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No more UN embargo on Iran, but no arms sales either

Anyone who might seek to sell arms to Iran is likely in a holding pattern to see what happens in the US election and to see what Iran, in dire economic straits, can afford.

For all the to-and-fro over the expiration of the UN arms embargo on Iran on Oct. 18, little has changed in practice. Although the United States lost big in its effort to extend the ban, no major arms dealer will risk American sanctions for the sake of Iran’s market, limited as it is by the state’s economic troubles. Tempting massive fines from the US Treasury would be especially foolhardy at this time, when a possible shift in US politics may soon change the sanctions landscape. So while the Trump administration is correct, in a purely practical sense, that Iran arms sales remain prohibited, this may not be for long.

In a legal sense, of course, the UN ban on certain conventional arms sales to Iran that was first imposed in 2007 has now been removed, in line with the five-year timetable of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). US insistence otherwise is laughable. The Trump administration first defied all common sense by claiming rights under the Iran nuclear deal from which it withdrew two years ago in order to try to invoke snapback sanctions. Then, in a further ludicrous twist of logic, the Trump team says it must uphold UN sanctions that no other member of the Security Council save for the Dominican Republic believes to be in place. If the nations of the United Nations themselves say there is no UN embargo, then there is no UN embargo.

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