’s multi-continental body count, spanning the past 40 years.”

Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special representative for Iran and senior adviser to Mr Pompeo, earlier said countries should act to stop the UN arms embargo and travel ban from expiring.

“In 2023, eight years after the Iran deal was concluded, the ban on Iran’s missile testing expires,” Mr Hook said. “And then, at year 10 in October 2025, you have all the provisions of 2231 terminated.

“We believe that the UN Security Council has an important role to play to ensure that the arms embargo and the travel ban are continued.”

The Warsaw gathering in February was largely shunned by the countries that remain in the Iran nuclear deal, with only Britain sending its foreign minister.

China, France, Russia and Germany, the other signatories, sent lower-level officials or declined to attend at all.

Mr Hook said US disagreement with Europe over the nuclear agreement was tactical more than anything else, because the Trump administration felt better equipped to tackle Tehran’s destabilising activity from outside the accord.

But speaking after Mr Pompeo on Tuesday, Britain, France and Germany all vowed to stay within the nuclear deal, despite Iran recently deciding to reduce its compliance following repeated rounds of economic sanctions imposed by the US in the past year.

“We urge Iran to return to full compliance,” said the British ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce. “None of us wish to see this deal unravel. There is no better solution. There is no alternative.”

Updated: August 21, 2019 12:26 PM

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