Rouhani celebrates end of Iran arms embargo

In an open message of defiance against US pressure, Iran said it could resume arms purchases as early as Oct. 18 when a decadelong UN embargo effectively expires.

al-monitor Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the inaugural session of the new parliament following February elections, in Tehran, on May 27, 2020.  Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

Oct 14, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exulted Oct. 14 over a soon-to-come moment of triumph as a UN arms embargo on his country is set to expire Oct. 18.

“Thanks to the nation’s resistance and our diplomats’ efforts, and despite America’s push in the past four years, this unjust embargo is to be lifted,” he said of the removal, which has been made legally possible under UN Resolution 2231 and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The United States, which walked away from the JCPOA in 2018, launched a diplomatic campaign in August for an extension of the Iran arms embargo. The UN Security Council, however, did not accept the US proposal.

“As of Sunday [Oct. 18], we can purchase or sell arms from and to anyone we desire,” Rouhani said in his televised speech on the “US failure.” Also, in a message for critics at home, he lauded the embargo expiry as a key achievement of his administration and a significant outcome of the JCPOA, a fragile accord that has been sliding down to the cliff’s edge since the US pullout.

While the Islamic Republic was in a rush to rejoice the formal end to the embargo, it remained unclear how the rest of the nuclear deal signatories would press ahead under Washington’s potential pressure on those who are eyeing arms sales to Tehran. Still, an Iranian purchasing spree is expected in Moscow as Russian officials have spoken of “new opportunities” in arms sales with the Islamic Republic. 

The provisions set in UN Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA would allow Tehran, beginning Oct. 18, to buy a wide range of conventional arms, from battle tanks to heavy artillery, and from fighter jets to advanced submarines. Ballistic missiles and the related technology are also included. This could help Iran boost its controversial missile program, while fueling existing concerns in the West.

Unsurprisingly, Iran is finding relief in the embargo removal following a 10-year period in which it had to worriedly watch its regional rivals — at the top of them Saudi Arabia — clinch whopping, multibillion-dollar arms deals with the United States. The bans are also being lifted at a critical moment for the Islamic Republic, when Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — two other foes in its close vicinity — are officially normalizing ties with Iran's No. 1 enemy, Israel.

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